Searching For Pearls …loving God and the world.


Monday October 30, 2006

Warren, a bondservant of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace and peace to you holy and faithful friends on Xanga.

Hahaha, I always wanted to do that.

Anyway, we're back.  We're half-alive, but we're back.  And the re-adjustment phase is supposed to begin now.  Sleep cycles screwed up, not feeling hungry at dinner time, resurgence of mixed emotions, and heart-longings through flashbacks plague all of us five, I think.  We're all "returning to our lives."  As soon as the plane landed, we pulled out our cellphones.  Some of us had burritos.  We met for worship this morning.  Sarah, Sergio, and Billy, return to work tomorrow morning... 

But what is supposed to return to normal, and what is changed forever?

What is normal, even?

To be compeletely honest, for me, normal is waking up in the morning without a sense of purpose.  Normal is thinking about what I will have for lunch today as I surf the web to kill time.  Normal is vegging out, working when I have to, playing because I want to, praying only when I have to.  But normal for me, is obviously not normal for someone on mission.

Going to Japan with people back home giving $1500 of their hard-earned to pave your way for two weeks of craziness... you just don't consider what is normal anymore.  You think about who you might meet that day, who might be open to the Gospel, what you will do when the opportunity arises for you to express your faith, whether through gift-boxes or through conveying Scripture through words, smiling at a lady in the grocery store or through sharing a song about longing for the presence of God...  You praise God and thank Him for yesterday...  You think about all the things that happened today that you can't wait to pray for...  You think about the rest you will need in preparation for tomorrow.  You dream about what will happen in few months when you're not around.  You cry about what will happen if years do not see change.  You put yourself at God's mercy, and rely on His grace.

Does this call for a radical perspective change?  Or is it just two weeks to be dealt with as two weeks?

Yes, we need to make money, make rent, make mortagages, make investments, and care for the things entrusted to us -- family, friends, physical and emotional health.  All of humanity struggles enough with just that.  But like I said before we left...  God believes in us.  Don't we mock God in selling ourselves short?

How much time do we really ask God for our daily bread and His Kingdom, and how much time to we spend just consumed by the idea of survival?  How much of the call to live a backward life do we really embrace?  I like the part where it says how "whoever believes in him shall have eternal life," and the part about how "God works all things together for the good of those who love him."  But what about the poor inheriting the Kingdom?  What about the part about gaining the whole world but losing your soul?  And how about turning the other cheek?  Or loving your enemies?

The call to follow Jesus is straightforward and necessary, and the practicals of our lives should fall into its gravity.  Not the other way around.

So, bring your kids to the playground.  Make smart investments.  Go to concerts and museums.  Eat and drink with your friends.  But let us love God and love people in all of it.  And let us be on mission right here, right now.

Filed under: Japan 1 Comment

Wednesday October 25, 2006

 Tuesday, we went to the Tsukijhi fish market and we had some of the best sushi ever at this small restaurant.  Here is a small sample of what we saw.

At the end, on the way home...

Look at the size of the tuna behind Sarah!

Filed under: Japan 4 Comments

Monday October 23, 2006

 What did we do today?  We went to help Darren Polischek at Greatest Gift Ministry, a little known rag tag ministry operation that basically takes gift boxes filled with toys to school supplies to kids in places like Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.  We stuffed boxes and did inventory today for about 8 or so hours.  Darren told us his story, which any of us can explain if you ask us.  This is a great ministry that not only tries to bless kids in third-world countries but also tries to reach out to Japanese people by letting them see the heart of Christ in serving the poor.  Here are some photos from today:

Our boxes were packed for children in the Philippines.


Now to the heart, after a brief explanation of the day in simple words.

Sorry, after spending some time writing, I decided not to share.  Somethings are better kept between God and I.  So perhaps I should share a little more about things which I feel are more appropriate.

Billy has mentioned that we had this coffeehouse thing Saturday night.  For me, as the event got along, I was trying  no to be discouraged about the fact that none of the students we invited from the all girls' school were showing up.  We had everything prepared and we had a few kids from the church.  We then got the first game going when I catch a glimpse of four girls walking in the back.  It was four girls from the school!  It made me so happy.  I guess I just felt good about being able to see something come out of the day we spent at the school when Warren sang the same song like 18 times. 

Here are girls.  Even though they are in 8th grade, a couple of them came from as far as two hours away!

Later that night, we spent the night at Pastor David's house, and they were some of the most hospitable people I ever met.  I got to wake up to this cute little face looking at me as I opened my eyes.  So I picked up my camera and took a few quick shots of her eating her breakfast.  Warren said she didn't like to be held, bufor some reason, she kept coming to me to hold her.

Then later, this other little girl, Pastor David's other little daughter named Eryn, was talking to Warren, and she said she had trouble sleeping at night.  Warren asked why.  "Because I can't stop thinking about Jesus," said the 6 year old.  When we said good bye at the end of Sunday, she ran and hugged me and held on tightly to my arm.  It melted heart and I really felt like I was part of this wonderful family of God.



Filed under: Japan 3 Comments

Sunday October 22, 2006



those are just some random pictures taken on my camera since we came to japan.  in order from top to bottom, right to left: all of us in one of the classes at an all girl Japanese school, a very nice bathroom at sengendai prefecture university, japanese emo section!, heidi watching warren do his thing, a kid from narita church nursery, lanterns from narita festival, just pooh (hahahahaha), and my personal favourite, police academy kids! its been a pretty random journey so random pictures seem appropriate :) and like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words so i hope that you get just a small taste of what our trip has been like. through my eyes at least.

we've had a couple nice slower days than our crazy first 4 or 5 days, so its been relaxing. today we spent the morning at a church in sengendai, teaching them open the eyes of my heart and sang to them all creatures. they shared testimonies and we had a nice lunch together. it was good to see so many come up to talk about how god has blessed them. we then took a nice long nap in the afternoon and had shabu shabu for dinner... yumm :) we spent some time in an Alpha Course speaking english with the students and then headed home.

all in all it was a good day, a very nice and welcomed change of pace. but i'm particalularly looking forward to our work tomorrow when we work with greatist gift ministries (ggm) packing up gift boxes all day. i don't think i mentioned this before but darren from ggm was there on monday when we met many nof the ministry leaders in japan. he showed a video for his ggm work and it made me cry, most of you don't know this about me but i have a crazy burden for people who suffer especially in poverty and this video just hit me right there. and then he told a story he heard about how some lady recieved a box so many decades ago and how it helped her through it. i  have hopes that tomorrow will be an enlightening day for me, and for all of us, about poverty and about how we could just love our brothers and sisters so tangibly.

will let you all know how it goes soon... its way late here. sorry if i'm all over the place :)



Filed under: Japan 4 Comments

Saturday October 21, 2006

I don't have much time to update - and the other guys are doing a great job. And I'll leave the detailed desciption of what we did tonite to one of the other guys. But in short we had our first coffee-house outreach tonite which was mainly to high school students. We had around 12 students joining in with around 8 other random people and suffice it to say, we had a good time.

If you're a fan of the blog, you will have remembered us being at an all-girls high school on Tuesday, singing, playing games and helping the girls practice their English. We invited everyone we met to this coffee-house. I think we gave out at least 250 fliers, got a lot of "I would like to come!" and yes... we were treated like rock-stars. How can you not with a Bono-crooning Warren singing with the undivided attention of boy-crazy teenage girls?

To be honest we weren't sure if anyone would come. For a lot of them, the church was far - and five days had already elapsed since we had seen them. We were afraid of short-term memory. No there weren't tons of girls who came, but four did come. And 3 out of the 4 came from a district that was almost 2 hrs away. Incredible... I was enouraged by that and knew that God has ordained them to be there that night. It was my turn to share my testimony and sensed some good connection as I was speaking and hope that the message of Jesus would not leave hearts unchanged.

I'll leave the detailed description to the other guys - they do it well. But I leave you some simple phrases that may pique your interest for the coming entry...

Freestyle Dancing Billy
Fried Curry Buns
Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Strawberry

Prayer Items:

1. Pray for the 4 new students who came tonite who have yet to know Jesus to continue to find connection with other believe youth.
2. Sergio will share his testimony and Elton [me] will share a short devotional on Sunday morning.
3. 2nd Coffee-House geared towards university students on Wednesday night - we will see them again on Tuesday at their English circle and connect with them again.

Thanks prayer warriors...


This is what we look like half the time... bunch of crazy tourists

Filed under: Japan 2 Comments

Friday October 20, 2006

We woke up today pretty late, around 8-ish in the morning.  We had a pretty relaxed morning as far as time went, as I enjoyed some of the remaining baked goods from the morning before.  Fresh-baked pastries here are amazing.

Dale picked us up this morning to head over to a branch of Waseda University (the one we visited on Tuesday Night for their English Club) on the other side of town.  We saw tons of freaky-looking spiders with black and yellow legs and blueish-brown bodies all over campus.  Imagine them all over the trees and bushes, hanging nine feet overhead...  kowaii (scary).

We met up with another English Club.  This was a little less formal, perhaps because the leader was out sick...  but we all talked over lunch and helped them with their English as we got to know them.  I had Miso Ramen, four Gyoza, and a bottle of iced barley tea for 620 yen, which is equivalent to about $5.95.  Freaking amazing.  The forming of relationships at the university was good too.  Shion, Chuya, Yuichiro, Minami, Hanami, Aiya, Kyoko, Satomi and more...  cool people.

Elton, Sarah, and Billy getting to know the Waseda Students


Kyoko                                        Aiya


Satomi                                       "I'm a pastor?"

Some of you may ask, "Why are you only in pictures with girls?"

To you, I might respond with another question, "Can you really blame me?"  And the answer would be no.

After a few hours of English Club, on our way out, Sergio, Billy, and Sarah messed with me and I completely freaked out, thinking a spider was on my shoulder.  Then we prayed for the campus.  It was good.  Please pray that people who know Jesus will rise to the occasion, to come to the university, but mostly, pray that Japanese followers of Jesus will rise up as leaders from within the student body.

We spent over an hour or so in the van that Dale reserves from the C&MA from time to time, and we got incredibly lost, but it was all good, as some of us napped twice before arriving in the crazy shopping area of Tokorozawa Prope.  There, we had our first trip to a genuine Japanese McDonald's.  The Chicken McNuggets were freaking dark meat, which is awesome if you were one of the people who objected when American nuggets switched to all white meat.  Otherwise, it was good.

I saw a very beautiful woman there, but my passivity came back (see for active Warren) as I failed to ask her for a picture.  I was kicking myself for a while.

Anyway, we headed over to another missionary couple's house (we met the husband at our meeting with the Japanese C&MA leaders upon arrival in Higashi Tokorozawa) for a Friday night young adult Bible Study.  We had some good Japanese Pizza Hut, played the blanket/name game, and Billy and Sarah shared their testimonies with the help of interpreters.  I played a little bit of music afterwards, and we all exchanged info.

But one young man we met tonight...  words aren't really enough.

His name is Ken Nishiono, and I struck up a conversation as he came in.  Although his English was pretty broken, I asked him about how he wound up in the bible study, and how he came to know Jesus.  From what I gathered, his parents are divorced, his father is Buddhist, and he lives with his mother.  At the age of 19, he got into two motorcycle accidents, the second which landed him in a hospital.  He needed brain surgery.  Although he had a successful surgery, things became really difficult, and he entered into depression (gakarisuru).  He felt lonely, hopeless, had no friends, and no one could comfort him.  Things declined for one and a half years, until he reached the point of imagining himself slitting his wrists.  One day, though, walking down the street, a church poster caught his eye.  He looked, and on it read the verse, Matthew 7:7 - "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."  The verse touched him deeply, and for the first time, he felt hope.  He bought a Bible, and began to read it alone.  After a period of about six months, he felt a touch from God, and was overwhelmed with hope as he cried with tears of joy.  He quickly found a church, and asked a pastor to lead him into salvation.  He is still there today, serving on the worship team, playing djembe.  He has been studying the bible formally for one and a half years, and he said he has the vision to enroll in seminary, hopefully by next year, but in the meantime, he's praying for guidance.

Using my imagination, I tried to take in what he shared fully, and the impact on me was huge.  With the small phrases and limited vocabulary we both had in each other's languages, I learned of a truly amazing testimony... where God reached down and pulled someone up out of the pit.  Ken is the reason we pray for Japan.  So please pray for Ken.  Pray that God uses everything he's been through and all that he will undergo and bring it to a focus through some solid training.  He is going to be a crazy leader.

Jesus, in a land of oppression and despair, people are looking for a way out.  Will You not reveal Yourself as the Way?  Will You not show them the Truth, that they are loved and valued?  Will you not let them experience the Life?  I ask in poverty and compassion, having nothing to offer you or my friends in Japan but a heart that shares a small bit of your burden and theirs, that You will change Japan.  I ask for an outpouring of your power and love upon all your followers here, that they may be strengthened to do your work in Japan.  I pray for people like Ken, who have been rescued by Your hand, to reveal your love to those around them.

Shion and Chuya

Don't give up the hard work of prayer, guys...


Filed under: Japan 8 Comments

Thursday October 19, 2006

So today we were like every other tourist in Japan.  We took the train for hours, got lost in every direction, and walked for miles, oops, I mean kilometers.  But we saw some pretty cool sites...

Tokyo Tower (I took this one myself, yayuh) - we rode up to the middle for 800 yen and saw all of Tokyo to the North, South, East, and West.  It was pretty cool, and we have some pictures we're uploading.  Random thing is they have these young women dressed up in bright purple outfits that man the elevators for you.  But when you're riding in them, they stand in this little corner facing the buttons and you can't see their face, and all they do is talk into a small PA in a hushed monotone without stopping for the entire 40 or so floors.  I dunno what the heck she was saying, but it was really funny to us.

Afterwards, we headed on over to Zojoji Temple:

We came right in the beginning of a Shingon Buddhist worship service.  It was pretty cool for me to hear the chants and drums and gongs, but then again, the whole thing was pretty eery, with all these people in reverence before this big golden Buddha statue.  A few of us felt uncomfortable.  I stayed there, trying to take it all in, and I saw latecomers arrive and drop money into this offering bowl (the change dropping made a loud sound that everyone could hear; I wonder why they do it that way...).  They stood there and dipped their hands in water, I think, and stopped to take in some incense that was burning right next to the offering bowl.  They would bow their heads and walk over to an open seat as the monks continued to chant and pound away.

Before we left, we prayed for the people of Japan, and it hit a few of us that they were worshiping false gods, believing in lies.  One lie prayed against, for example, was the lie that one may attain enlightenment through the emptying of one's soul.  From Wikipedia, "According to Shingon, enlightenment is not a distant, foreign reality that can take eons to approach but a real possibility within this very life, based on the spiritual potential of every living being, known generally as Buddha-nature. If cultivated, this luminous nature manifests as innate wisdom. With the help of a genuine teacher and through properly training the body, speech, and mind, we can reclaim and liberate this enlightened capacity for the benefit of ourselves and others."  But in the Bible, God says we can't attain salvation, or perfection, or whatever on our own, and that we need the grace of God.  I believe that God needs to be in the center, not us, for our souls and our world to be restored.

Outside this temple, there are a whole bunch, hundreds of Jizo statues:

Each one of these represents a Bodhisattva, someone who has already attained enlightenment, who actually comes back to help.  In this case, they protect stillborn and aborted fetuses from Hell, because of the belief that unborn children are punished for bringing their parents grief.

We all grieved looking at them.


Anyway, we moved on and took some more trains to ROPPONGI HILLS, one of the coolest shopping malls ever.  We only saw the first floor, because we were so tired and hungry, but that was one of the coolest first floor of any mall I have ever seen.  It reminded us a lot of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.  But who knows what the other floors looked like?  Maybe we'll go back on our other off days.  Apparently, if your office is there, you are the mac-daddy.

The big, freaking building towards the center of the building is Roppongi Hills.  There are over 200 shops, restaurants, and cafes inside.  Sugoi.

Anyway, we headed out to look for this one curry-udon place Sergio went to before, but we wouldn't find it.  It was all good, though, because then we hit up this business-dinner place where we ordered like 12 different plates of small things from fried chicken cartilege to octopus balls.  I actually ate yet another piece of sashimi.  It was salmon.  It was weird.  We had some dope Kirin off the tap, and I also had my first hot Sake.  Mmmmmm, good stuff.  And when we told our waiter we only spoke English, he proceeded to become perhaps the most animated person we've met yet (perhaps even more so than Pastor Aomatsu back in Narita).  He actually wants to study in New York to become an actor in musicals.  We befriended him, gave him a FATTY tip (not even supposed to tip in Japan), and Elton gave him his card.  So, Jun-ya-kun, if you ever stop by San Francisco, we will HOOK YOU UP.

I don't think I've walked as much in a few months as we've walked these past three days.  But it's been good.  Many laughs on the trains.  Ask Elton about Billy's and my underwear.

Now the obligatory cute baby picture post:

Dale and Heidi Lemke's soon-to-be-officially-adopted daughter, Mia-chan

Now off to bed.  Love you all,


Filed under: Japan 4 Comments

Wednesday October 18, 2006

  As Warren had shared earlier, we left Narita and he was pretty broken up about it, but as for me, I was ready to move on.  I really valued the relationships I began to build there.  There was Jill, our driver and caretaker who was wonderful.  Before we left, she shared how much of a blessing we were to her when all the time we all agreed that she was a greater blessing to us.  How were we a blessing?  For one, she is in charge of the young adult ministry, but finds it difficult to talk to the guys about guy things and us guys were there to do that and speak into the areas she finds hard to speak about... then during worship, Warren playing guitar and me harmonica really touched her.  She said her favorite two instruments are the guitar and harmonica and she felt that it was God's little gift to her when we played during worship.

Warren also shared about the Monday meeting we had with the different missionaries and their ministries.  We will share about these ministries and we work with the missionaries.  But one I can share was the Covenant Players, which Warren and Sarah both have shared about in previous posts.  But let me tell you briefly about one of the two skits they performed for us:

A guy is sitting in a park bench reading the paper, when this woman walks over sits next to him on the bench and stares at him making the man somewhat uncomfortable.  The woman has the sadest facial expression, which really makes you feel her pain, whatever it may be.  After this little game where the man keeps trying to ignore the staring woman, the man stands to walk away bothered but she says, "Don't worry, I won't bite."  The man stops and they talk, the man insulting her and she is very calm and sad saying things to diffuse the man's agitated state.  Eventually, she says she is looking for something, and the man asks what.  "A Christian," says the woman and the scene ends.  It hit me really hard because I realize that sometimes I don't pay attention to those who are hurting and are looking for someone who can show them God.  Anyway, it was a very good skit.

Tuesday we went to an all-girl school and it was as if we were celebrities.  It was rather ridiculous because we are just regular people, but all the girls who look at us and smile and try their best at speaking to us in english.  Please pray that the ones who received invitations to a coffee house ministry, that they may come and learn about Jesus.

Later that day, the team met up some university students.  Warren did a wonderful job of sharing this already, but I want to share about Ryosuke and Ren.  Those guys were out of control.  At dinner, we talked about soccer and they told me they loved the Mexican National Soccer Team because of their style of play.  I told them I was Mexican and they cheered and high-fived me.  For the first time in a long time, it was actually cool to be mexican! haha.

They wanted me to share about Mexican culture, and they said they loved tacos.  I told them that in Japan, poeple bow, in the U.S. people shake hands, but in Mexico, they hug.  So at the end of the night, before they left, I went to shake their hands but they rushed me and hugged me and squeezed me jumping up and down.  It was great and I was amazed how responsive these guys were even though Japanese folks aren't used to this type of affection.  I got Ryosuke's email and told them that if they ever came to California, that I would take them out, and so did Warren.  That was one of the highlights of my trip so far.

On the way home, I go to step into a train only to find these four guys who looked different but familiar to me.  I open my mouth and start talking spanish.  They are shocked and said, how did you know we were mexican?  I said, "I can tell if you are my own kind."  These guys, three of which are from Mexico City, are boxers and were in Japan to help train a champion for a bout this weekend.  The other guy was from Venezuela and we talked for a few train stops.  They liked Japan but said it was too expensive. 

The next day, Dale told his wife Heidi that I was talking up a storm with my folk and Heidi said she loved Spanish and that it was the most beautiful language.  I laughed and then agreed. All we did that day though was pass out fliers to the coffeehouse, so please pray that people will actually read it. 

This morning, I met Richard and his wife, missionaries here who are trying to build a house ministry here in Japan.  How cool is that?!  They are doing exactly wha Haven is doing, and I said, "if that isn't God ordained that we met, I don't know what is?"  Alright, long enough post, so I leave you with some pictures...

Look at the little girl praying.  Even when she worshipped, she kept her eyes closed.

Playing with the little one.

Sarah and Elton with one of the groups at the school.

Tak, Ai, and Ryosuke

Filed under: Japan 2 Comments

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Good morning dear friends...this is Sarah..Yes I am the only girl on the team. I would have to say that living with 4 boys has tested my endurance for conversations on garides (Japanese for diarrhea), rating chicks on the train, and whether Nellie Furtado is considered an artist. These are a nonsensical conversations that we have aside from the usual "spiritual" talks that we engage in. But all the more fun to have when people stare at us loud Americans when we're walking down the street.

Japan can be an overwhelming place. Inundated with sensory overload. Last night we went to Yodabashi to find Elton a plug for his computer (which we haven't been able to locate yet). It was 7 floors of electonic madness. Every single sign was screaming for attention, "buy the latest gadget for your iPod!", noises that beeped at you as you walked down the aisle, and pictures of cute japanese girls trying to advertise for the latest PDA. Simply an overstimulated environment. What was interesting to me was that right before I left for Japan I was designing invitations for a Japanese conference and my client kept on insisting that it be brighter and bolder and louder. I understood the reasoning since everything here is screaming for attention. But contrary to all of the need for attention, I often thought, doesn't someone need just a place to rest their eyes on that is simple and serene?

Hence my next thought on Japan. Because 90% of the population here is middle class, people are easily cushioned by their financial security. They have nice homes. (which we got a good taste of while distributing flyers in the neighborhood). Cars, tv's, pdas, you name it. Something for everyone. Why would they need Christ when they have all the comforts of the world at their hands?

This is a contrast to the missionaries that we met 2 days ago, the Covenant Players that live with just the clothes on their backs for 9 months. What they own they carry. No insurance, no 401K, no stock options. All unheard of! But man, do they see the power of God in their lives because they have nothing. How often do we pad ourselves to the point of not being able to let God work amazing things in our lives? These missionaries are at the mercy of God when they are sick, when they retire, when they need money. They just pray. When God answers, it is amazing.

So our prayer for Japan is that people see beyond the clutter of their environment and find the need for a serene and restful space. But maybe before they do that, something needs to be stripped away.



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Wednesday October 18, 2006

Still without the ability to blog.  We are looking for a power cord for Elton's laptop.  Hopefully, we can find one tomorrow.    Love you guys!  God bless.

Filed under: Japan 1 Comment