Sunday, August 6, 2023

Church, FC Papas Game, 8-6-23

     Today we split up into four churches as per the schedule included in yesterday's picture set.  Because, of course, I couldn't be in four places at once, you will have to hear about your team member's experience from them (as we fly home today--as I am writing).  I went to a very small church with just two team members, Jazmin & Erika.  I actually chose this church this year because I have been there twice over the last 14 years.  The first time I went in 2009, a mother had just given birth to a baby and they skyped them in from home so they could say hi.  It was special because the baby's name was Suzuna, the Japanese equivalent of Suzanne, my wife's name.  That little "baby" is now 14.  What a perspective on time as my wife said.  While the church is very small, they are so faithful and so obviously love the Lord so much. Pastor Takei's sermon was titled being proud of our weaknesses, which is almost exactly what Paul had shared several days ago.  Jazmin gave her testimony during the service.  Also, during the service, the pastor got out his dummy and did some ventriloquism. He is very good and uses it to enhance his message.  He actually told me that someone he knows came to Christ after hearing what the "dummy" "said".  God is so creative. After the service it is traditional to each lunch with them (which the other groups did too).  They cooked a very traditional Japanese meal. Yam (white) soup with dried seaweed flakes, served cold, stewed eggplant (also served cold) and chicken over rice.  While it may not be something I would order again, it was great to be served with such honor and care as they were giving us something of them.  After dinner, Pastor got out his shave ice machine and made shave ice for all of us.  Then he wanted us to play a game where we would write down on a piece of paper a color or a fruit (2 games) and then go around the circle guessing who said what.  It really was a lot of fun. Lastly, the church in two weeks will be performing at a gathering, some worship songs they will be singing in English and they wanted to practice with us.  Lots of fun.  I was struck yet once again by their faithfulness with such a little church.  We then went back to the BJ's church for some down time.  About 4:30 ish we left the church to go to the field for the night game with the F.C. Papas.  This is the team BJ plays on, along with Mr. Mizuno.  We played about 8 20 minute periods.  Period 1 was Biola against just the Papas.  Period 2 the Papas would be joined by the men of the tour & Emi (Brett, Daniel, Matthew (who has served locally before), Masa & Emi---Paul played goalie just period 2.) Then, every other period alternated between just the Papas and the Papas+ team against Biola.  Winning wasn't the issue, although some of the guys you could tell REALLY wanted to score.  The games went so long that we didn't have time for either song or a testimony.  All we had time for was Paul explaining his book and why he wrote.  However, God knew this was needed as he "brought it home" in a way that they needed to hear.  Pray for these seeds that continue to grow and that maybe this was the final push that will bring Mr. Mizuno home.  Well, it was yet another long night (after midnight again) as the games didn't end until about 9:15, then it was dinner, then sento, then a 30 minute drive home.  We hadn't told the girls where we were eating so you should have heard their reaction as we drove into the parking lot of ----------McDonalds!  I think they are all ready to be home.  Since BJ, Carrie and Daniel are leaving at 7am for a missions trip to a youth camp, missionary camp and Okinawa, we had prayer for them in a special room at the McDonald's.

      Well, it has been a pleasure to keep you updated and on behalf of the team we want to thank you for your interest and prayers.  Since tomorrow (today) is a travel day, there will be no blog as not much is happening and before I can write it even, your members will be home.  God bless and please keep Pastor Hasui (Iwata), Pastor BJ (Osaka) and Masa & Chie (Osaka: Seahorse Soccer International Club) in your prayers.  Also consider supporting Masa and Chie in their ministry.  You can find the link to do that right in the header of this blog.  God bless and good bye.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Slow Morning & Afternoon, SSIC Evening (Seahorse Soccer International Club--Masa & Chie's ministry)

      The morning began with breakfast and a devotional by Brooklyn.  After breakfast there was a time of worship and some team sharing. Paul did an "interview" with our 3 helpers, Carrie, Daniel and Ayaka.  We then had a couple hours of free time--we thought.  Right in the middle of free time, Mr Mizuno shows up, so of course we entertain him.  He came to the men's room and was talking in there with Paul, BJ & Gil.  Then they took him down to meet the girls as he had brought ice cream for all of them (Mr. Ice Cream this year).  Even in his introduction to the girls he mentioned that Mr. Mizuno is thinking of becoming a Christian, which I learned is OK to say in front of others.  I learned actually later in the evening that Mr. Mizuno's wife is also thinking of becoming a Christian.  It goes back to what Mrs. Nakatani (pastor's wife whose church we will visit tomorrow) said in 2010 that it can take the average Japanese 15-20 years to become a Christian.  Mr Mizuno and his wife seem to be following that path.  At 2:30 we left for the evening.  Since the event didn't start until 5, we had time for lunch and a little more shopping and then it was up to the event.  The event started with registration.  Each Seahorse was given 2 name stickers and as kids arrived, they had to find the person their sticker matched to and put it on them.  Good way to mix.  After registration and introductions, the next game was English practice mixer.  Each student had a paper with a list of 6 or so questions (favorite color, etc) that they had to get answered from a Seahorse, but they could only get one answer from each Seahorse--and they had to do it in English (as best they could).  Then it was time to break into groups.  There were 3 fields, Kindergarten-2nd grade on one, 3-middle school and the High School.  There were about 30 minutes of various drills and then games.  After the event there was presentation of many different kinds of gift and awards.  Random winners of the question exercise, awards for best at certain skills, and the Paul Gizzi award for best camper.  Then it was the Seahorses turn for Kimi-Wa, Hippo song and explanation, and a testimony by Brett.  Paul ended the night with passing out tour t-shirts, team brochures and pens for all the kids, along with a copy of his book.  So many ways that they could hear the message.  There were almost 50 kids and about as many parents.  About 10 of the kids had never been to Masa's club before, so pray that maybe they will stay around.  Then there the usual lots of mixing and picture taking, but this time there was a lot of signing the backs of everyones t-shirts.  So much fun and seed planting.  After we left (around 8) we went to the sento and dinner, and then 45 minutes back home.  We didn't arrive home until just after midnight.  So, my apologies if this is a little rushed, but I wanted to get at least the blog and pictures up.  No time for the video montage (good footage though).  I will let you know in a future blog if this montage gets completed.

Video Montage, 8-5-23 (I just posted this at 12:30am US time.  If you try to watch soon afterwards, it may not have finished rendering yet.  If that happens, just wait 10-20 minutes and try again)

Friday, August 4, 2023

Slow AM, Kyoto Temple/Shopping, Game-Tachibana HS, Sento, Dinner, 8-4-23

      We started off the day with another slow morning, which was nice.  We then left about 10am for the Kyoto temple, which is about an hour away.  It took almost 90 minute to get there as there was traffic.  The temple was beautiful as always.  We took our official team picture on the steps with the two temples in the background.  Then Paul gave everyone a ticket so they could go into the temple and look around.  Very interesting to observe things like the lighting of incense (what does it do---maybe similar to the fragrant aroma the Bible talks about that our sacrifices are to him.). The most interesting I found was the place where they kneel to pray and before they pray, they strike a drum to wake up the gods so their prayers will be heard.  How sad.  There is another place where water is pouring out over a pool and they wait in long lines to get a pole to hang out and catch some of the water and then put it to their mouths and wash with it.  Must be special as there was such a long line for it.  After the temple, it was off to the game with the Tachibana high school girls.  It was played on a large dirt field, which is actually more common that not here in Japan.  Hot, muggy, dusty (kicked up from the dirt), but there WAS a good breeze, which helped.  We played 3 games of 20 minutes each, with the first two against them, and then the 3rd game we mixed up the teams and played combined.  After the game we started with our Bo-te-le-li chant.  It was a great ice breaker.  Then we did Kimi-Wa and the hippo song with it's translation. We closed with Ella Hively giving her testimony. Once again the team mixed so well with other team and it seemed like some made social media connections to keep in touch.  Pray for the seeds planted here, from the Kimi-Wa words, to the hippo song explanation and the testimony.  While some of the ministry done here is new, like the futsal with the men the other night, the ministry with Tachibana has been going on for about 14 years and was started because of the connections between BJ and Sera the leader of the team.  We decided not to fight afternoon traffic back home, so we found a local sento.  It was very restrictive.  Normally if someone shows a tattoo in a sento they are asked to leave.  They said if WE showed one, the WHOLE GROUP would have to leave.  We managed to cover up, but some of the people with more extensive tattoos just didn't go in.  After the sento, we went to a local Japanese Italian restaurant, the Saizeriya Ristorante & CaffĂ©.  The food was pretty good and surprisingly cheap.  The it was back to the church.  What could have been a 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive back with traffic, took only 55 minutes.  Such a blessing.  The team was singing pretty loud as we left.  Paul said, give it 10 minutes and they will all be asleep.  Never happened.  Loud singing all the way back.  It is fun to see them enjoy each so much and bond like this.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Slow AM, Osaka Castle, Slow Aft, Futsal with friends of BJ, 8-3-23

   The morning started with a workout for the team from 8-9, then breakfast, then we left for the castle about 10am.  Our first view of the castle after we got off of the bus, was of the very large moat.  It was interesting to hear Daniel explain how attackers would try to jump in the water, swim across and then try to climb the stone walls.  Very few would make it.  I couldn't imagine someone even trying.  The castle was beautiful and really made one feel that this is really Japan.  Lots of displays on each of the floors.  Too many to take pictures of.  We did not stay together as a group, so there are very few pictures of the group itself inside the entrance to the grounds.  The line to get the elevator to the 8th floor was really long, so we all took the "stairs" line, which wasn't a line at all.  After climbing 8 floors of very steep stairs, one could see why waiting for the elevator wasn't bad.  Speaking of steep, on a prior trip to Japan, I learned that castle steps were designed specifically to be very steep (& narrow) for a reason.  If the castle was breached, then those inside would retreat up toward the top.  The steepness made it harder to climb for attackers and thus more defensible for those inside.  After the Castle, it was the meal that all of the team has been waiting for---"Train" Sushi.  This is where the Sushi plates come by on a track and you take them off as you go by.  Some sushi trains just have random plates going by and you grab whatever you want and are then charged by the plate.  This one was slightly different.  You ordered off a menu, then it was delivered on the "train".  Every table in each train (2 rows of table back to back with the train in the middle) had a number and color.  When you ordered, it would be put on a plate with the plate on top of a stand.  The stand would have a colored label corresponding to the color of the table that ordered it.  So, any plate coming by with your table's color, you would grab because someone at your table ordered it.  The team really loved. We didn't get to the Sushi place until 2:30, and didn't finish until 4.  Very late lunch, but, it was perfectly timed as tonights futsal is from 8-10, and dinner at a normal hour would be too close to the games to be good.  It was back to the church then with free time until about 7.  We left at 7 for the futsal courts.  There were two fields (4th floor of the building).  We divided the team into 6 teams of 4 each and then added 1 of BJ's friends (there were six of them) to each team.  There was a lot of mixing and matching of games as each game was only 6 minutes.  It was a great way to mix.  We played from 8-10 but had to leave immediately as someone else had reserved the courts from 10 on.  We went inside to do our post-game ceremonies.  Paul did some introductions, we did Kimi-Wa and the hippo song and Peyton did her testimony.  BJ had some final words/prayer then it was gift time.  Paul explained and passed out his book and then gave a tour t-shirt to each of the men, along with a team brochure.  This was a very special night because, just like the elementary school kids in Iwata being in a church for the first time, this is the first time these men have heard the gospel.  They heard it through Kimi-Wa, explanation of the Hippo song, Peyton's testimony, Paul explaining his book, and BJ's words.  It took seeds planted in Mr Mizuno's life 20 years to get to this point.  Pray that the seeds planted for the FIRST time in these mens hearts will take hold and prompt them to ask questions of BJ.  The post-game ceremony and after-glow lasted about 30 minutes and much sharing and interaction was happening then too.  We finally left futsal at 10:30 and we still hadn't eaten dinner.  But, before that, we just crossed the courtyard and entered the sento there.  Everyone did not get home until just after midnight and THEN still made a quick trip to the local mini-mart for dinner/snacks.  What a great of ministry!  How exciting to be part of planting seeds for the first time.

Video Montage, 8-3-23 (No footage from the castle as we split up once we got in, so castle visit is pictures only)
( I am sure you all have heard enough of these two songs, but just like the cicada version, these are special as the acoustics made them both sound so wonderful)
If I have time, I will add a highlight reel of those games that I did record (there were too many to record them all.  Check back to see)
Futsal games, assorted highlights, 8-3-23 (the older man in grey shirt and black shorts is Pastor BJ as goalie, the white-haired old man in black shirt and grey shorts is Paul as goalie) 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Travel Day, Iwata to Osaka

       We cleaned up the church from 7:30-8:30 and then had breakfast at 8:30 with a devotional led by Mimi. We were packed and ready to walk to the bus at 9:30, said our final goodbyes at the bus.  We were looking at about a 5 hour bus ride to Osaka.  The first leg of the trip was quite lively as the team had its first hanyack session.  A "hanyack" is usually a cultural faux pas or mistake someone made.  It was very lively with lots of laughter, but are the things that just stay with the team.  When the tour is over the team will eventually be given a copy of the sessions, but they wont be published for awhile.  The busses are required to stop on a regular basis.  Our first stop was quick pit/snack stop.  In between the two stops plenty of the team found time to get some rest. At the second stop we had lunch. You order from a machine which simultaneously gives you a receipt and puts your order in.  You wait for you number to appear and then pick up your food.  After lunch, we made the final leg to Osaka.  Again the bus was too big to stop in front of the church, so it parked where we have always had busses park.  It was about a 5 minute walk but with no vans we had to lug all the bags.  The ground floor of the church is parking and where we eat breakfast.  The 2nd floor is where the ladies sleep, but it is also the sanctuary.  Sunday will be quite the job to pick it all up to get it ready and then put it together.  Our welcome session included some brief instructions on how things work around the church, and meeting two of the people helping us for the week (Carrie & Daniel). The team also met Shizuko, a very lovely and extremely generous lady who comes to see the Seahorses every time and is always bringing gifts.  She and her husband are not believers, but their daughter Emi did become a believer through the Seahorse ministry.  Emi played in the US for a couple years for the MAI Charlotte team Since we had some extra time, we took a quick 10-minute walk to the local temple.  Very interesting, but sad at the same time.  Then it was a short 10-minute walk to mall/food court/shopping/groceries location.  On the way to dinner, we passed by a Pachinko parlor.  These parlors are all over Japan and it is quite a problem as people spend ours in there.  Very mesmerizing and noisy.  After dinner, it was a walk to the sento for a long leisurely time and then back to church for orientation. (As a side note here, it says in the video montage title page that there was going to be a small mini-camp with Masa, with just 4 of the team members, but we got here too late for that to happen.) Pastor BJ and his wife Mary run the church.  Pastor BJ had just returned from 5 hours south teaching at a Bible Camp and after we leave next week, BJ and Carrie & Daniel will travel north for another Bible Camp.  So this week will be good for them to have our help.  BJ gave his orientation about what to expect the next few days.  He also updated us on Mr. Mizuno, who has hung around our ministry every time we are here.  We have seen signs of him gradually getting closer and closer to God.  BJ explained that after the funeral for Mr Mizuno's mother, Mr. Mizuno told BJ that he wants to be a Christian.  20 years we have been waiting for this.  It had Paul & I in tears.  After BJ spoke, we then heard from the other helpers.  Ayaka has been around for many years.  She has been to a seminary and spent 3 years as a missionary in Thailand.  She has even traveled with the Seahorses and been a part of at least 1 tour.  Then the other missionaries here that we are here to serve, Masa & Chie Yokota, introduced themselves and told about their ministry, the Seahorse Soccer International Club (SSIC).  It was great to see all of them again.  Well, it will be a challenging week.  Logistics is one. This year the team is sleeping on air mattresses instead of just the futons (foo-tones). While air mattresses may be softer, they are extremely noisy and awkward trying to walk across,  as they are packed in like sardines.  It was meant for Carrie and Ayaka to room with them, but there is literally no room for anything else down there.  But ministry WILL happen, as it has already begun to with the news of Mr. Mizuno.  He is sooo close now.  Please pray for him that he might make that decision while we are here.  Mr Mizuno coming to Christ would be such a wonderful way to close out the Seahorse ministry visits here in Osaka.