** Updated 02/02/06 **
Link to Tour Photos & Videos below
Thank you for sharing so much detail about the daily ministry and events. I really felt inspired to pray for the team specifically because of it. I really enjoyed the email and felt like I got to participate with you. God will continue to bless this trip and the seed you planted. ~ Cindy Weaver
>More Testimonies<1st DAY The first night we stayed at the OMF house in Ichikawa. They took us to our first Japanese restaurant that night, we ate things we have never heard of before! The next day we got on the JR shinkansen (bullet train) and started traveling toward Kyushu. Yumi, her husband Hiroshi, and their son Arata traveled with us for half the time, then they left us and Tomomi began to travel with us from that point. We are getting very good at changing trains quickly, getting our big suitcases on and off, and getting seats, we are getting it down to a system. On the train we had a typical Japanese boxed lunch. Alyssa tried octopus with the the little suction cups and everything! Naomi ate things that still had eyes looking at her! A new adventure for all of us! The country is beautiful! It is so lush and green, we get to see so much of the country as we travel on the train.
DAY 2 We arrived in Kyushu and met Pastor Rocky, his wife Marla and their cute little girl Hana, who we all fell in love with. Marla is an American from Texas and Rocky is Japanese but speaks English with a Texas accent! We met the CMA Japan Team members who have been working so hard to bring us there to Kyushu. We had a delicious curry and rice dinner and then we did 2 dances for them that night. We then went to Mr. Noguchi Sensei church where we would stay for 2 nights. It was a cute little Japanese house attached to the church. With sliding doors, raised room floors and grass matt flooring.
DAY 3 The next day they took us to a beautiful ocean-side restaurant. We ate more things that were looking at us! And things that had teeth! We tried everything. It was a wonderful new experience. We had cherry blossom ice cream, yummm! They then let us go down to the ocean and we ran in the water and collected some sea shells!
The event that night in Kyushu was held at a high rise building owned by the city. The stage was so big and we had our own large dressing room with mirrors and lights, we were very spoiled! Pastor Rocky was so excited about the event, their were 8 churches who came together to make this event happen, that is unheard of in Japan to have churches come together. Even 2 churches would be something, but 8 !!!. . . God is so good! We had about 200 people come to the event! Praise the Lord! The performance went well, the testimony that Char shared was something the people could relate to and in turn it touched many people. Afterwards we got to talk to people. Many dancers were encouraged to use their talents in this way to bring glory to the Lord Jesus. We talked to people who were struggling with being the only Christian in their family, and a lady who would like to bring her child to the U.S. and have her girl train with CMA some day. There were many non-Christians and new people at this event. Pastor Rocky was able to make more connections with pastors in the area. He has a group called Afureru, a group that comes together for fellowship once a month, involving different churches and people. Their goal is to be a shining example to non-believers by the way they live their everyday lives. Pastor Rocky, his wife and many of the volunteers there were an incredible blessing and inspiration to us. It was very hard to leave them after only 3 days. We all felt close to them right away. They are praying already for us to return! They want us to come back and just tour around Kyushu for 2 weeks. Who knows what God may do!! One of my favorite things so far is driving in the car with different people and hearing their stories, how they came to the Lord, why they feel called to Japan, etc. It is encouraging to hear the testimonies of others.
DAY 4 We took the train to Aichi, about 4 hours. We went to Inazawa Hope Youth center, met back up with Yumi and her Husband. We met the pastor. Yumi's pastors. The two couples (pastors) are missionaries to Japan from Germany. They speak 3 languages, we feel very untalented! They rented a school gym for the event that evening. We had a lot of space, but no air conditioning! We have never perspired that much in our whole lives! We just keep drinking LOTS of water. They did a lot of advertisement for this event. There are posters every where with Alyssa's picture on it! The event went well, over half of the people were non-believers, praise the Lord, we asked Him to draw the people He wanted to that evening. Our songs have a strong message attached and we pray that the words will soak in and continue to challenge and change the people who were there. Naomi led a follow along with the audience, there were many children, every one there participated, even the German missionaries. We used the song "Be Glorified", sung in Japanese by Rocky and his wife, a CD they had given us of theirs when we left. Crystal shared her testimony that night and God spoke through her. She connected to the people and was able to talk with many people afterwards. After the event they invited people back over to the church for food and fellowship. Every person came over, the church was able to give out information and connect to new people in the area. We now pray that they come back to the church again, become connected and begin to grow in a strong relationship with the Lord. We prayed with the pastors and staff after the event and praised God for all He had done and will continue to do! They then drove us an hour away to the church where we would stay that night. Nihon Choh-roh Church.
DAY 5 This is the church where I write you from today. We feel so blessed. This is a brand new church, we are the first people to stay here. It is a very big church for Japan, the kitchen and rooms are very big. We feel like we are in the states, there is an American gal who is in charge here and everything about the place is very western, or American. We feel quite at home. Erica made us eggs and bacon this morning. Our tummies were very happy to have a taste of home! We will dance at this church tonight, and then be staying here for the next few days. We look forward to staying settled in one place.
Tomorrow we split into two teams of three and dance at 2 churches in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then we will have 4 days of no dancing, our bodies are very happy for that!
Prayer requests: We have had our share of stomach problems, a small fever here, and aches and pains there. But nothing so large to complain about. Keep praying for our physical strength, this has been very trying on our bodies. Pray that the rest we do get will be multiplied!!!Day 5 continued...
Today the girls and I walked to the grocery store, by ourselves, with no interpreter. It was a fun and very interesting experience. We shopped for food for the next few days. There was a lot of, "what is that!" and "where is the chicken". We made it through the check out then Naomi tried to order coffee at the little coffee place, that was funny! She said, "Kohi and milk?". After some time she did end up with some pretty good coffee.
That evening we danced at Nisshin Christ Church, where we are staying right now. Tomomi (one of our awesome CMA Japan team members) is a dancer from Denmark. She opened the performance that night with one of her dances. It is so fun to work along side another dancer who wants to glorify the Lord with her talent.
The evening went very well, we were able to visit with many people after the performance. There were several dancers there that night. Some who trained for years in classical ballet and some in traditional Japanese dance. We met one lady who desires to bring glory to the Lord through the traditional Japanese dance. It breaks her heart to see the people around her serving and worshiping gods that will never answer them and will never have a personal relationship whith them. She wants to use this dance that is used to worship false gods and turn it into something that will bring Glory to the true and living God. We are praying for her.
This church is very open to having a ministry like CMA. They said they would put up barres and mirrors, they just need the Lord to bring someone with this vision to their door step. This same night Char and Naomi were able to pray for a lady who has felt like God wants her to do this type of worship dance, but she felt too old and her church would not support this kind of idea. Having no church support hurt her a lot, she also suffers from back pain. She was giving up on the idea of worship dance all together and then the Lord brought her to our presentation that night. Naomi was able to relate with her on the back pain and pushing through the pain to do what she knew the Lord wanted. The lady was in tears as Naomi and Char prayed with her.
Day 6 - Today we split into 2 groups. Naomi, Tiffany and Melissa went to His Call Church and Char, Erica, Alyssa and Crystal went to Inazawa Church.
His Call Church, we got lost on the way there, that was a little nerve racking! A test of our faith!! We made it there in time, thank the Lord! We danced after worship, and did 3 songs. (They have our pictures everywhere here in Japan. On the background of the words during worship there were pictures of Crystal and Alyssa dancing, and they have our head shots and bios given out to every one!) Melissa shared her testimony that morning. They had a guest speaker who is a missionary to Japan from Loveland, Colorado. Crazy! The message he shared that day went perfectly with Melissa`s testimony He even quoted things she said. God`s hand was orchestrating the whole thing! They asked us to dance durring their closing worship song. We asked Tomomi what the general idea of the song was, (it was in Japanese) and then we asked God to guide our steps and expression. It was so fun, we did a follow along and free dance. We have loved worshiping with so many people who love and serve the same almighty God! Even if we do not speak the same language, we all serve the same Lord! After the service we ate lunch with the people there and were able to meet and talk with some new people.
(Side note: This day was the first time Tiffany had to use a Japanese toilet, funny adventure!) We then took a train to meet up with the other girls. Sometimes we feel like we live on the trains!
Inazawa Church - This is Yumi's church. The dancing went well, Alyssa shared her testimony and Erica shared the Message for the day. She shared about having real hope through Christ. The pastor interpreted the message and we received a lot of feed back, including from the pastor, that the message was very good and that is was one the people needed to hear. The girls met a man named Moses, from Uganda. He wants us to come and dance in Africa! We are getting so many invatations, to so many places! We will see where the Lord shall lead. The girls then ate yummy German quiche, and were given special shirts with the church logo on it.
We met up with the girls at one of the train stations, just after we had our picture taken with a sumo wrestler! Funny story! We then all went to the Childrens festival in Gifu. This was an outreach to children in the area, most of whom have never heard the gospel. We did 2 dances, then we taught them a few ways to worship with dance, bow, clap, shout, jump, twirl, etc. Then we did 2 more dances. The children had so many games and different things to do while they were there. We all had so much fun with them. Everywhere you looked there were people in CMA Japan shirts and regular CMA shirts. It was so neat to see little old ladies serving food in CMA shirts, men making cotton candy in CMA shirts. It made me see how big this is! CMA, a small group from Colorado, just wanting to serve the Lord, and here we are in Japan, and people we have never met, thousands of miles away are wearing our shirts! God is so big! It was a fun evening, we walked around to the different stations and tried all kinds of food. Char spent time with some middle school girls. At one time I found them spitting watermelon seeds out over a rice field, seeing who could go the farthest. Before the children left we had them all come back inside and we taught them a circle step. Everyone, young to old joined in, we had 2 circles traveling around a small room, worshiping and dancing together. That was a lot of fun!
That evening we had home stays. Naomi, Char and Tiffany went to one home, Erica and Alyssa to another and Crytal and Melissa to yet another. This was a grand adventure for all of us. My first glimpse into the evening was when the daughter was driving us to our home and I asked her, "so is that your church?" and she just looked at me with a beautiful smile that said, "I have no idea what you just said!" This was the same for Melissa and Crystal, the people where they stayed did not speak much English. It was fun trying to communicate, lots of pointing and repeating yourself, using our Japanese dictionary and then sometimes just giving up on what you were trying to say! When we got to our room that night we just laughed at the whole situation! The host families were so very good to us. They fed us LOTS of food! Each of us had a huge breakfast prepared for us when we woke the next morning. More food then we could ever eat! It was a mix of Japanese and American (or what they thought was an American) breakfast. I am so proud of each person on the team as they are offered new and sometimes strange things to eat, everyone has been polite and tried everything... Melissa even drank dark black coffee for breakfast! Those of you who know Melissa, know that is huge!
We each loved our host families and wished we could have stayed longer, it was a great experience.
Day 7 - Yaay!! Our first day off! Our bodies are very happy for this! The pastor of the church in Gifu and his wife and beautiful little girl took us and Naoko (Japan team member) to Gifu Castle. It was Beautiful!!! I can't wait to show you all our pictures, and we took a lot at this spot!!! The castle is 500 years old and sits on top of a mountain in Gifu. We took the "Rope Way" (gondola) to the top and then you go up many many stairs to get to the top. The view was amazing!!! Everything is so green and tropical feeling, I love it! Then they took us to a sushi bar where you sit at a table and the sushi items come around on a conveyer belt. You just grab what you want off the conveyer, very fun, we think they should do that in all restaurants! ;-) After that they dropped us off at a huge mall and said, "ok, you have 30 minutes then meet back here". Are you kidding!? 6 girls in a huge mall! We ran like we were on a mission and dispite the time crunch we came back with some good treasures. They then took us to the train station and we were back on our way to our "Home" as we call it, here at Nisshin Church. We will stay here until Thursday. We got back to the church and Yumi and other team members had made us dinner. We had Japanese curry rice, this is my favorite thing to eat since coming to Japan.
Day 8 - WE HAVE CLEAN CLOTHES!! Today Amy, the pastors wife took us to a laundromat to wash our clothes and costumes. After dancing in our costumes in the heat and humidity for so many days we couldn`t wait to get them clean. I don`t think you have ever seen happier girls at the laundromat!! Then we came "home" and had a meeting with Yumi and Hiroshi. We talked over the schedule for the next few days, and Yumi read us feedback that she had gotten from the different people and churches so far. This was very encouraging to us. One of the things we have been praying for was the returnee Christians. Many of our Japan team members came to know the Lord in the states and then never got connected into the Christian community in Japan. Through this trip, many of them are now connected with a church and a community of people and are growing closer to the Lord. Praise God for His mighty works!! We gave gifts to Arata (Yumi's son) for his birthday yesterday, it was fun to see him play with all our gifts. Then Amy (pastor's wife) her children and Yumi took us to the 100 Yen store. Yeah!!! (Like our $1 store in the U.S.) It was huge! We had a great time buying souvenirs and gifts for people back home. We came home tonight and we (the 6 of us and Char) made a spaghetti dinner for Amy, Yumi and their families. Hurray! We know spaghetti! I know we haven't been gone that long, but we really appreciated a meal from home.
Thank you for reading about what we are doing! We miss all of you and are having a wonderful time!
Prayer requests: Many of the churches are using us to bring in new people, unbelievers, who need to hear the gospel. Pray that the people who come to each event will come back the next week and the next. That they will stay connected to these churches and grow in a real relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.
Day 9 - Today was our last "fun day" and then it is back to work tomorrow! Today we met team member Hiroto for the first time. He, along with Hide (hee-day), Naoko, Reako, the pastor's wife and her children all took us out for a fun day. First we drove about a half hour into the country. I can not begin to tell you how beautiful it was. We were all in awe of Gods awesome creation! We went to this place that taught us how to make our own paper. We made the paper, from the pulp to the finished product. We made paper with Japanese characters on them and we also made our very own fans! We all had a lot of fun, just being out doors and seeing new parts of Japan, let alone our excitement in making our own paper! We then drove to a town that is known for their pottery. They had store after store of beautiful pottery that was made in the area. As you can imagine, all of us had an incredibly fun time shopping around for our perfect little tea pot or tea cup! We went to the mall after that and went to our first STARBUCKS since being in Japan!! That made us all so happy!! It has been so much fun to spend time with the Japan team members. We are creating very special relationships that I know will last far beyond this trip. Tonight we are getting all packed up to move again. We have been so blessed to stay at this church for so long. It has been wonderful to stay settled and we pray that the Lord will bless them for their generosity.
We leave at 9:00am, and head out towards Nagano. I don't know how often I will be by a computer to give you updates, but when I can, I will let you know how everything is going. We feel blessed to have all of you praying for us as we travel and minister.
May we bring the Lords Glory and hope to every place we set our feet!
In His Service - CMA Japan Team
Date: July 28th
We left the Nisshin church today, we took 2 vans and traveled all day on our way to Nagano. We have been so blessed and been able to see so much of this beautiful country while we have been here. On our trip this day we stopped by a beautiful lake, (Birch Tree Lake) where they had boats shaped like giant swans! Everyone had a lot of fun playing in the water and cooling off. We then stopped at a restaurant overlooking a huge lake, with a string of mountains as the background as far as the eye could see. We had soba noodles, one of my new favorite things to eat! Then we had green tea ice cream with sweet beans on the top! Yes that's right, sweet beans. It is very popular here, it tastes good, but our mouths were like, why are you eating beans on your ice cream! Just a different texture. Then we drove again and they took a small detour and took us to "The Heights" at Kirigamine. It was on the top of a beautiful mountain and you could get out and walk along a path up the mountain that was covered in yellow day-lily like flowers. As far as you could see...amazing! On the way to our host homes they took us to Starbucks! Yeah! It is nice, at Starbucks you can order in English and they understand you! I say, "I would like a grande carmel Maceado", and they know what I mean, it is great. We split up in to our host homes that night.
Crystal, Giff, and I stayed together. We were with a more western family. The father was from Massachusetts, the mother was Japanese and they had two adorable children. A little girl and a little boy. We had so much fun playing with the kids, they spoke English so we could talk and play with them. It was neat to get to talk with the parents, they are looking into home schooling so they were very interested in our stories and had many questions about it. We were very blessed by their hospitality.
Naomi, Alyssa, Yumi, Arata, and Hide, stayed with Mikio who was the coordinator of our event in Nagano. Their home was in an old Samurai village that was settled by the Samurai who won a battle there in the 1600's. Mikio's family were descendents of the Samurai and had a sword from one of their ancestors. They had a huge garden where they grew their own vegetables and herbs. For breakfast one morning they had a traditional Japanese breakfast with miso soup, salmon, egg plant & salad. The highlight of that breakfast was, Yumi going out into the garden and hand-picking the herbs for their tea, it was Pineapple, Lemon, Mint! They said they could drink it all day!
Char, Erica, Naoko and Tomomi stayed at a very wealthy Japanese business man's home. His father was the mayor of Nagano before World War II. It was a very traditional Japanese house, a reproduction of an ancient building. They stayed in the guest house! This was not a Christian family, but they were very hospitable and open to hosting people. This man has just recently started to go to church after many years. The girls are praying for him, because he really seems to be searching. The house still has the ancestor shelf and is a mix of many religions, like a lot of the Japanese homes. He took them to dinner at a restaurant that he owned, it was authentic Chinese food, Char was so happy! They said there was sooo much food! The table was so full of food they had to start stacking plates of food on plates of food! And they just kept bringing more and more plates out! (Erica would like me to note that she eat salmon!)
Date: July 29th
The next day we went to an old village, Unno Juko. The village dates back to the 1600s. The road was an ancient trade route, the only route from Nagano to Tokyo. We saw many peach and apple orchards. Nagano is known for their apples. We went to lunch at a restaurant that was up on a mountain overlooking the city of Nagano. The restaurant was owned by a Christian couple. We eat something that they called hamburger and it tasted like meat loaf, it was very good. That evening was the VIP concert. It was in a very nice building that they rented out. Side note: we walked over to 7-11 and there was a poster of us up! There are posters, and pictures of us everywhere! Anyway, they sold tickets to the event that night, the tickets had our picture on it too! There were many dancers there that night that want to use their talent in this same way. We meet little girls who can relate to say, Crystal who started dance when she was 3 years old. Then we meet older girls who are inspired by me (Tiffany) because I did not start dance until I was 12 years old, they say "oh, so there is still hope!". It is neat to see how each of our personal stories reach different people. God knew what He was doing when He put our team together. As a whole we can reach so many different types of people in many different situations. After the performance they had a "party" were everyone stayed and ate dinner together. There were almost 200 people there that night, and over 100 of them were not Christians. We feel so very blessed to have the opportunity to dance and share our testimonies with so many unbelievers. Hide, one of our volunteers, said that he was watching the people's faces as we shared our testimonies. He said that they were very involved and interested in what we were sharing. Someone told Erica that her testimony was a great encouragement to them. All of us are picking up on more and more words in Japanese. Now, at the beginning of our testimonies we say "hello or my name is...", in Japanese. At the beginning of mine, I say, "Hello, or good evening, my name is Tiffany, it is nice to meet you, Japan is a beautiful country", I say that all in Japanese!
Date: July 30th
The next day we traveled in our own tour bus!!! A 22 passenger tour bus. Melissa looked at it and said, "I feel like we are a traveling tour group!" I said, We ARE a traveling tour group!! Our whole team, Yumi, Arata, Naoko, Tomomi, and Hide traveled with us. It was so much fun, we got to spend time talking with the team members. We played games and sang, it was great fun. We arrived at Toyohashi Church about 6:00pm that night. We went upstairs for dinner, they opened the doors and the room was full of church members who were waiting to meet us. They had a huge sign that said "Welcome Celebration Ministry of Arts", and there were balloons everywhere! We have been so overwhelmed by everyone's hospitality! We had a huge space for us to stay at this church, we each had a bed and Char and Yumi had their own special guest house.
I will write more soon.
If I can, I will try to write one more update tonight!
Date: July 31st
Melissa and Erica shared their testimonies in the Toyohashi church service that morning. Both of them went so well, at one point the translator started to cry while interpreting and many in the audience were moved to tears as well. The testimonies flowed right into the pastor's sermon that day. We continue to be amazed as the Lord coordinates even small details like that! During the service the children from the church sang a song and danced. Afterwards many people came up to talk with Melissa and Erica about what they had shared and how it touched their life. The pastor of this church is so funny. The first day we were there he came up with this little camera, as if to take our picture, and he pushed the button and it turns out it was a small water gun!! The next day he came in and said, "Naomi", and then he threw an egg at her (a fake one). Then one night we were out taking pictures in the parking lot of the church, and we saw a man on the balcony, we looked closer and it was the pastor shooting at us with a super soaker!! He was a very neat man, he comes from a family of 12 kids and over half of them are pastors or pastor's wives, that says a lot to me about his parents! The whole church had a great feeling of community there. There were many full families that attended this church, many men in the church. A lot of the churches we have been to, have only had one member of the family saved, and there are a lot of women in the churches because the men work so much, and even have to work most Sundays.
That evening was the concert, they had advertised in the paper, hand-outs, and different types of ads. There were over 200 people there, with over half of them being non-believers. Because people here in Japan love the arts and going to different events, CMA is a great way to invite or get non-believers to come to a church, when they may have not done so before. They gave out our CMA Japan "clear office files" and a nice big program with explanations of our dances in it, to each person who came. They opened the night with a gospel choir, then we danced and shared, and then the pastor preached a message. Then they asked us to do an encore. Then they had children from the church bring each of us a bundle of flowers. It was so sweet! Afterwards we signed and signed, shirts and clear files and Melissa was even asked to sign a cell phone! The children in this church wanted to be so involved with us. It was fun to spend time with them.
Date: Monday - Aug. 1st
We had to split up this day, for the next 3 days. We were very sad to leave each other, but it gave us an opportunity to reach more people.
First I will tell you about Alyssa, Erica, Char, and Crystal
They traveled by train through the gorgeous mountains to a mountain town, Gero, a spiritualy oppressed town. The church that they were working with is the only church in Gero and it currently has 5 members. They rented a huge theater, that seated 500! The girls felt so blessed to have a massive stage (Nutcracker people, it was as big as the Nutcracker stage, or as big as the big studio at Belliston Academy) it had wings and back drops, and special lighting. The evening went very well and the people running it were very pleased with the turnout. The concert was in the afternoon, that night they went to a traditional Japanese festival, with dragons, drums, and fire works! It was an incredible experience for them. This night the girls stayed at the church in Gero.
Aug. 2nd - Tuesday
The pastor asked them what they wanted to do. Char suggested that they do a prayer walk. The pastor was so touched that they would want to do this. They went on an hour-long walk, praying over shrines & for people they passed. They handed out tracts and prayed that the Lord would open the eyes of the people in this town. After that Pastor Mashasi and his wife Keiko, took the girls (and Char, Tomomi, and Hide) around the city. That evening they went back to the Toyohashi church, where a family from the church took them out to dinner.
Aug. 3rd. - Wed.
This day the girls worked with Tomomi and Rieko (CMA Japan members). They went to Arata's kindergarten to dance that day. There were 60 people; children, their mothers, and staff members of the school. Only a few of the staff members were Christians, so they were sharing mostly with people who have never heard the gospel. They did 3 dances, Char shared the story of creation with the children. Alyssa lead a song! They taught them, "A B C D E F G, Jesus died for you and me"... then they got the children in circles and led them in a short dance class. Everyone raved about how well it all went. Hiroshi, Yumi's husband told them how pleased he was that they had come to do this. He was impressed, and was touched that they took the time and effort to come and do this. Later that day they went shopping at Takashimaya, a famous dept. store that Char really wanted to go to! They met up with Yumi for a meeting that afternoon, to go over things for the rest of the trip. That night they met up with us at an Italian restaurant with CMA Japan staff, people from Toyohashi church and the Pastor and his wife.
The rest of the team!!
Tiffany, Melissa, and Naomi at the Youth Camp
Date: Aug 1st - Monday
We went to a youth camp in Neo. It was about an hour-and-a-half away from the Inazawa church. It was up in the mountains at a beautiful camp. We worked with the German couple from the Inazawa church, Pastor Shinji, from the Gifu church, Naoko, and a new team member/translator that we met, named Yuki. We danced 2 times, both 30 min. long. One on Tuesday morning, one on Wed. morning. On Tue. we had a 2 hour dance workshop with some of the girls at the camp. Naoko took our class! That was so fun! There were about 20 teenagers at the camp, most of them do not attend church and have never accepted Jesus as their Lord. That night we had a barbeque (not like in the states). They had these big "pan things" that go over the fire burning on the ground. They had 3 of these and on them they cooked pork, vegetables, sausage, and noodles. They has rice balls and yummy sauce to put on the pork. Oh, and there was corn. After that they had a huge camp fire, we sang hymns and songs. It was so amazing to be singing songs that we knew. We would be singing in English and next to you would be someone singing in Japanese, and across from you they would be singing in German! We were singing a song about every tongue proclaiming Jesus as Lord. I was looking around, thinking once again about how we all serve and love the same God, who is working in lives all across the globe! At the camp fire we (the students and ourselves) showed the dance they had learned in the workshop that day, and then we did the Mayim around the camp fire. Then we had everyone join in, it was a lot of fun! The theme of this camp was using your talents for the Lord and His Glory. So, what we do fit perfectly into this theme. On the last day they read response forms from the campers, many of them said how blessed they were by what we did and shared. They all shared about how they desire to look to God for direction, to use their talents for Him and how to not focus on themselves but to focus on the Lord and what He wants. We heard that about 5 people gave their life to the Lord during these 3 days. Praise the Lord for His Mighty Works! Pastor Shinji called us up to the front on the last day and shared how we had danced at his church a couple weeks ago, and how blessed he was by our ministry of dance, and how we use it for the Lord and how many people had come to church to see us. But he said that this time what struck him was our testimonies, and how we had been through rough times, we were not perfect, and how we chose to "deal with" or "get through" those hard times and press on to serve the Lord. We traveled home on the 3rd and met up with the girls that night at the Italian restaurant in Toyohashi that I told you of above. It was a grand reunion! You would have thought we had not seen each other in a year!!! If you know us, you can imagine it was quite a festive reunion! We were up late sharing stories about all we had done!
Date: Aug 4th
Today we packed up our things and left Toyohashi church. We were very sad to leave our "home" (any place we stay longer than 2 days becomes our "home"). We had to say all our goodbyes to our new friends. That is the hard part, we just start to get to know some new awesome group of people and then we have to leave. They gave us so many gifts, we felt very unworthy! The little children were coming in with small packages for each of us, one girl used her own money to buy the gift for us! This church was such and incredible blessing to us! They took us to the train station, the children and all. They waved to us until our train was out of sight. We took the JR (shinkansen, aka: bullet train) for about 2 hours, then changed trains and arrived in Yokohama this afternoon. We are traveling with Naoko, who is absolutely wonderful! We met up with Naomi Maruyama, who we haven't seen since the beginning of the trip (she is our prayer coordinator here in Japan). We are now staying at a church in Yokohama.
Pastor's name is Tasaka. We will be doing a newspaper interview and dancing tomorrow.
Keep praying for us! God is doing amazing things!
Request: All our physical injuries are acting up a lot. Esp. Giff and Na, Tiff and a couple others have been not feeling well the past few days. Just pray for refreshment and rest in the midst of all the crazy schedules! God has called us here for a reason, and we want to serve Him with our all! Arata has also been sick off and on, so pray he continues to stay well so that Yumi can travel with us as planned.
The rest of our trip is pretty crazy, but I will update you if I can!
For His Glory,
Tiffany and CMA team
Date: Aug 5th
We took a train today to Ochanomizu Christian Center in Yokohama. This building was so neat, it is full of different Christian organizations. We met a guy who works for JCFN (Japanese Christian Fellowship Network - in Highlands Ranch, Colorado) who happened to have seen us dance in Colorado! It's a small world after all. He told us all about their organization. They work with Christian's who are returning to Japan and help them get connected with a church once they get there, then they follow up on them. Less then 1% of the population in Japan are Christians and about 90% of the people who become Christians end up turning away from the Lord. It is very hard to be a Christian here. Unlike the U.S., Japan is all about being alike, conforming, not being individualistic. So, not only are you standing alone in this culture to become a Christian, most people also have to stand alone in their own families, with their parents never accepting Christ or in some cases not allowing them to become a Christian. If some of you have been reading our website you may have already heard these facts, but when you are actually here, it hits you a little harder. In this same building, there are 2 different Christian book stores, and the biggest Christian Newspaper in Japan. Melissa, Alyssa, Crystal and I were interviewed for an article the newspaper will be doing on us. They talked with us and asked us questions for about 45min (with the help of an interpreter!). Then they took us on a tour of the production offices of the newspaper, and explained to us a little more about what they do. They not only have the paper, but they provide other Christian resources. We also got to meet some famous Christian missionary from around there. That night, Char met up with us. ( I forgot to tell you earlier that she left us for 2 days to spend time with a Japanese family who's daughter had lived with the Kennicutts for 2 years. She had a wonderful time with their family.) So, that evening we had our concert. They opened with worship, and had someone interpreting in sign language for the worship and our testimonies. That was neat to see what we do translated into yet another language! Our performance was about 30 minutes long. Melissa and I shared our testimonies. After we were done someone shared a short message and they did a couple more worship songs. After the performance Alyssa and I talked to a lady who told us how she was in so much physical pain. She said she had been to many doctors and no one can diagnose her pain. She was very emotional as she told us of how much we had touched her that night and that she was encouraged. As we prayed for her, tears streamed down her face. I will never forget her.
Happy Birthday to Char and Melissa!!!!
We surprised the birthday girls with balloons, party blowers and candy necklaces at breakfast! Then we went to Jesus Family Church for the Gospel and Dance Festival. Yumi put this whole event together, she is AMAZING!! It was so much fun! Over 200 preople where there, praise the Lord! There was a hip hop group from the church who danced, a couple of gospel choirs, a group that Hiroshi used to sing with, Sukkah and others I don't remember. Everyone had so much fun seeing all the different talents raised up in worship to the Lord. We did a 30 minute concert. Tomomi did her dance again and after that Yumi called Char and Melissa up on stage and Hiroshi sang them a birthday song that he had written himself. They were so touched, Melissa started crying. How many people celebrate a birthday in Japan and have an original song sung to you by a Japanese musician! The only sad thing about this concert was that we had to leave so fast, actualy running out the door. So we did not get to meet many of the people as we would have liked. The other sad thing is that we had to say our final good bye to Naoko, one of our awesome volunteers, who took so such good care of us. It was very hard to say good-bye after being together with her for so long. We did have some tears slip out as we hugged her for the last time that day. I thank God for all the new friendships He has allowed us to have on this trip. Well, as I said we ran out the door, hopped into a van, onto a train, and then into a bus, and got off at Tokyo Baptist Church. We met the dance team there at the church, and had dinner with them. This church is made up of people with alot of different backrounds. In the dance group many of them were from the Philippines and some could not even speak Japanese! Being in Tokyo, was a very different experience from anything we were used to from the rest of the trip. On the train some said, "you have to get off here" and we jumped back startled, "you can speak English?!". We walked into the Church and we could wear our shoes! That felt strange! (Note: in most parts of Japan you have to take your shoes off when you go inside and put slippers on) This part of Japan is a lot more westernized. Anyway we worked with the dance group that night. We told them a little bit about our ministry, we did a warm up and then we worked on "Amazing Grace", a dance we will perform with them the next night. We all had a wonderful time working together. The team was so-o-o-o tired that night. Alyssa, Crystal and Erica were picked up by their host family. They stayed with Janice and Choon Ooi and thier children, Gerald 3 years old and Christopher 10 months old. Janice was from China and Choon was from Malaysia, neither of whom could speak very much Japanese. The family took them out to a restaurant that first night, The girls had ramen noodles, very popular in Japan. Char, Melissa, Naomi, and I went out to eat that night with Yumi, Hiroshi, Arata, and Shizuko (the lady who coordinated everything at Tokyo Baptist) then we walked to our host families home which was about a block away from the church. Or host home was on the 5th floor of a beautiful building. We called this home our "5 star hotel"! The view was amazing! The windows and the balcony overlooked Tokyo. We could see Tokyo tower, it was so beautiful at night!
I would like to start by saying thank you to every one who was praying for us on this day, because we needed it! This was the last performing day of our trip, we were physically run down and it was the most strenuous day of the tour! Thanks to the Lord for He is our Strength!! We did 2 dances at each of their 4 services. The first service was at 8:30am (there were 3 before lunch, a small break where we practiced things on stage and got ready for that night.) The last service was at 3:30. We finished dancing at 4:30 and our 80 min performance started that night at 5:30. Fun, fun! We really enjoyed being at this church, it was so fun to see so many different backgrounds coming together to worship. It is so funny because we had gotten used to the Japanese. We would bump into someone here and say, "sumimasen" which means, "excuse me". Then you would realize they don't speak Japanese! They don't know what I am saying! It is funny how fast you get used to some things. The dances that we did that day in the 4 services went perfectly with what the pastor was preaching. Just another time when the Lord showed us that He has been orchestrating all of this from the beginning. When I picked the 2 dances that we would do at Tokyo Baptist months ago, His hand was leading me! That night went really well. As I said we were very tired physicaly and I was stuggling all day with my calves cramping up. After the first two dances in a row that night, I could hardly stand it, and it was affecting my dancing. I just prayed so hard, continuously and the girls were praying too. I got through and in the end people said they never noticed anything. We did the dance "Amazing Grace" with the dancers from TBC. As always we love ministering with others who have the same heart. We all had an awesome time together. That whole night was a testiment to the Lord and how he sustained us. Crystal, Alyssa, Char and I shared our testimonies that night, without interpreters which allowed us a little more freedom talking to the people.
After our last dance "Sacred Head", the pastor got up and said, "Do you know what I have seen here tonight? I have seen Jesus" He went on to give a salvation message, one person accepted Christ that night. From the beginning we had said that if one life was changed out of this whole trip, that it all would be worth it. Praise the Lord, we know that more than one life has been changed! They asked us to come up and do an encore, we did "Deep Deep", finished, and left the stage. The audience was clapping and clapping, they were not stopping so we went back out and they gave us a standing ovation! We were so overwhelmed! We clapped and gave praise to the Lord, gesturing to the audience that it is not us but God who receives all the Glory. After the performance so many people wanted to talk with us, get pictures, lots of pictures! It is scary how many pictures of us are floating around Japan! Char was able to talk and pray with many, many people. One of the girls on the dance team came up to me and told me with tears in her eyes, how much it ment to her that we had taken the time to do a lot of our dances in Japanese. She said, "nobody, nobody, comes over from another country and does something in our launguage". Her telling me this was a blessing to me because doing the dances in Japanese was somthing God had really put on my heart.
I will tell you about our last day in Japan and our stop in California and our lost luggage in my next email!
I can't wait to get back and tell you all our stories and show you hundreds of pictures!
May God richly bless each of you who have been praying for us!
For Christ and Japan,
This morning we met up at Tokyo Baptist for a meeting with Yumi and some of the volunteers. Some of the Japan team members shared about what God has done in them through CMA. One person shared about how he had been struggling with discouragement, but after getting involved with CMA Japan, working on the team, helping at events and spending time with us during the trip, he felt very encouraged and was begging to feel the joy of the Lord in his life. Another told about all the things the Lord had taught her personally through the CMA Japan tour. She said that through this tour she has found a church to attend. She also talked about her desire to please the Lord and serve Him no matter what others think of her. She, like many other Christian Japanese people, have to stand alone in their workplace and in their families as they choose to serve Christ and reject their traditional religions. We were privileged to be able to pray with a lot of our volunteers before we left. We will continue to lift them up to the Lord, asking Him to strengthen them, help them to grow in the knowledge of Him, and to give them the courage and boldness to stand for Jesus when no one else will. Shizuka, who coordinated everything at TBC (Tokyo Baptist Church), told us how she was impressed with our everyday lives (she was with us all day on Sunday in between our dancing and spent time with us the next day) she thanked us for our example of real Christian community. She said she expected us to be more "American", or individualistic but instead found us to be more like the community of people described in Acts 2:42. She admired the way we worked together and looked out for one another. Her sharing this with us, truly blessed our team because this was an area we had been praying about for months. We wanted our every day walk to be a testimony to Christ, not just when we dance or speak, but in our every action and word. Praise the Lord for His work in our lives! At this meeting we also met a girl who had seen us dance at the Gospel and Dance Fest in Yokohama. She is entering into her last year of college and is seeking the Lord on what she should do afterwards. She has been dancing since she was very young. Her desire is to be able to use her dance to glorify the Lord. She would love to do something like CMA, but she is not sure what steps to take. She is praying about the next step for her life, but one thing she, and we, are praying about is the possibility of her coming to train with us here in Colorado! We will see how the Lord leads. We met up with her friend that afternoon who has the same desire. We give God all the glory for the people we were able to meet along the way! Several of the volunteers took us to Harajuku, this is place where many of the crazy fashion people in Tokyo go to shop and hang out. We sure got and eye full! It was fun, we loved just looking at all the outfits people put together! They also took us to a place where we bought a few more souvenirs. We walked back to the Church and finished packing our bags. Then we went back to our host families home for dinner. Erica, Alyssa and Crystal's family took them out to fancy Spanish restaurant. Char, Naomi, Melissa and I had a delicious barbeque at our home. Our families took such good care of us.
The next morning we said our good-byes to our host families and met up at TBC. We gave our gifts to Yumi, she shared about the tour from her point of view, the highlights & the struggles. Then we were able to pray for her and thank her for the incredible job she did coordinating the tour. The staff from TBC came down and the pastor prayed for all of us. We then packed our things in taxis and they took us to a hotel were we would meet our bus. We said our final goodbyes to Yumi, Hiroshi, Arata, Shizuka, and Naomi. This whole morning was very emotional for all of us, it is hard to leave when you have made such special friendships. We took that bus for about 2 hours to the air port were we met up with Hiroto. He helped us with our bags, we had lunch, changed our money over from yen to dollars, got another stamp in our passports and headed for home! We had a good flight, about 9 hours, and some crazy turbulence!
We arrived safe in LA, California on the morning of Aug. 9th. ( You loose a day coming back, it does crazy things to your brain to live through the same day twice! )
First reactions to being "home" -
- The wonderful thin air!
- Trash cans are everywhere!
- I know what all that food is!
- Hey, you speak English!
- A toffee nut latte at Starbucks! (Tiffany and Naomi, very happy!)
- I can put all my trash in the same trash can! (you may have to ask us to explain that one later)
- Where are all the vending machines?
Erica had to fly home to Colorado right away because of her work schedule, so we saw her off and then we met up with other teams who had traveled to Asian countries under OMF this summer. Then they took us all on a bus to Pepperdine University in Malibu, where we would stay for 3 days for our debriefing with OMF. We had a wonderful time talking to other people and teams, sharing stories and learning how God was working this summer around the globe! Each morning we had worship and then they released us for 45 min. of quiet time. That was my favorite time, just walking and finding a spot over-looking the ocean and spend time with just me and God.
Our workshops consisted of things like:
re-entering our culture, processing what we learned and what the Lord had been teaching us and how we can grow and change because of it. We learned how to share our stories, had a personal interview with OMF staff and talked about what is next for us personally. It was hard at times to be up early and sit through sessions, because of the Jet lag, for us it may have been 3am (Japan time) and we were needing to be awake and alert. It was good for us though, because it helped us get back on US time faster.
The buses left for the airport at 12:00 noon and our flight did not leave until 8:00pm that evening so we got on stand-by and tried to get the 3:00pm flight out. Our adventure was that when you fly overseas you can have 70lb bags, but when we went to check in to fly home to Colorado they said we could only have 50lb or we would have to pay $50 for each bag that was over! So there we were on the floor in the middle of the air port all our bags open, trying to stuff everything we could into our carry-ons so that we would not have to pay. We made it! The only bag that was over was the CMA suitcase with all our costumes and stuff. Char was the only one who was able to get on the 3:00 flight. We were so happy for her, she was really missing her family. The rest of us, slept and read and slept until they finally called our names for the 7:00 flight. You should have heard us cheer! We were so, so, so, happy to be going home! Our families met us at the airport, and our second adventure is that they lost our bags, Char's too, and other people from our flight. We ended up being at the airport till after midnight and still went home with no bags! They found them though and sent them to us late the next day.
WE ARE HOME!!!!
As we were looking back these are a few of the highlights for our team:
- Testimonies, fitting perfectly with pastors' sermons or people coming up afterwards telling how they felt that was just for them.
- Being able to pray with so many people and volunteers
- Singing during worship, a song that we all knew and hearing voices lifting up the same song to our same Lord in Japanese, English, German, etc.
- Seeing how God perfectly fit our team together. One person has something another can not offer, but together the Lord was able to use us in a mighty way.
- Seeing God's power and strength be made perfect in our weakness. When He asks us to do something He will give us the strength and ability to do it!
- Being inspired and challenged by the devotion and willingness to stand alone that we saw in some of the Christians we met in Japan.
- Seeing the power of peoples prayers. Feeling the community and oneness of hearts from the Japan and US teams who were lifting the trip up in prayer for so many months.
Thank you once again for thinking of us, praying for us and taking the time to read all our sometimes crazy stories! We can't wait to show you pictures and videos from the trip! I want to once again give Glory to the Lord who made all of this possible. May He receive all the praise for the work that He has done through this trip.
May we always be willing to go where he leads.
Tiffany and CMA Japan Team
Read my personal testimony here
Char Kennicutt & Yumi Yoneda
|Testimonies from Japan|