Typhoon Talas, with its gust wind speed of 175 km/h (110 mph), is here in Japan. It is rattling the windows of this guesthouse where I am staying. I am grateful for the hospitality of my friends from Osaka Christian College and Seminary (OCCS). They let me stay here in this guesthouse for free. It is a small but beautiful campus, right in the middle of Osaka City. I still have to explore the streets of this city. Maybe, after writing this Blog, I will walk outside and go the nearest 7-11 convenient store and get some coffee and breakfast. If there is no rain, I will walk around and explore some more.
This is my fourth day and already my friend, Rev. Katsumi Shigetomi, one of the professors here at OCCS, have brought me to seven different Free Methodist local churches. Last Wednesday, after Katsumi picked me up from the airport, we visited four different church one after another. I met Rev. Seto Yashiyoki, Pastor of Sakai Free Methodist Church (FMC), Rev. Azuma, Takashi, Pastor of Hanan FMC, Rev. Tomohisa, Kogure, Pastor of Higashisumiyoshi FMC, and Rev. Junichi, Hatano, Pastor of Kishinosato FMC. Most of these local churches are more than 50 years old. The last one I visited, the Kishinosato FMC, just celebrated its 90th year anniversary. At this church, I also visited its Seika Hoikuen Nursery School. I had so much fun taking pictures of the children, most especially the 2-year old toddlers. The pastor, who is also the Principal of this school, told me that they have 230 children serving about 180 families from the surrounding neighborhood. Almost all of these families are non-Christians. The school has 28 teachers and 4 office personnel. What a great time of ministry. I saw some of the parents of these small children coming to pick up their kids using their bicycles. I was impressed with this outreach ministry. Many families are given the opportunity to hear the gospel through the Hoikuen Nursery School.
Wednesday evening, Katsumi and I went back to the Hanan FMC and visited its evening prayer meeting group. I shared a Bible study about loving the foreigners around us. Pastor Azuma is the former pastor of Pastor Shigetomi. Pastor Azuma is in his late seventies. He has been around for a long time and has pastored many churches of the Japan FMC. A great man of God! Thursday morning, we visited the Sakai FMC. Pastor Seto is the brother in-law of my friend Pastor Shigetomi. I shared the same devotional talk that I shared the day before. (You can scroll down to my earlier blog postings.) I also met Rev. Jim Nakae, the Pastor of the OCCS College Church. Most of the college students of OCCS are non-Christians. Pastor Jim leads this group of students and their families. The church also has non-OCCS members from the nearby localities.
Beautiful countryside scenery. (Reminds me of the movies 'Shogun' and 'The Last Samurai.') Rice fields ready for harvest. We stopped at a grape vineyard and bought fresh and sweet grapes. Katsumi and I are on our way to a mountainside resort for the OCCS seminary students and faculty retreat, which is located in the Nara Prefecture. Katsumi told me that this area is the location and home of the first Dynasty of Japan. A lot of history here. Took us about three hours. It is a good break from watching city streets and the concrete jungle of Osaka. I love walking under the canopies of large mountains trees. I am not sure what kinds of trees they were.
I switched from English to Chinese there in the mountains of Japan. It was kind of ironic. English in the cities, Chinese in the mountains. I joined the seminary students' evening activities. Katsumi went to a faculty meeting, so I was by myself with the students without my able interpreter, Pastor Katsumi Shigetomi. One of the students tried to help me with translation, but his English was not very good, I ended up missing a lot of the social exchange. During the second part, one of the students, Miss Jin, jumped in and helped with the translation. She interpreted for me from Japanese to Chinese. It was great! I was able to participate with them and understand all of the dialogues and sharing.
Miss Jin is from the Mainland. She is Chinese and is married to a local Japanese from Tokyo. Her husband is still not yet a Christian, but he is willing and supportive of her going to seminary to get her training and education. She came to Japan, first as a migrant worker, later becoming integrated to Japanese society through her marriage. She has been here for eleven years now. I am so grateful for her help. It makes my time with the students a little more meaningful and engaging.
Friday morning, I woke up refreshed and ready for the day. It took me a while to get started. I missed my two cups of hot brewed black Americano coffee. OCCS leaders gave me an hour and a half of time for sharing. I shared about my work in Taiwan and my role as an FMWM missionary and my relationship with the FM churches of Michigan and Illinois. I also shared about the "Raging River of God" from Ezekiel 47:1-12. (You can read this devotional talk. Just click here.) After my talk, Rev. Dr. Haruhide, Tsumura, the President of OCCS, mentioned that there is a standing invitation for me to visit OCCS again next year, together with students from Holy Light Theological Seminary (HLTS) of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I am so grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to be a bridge between these two seminaries. I am looking forward to that day next year when I will be bringing Taiwanese students to Osaka, Japan. Pray for me. Pray with us. Pray for all the Free Methodist connections happening in this part of the world.
We drove some more around the mountainside of the Nara Prefecture. Katsumi brought me to two more FM churches. I met Mr. Kumagai, Naoya, a Ministerial Candidate and pastor of Gojo FMC and Rev. Takafumi, Motoi, Pastor of Iwade FMC. I prayed for them, and pronounced God's blessings over them. I prayed a special prayer of guidance for Brother Naoya. The Gojo church is Naoya's first pastoral appointment. He just graduated from the seminary this year. He is single, and he needs a life partner who can stand by him and co-pastor churches for God. I told him, half-seriously that if he were in Taiwan, he won't have difficulty finding a good wife. Naoya is a very musical person. He plays the drums, guitar, and sings. I heard him sing when I visited with him. He also does calligraphy, beautiful writings of Asian characters. I am sure many Taiwanese ladies would fall in love with this artistic and committed Japanese Christian young man. Tall, muscular, you know what I mean. On top of that, he drives a Yamaha 500 cc. bike, the ones that look like Harley Davidson bikes in the USA. You get the picture now, right? (Oh, by the way, I am a pastor and not a matchmaker.) Pray for Brother Naoya.
Good morning Osaka! It is still windy outside. No rains yet, so I think I am ready for my walk. The streets of Osaka City is not too different from the city streets of Kaohsiung. Minus the ubiquitous scooter of Taiwan, I feel like I am still in Kaohsiung. I left Taiwan when Typhoon Nanmadol was still around. I am now here in Japan, and another typhoon is with us, Typhoon Talas. I guess, this is what I get for traveling during the months of August and September, the time of the year when Pacific typhoons come and visit many Asian countries. At least today, it is a beautiful windy and cloudy day. Perfect for walking, that is if you like your hair being blown randomly by this gusty winds.
Today, we will go to Kobe. I will be speaking at the Kobe FMC tomorrow morning. Katsumi and I will take the train to Kobe. Pray for my time at this church. Pray for the "connections" for the sake of God's Kingdom here in Asia. More stories from Osaka on my next Blog.