Good News > Challenging Times > Pressing Towards the Goal

Good News > Challenging Times > Pressing Towards the Goal

Hey friend!

Hope you’re thriving and surviving this time-warp of a year. Our perception of time is a strange gift indeed.

The many conversations I’ve shared this month about our work in Japan and our fight against suicide have been life-giving. If I haven’t gotten a chance to catch up with you yet, let’s find a good time to catch up over video chat! 👍🏻

These chat conversations included suggested management books, strategies for successful non-profit operation, and a suicide prevention training manual. Other friends offered a summary of their recent chapters in life.

“Because our expression is imperfect we need friendship to fill up the imperfections.” - G.K. Chesterton
It’s been great sharing about life and standing together in prayer. We are all trusting God to come through in our own unique narratives. The good news is: He is always showing up in our stories.

A month and a half, still walking with the vision

It's been a minute since I started my major-missionary-transition in September. I stepped out in faith, ending my time as a full-time educator & church volunteer in Japan. Grinding to join the team of full-time missionaries in our church has been hard work.

It’s ongoing. I have a ways to go, but more on that in a minute. 😄

Since day one in 日本, my vision has always been simply: “Serve the Japanese church.”

Holy Spirit has always been faithful to guide and sustain me. For more than 5 years in the Tokyo area at that!

There is much to do, and much being done in our Jesus community. God’s vision for Japan is a massive undertaking. We are critical Christian partners effecting Jesus’ miracle, the required revitalization of Japan’s collective soul.

Friends, disciples, and grace for the season

In the last month I met not one, but two new Japanese friends who asked me to tell them more about Jesus! They pretty much just walked right into my life and asked point-blank.

Tou and Mitsuki, my friends.

Not only friends, but friends eager to hear about Jesus. They’ve asked so many great questions about the Bible. What a privilege it is to discover the Lord with them! For the past few years, I was almost always actively looking for people to disciple. Here God is just bringing people right to us. Grace for the season.

Our church filled up our half-capacity second service the other day. Many of the attendees were completely new to the church! Our work is advancing friend. We also celebrated a baptism a few weeks back and anticipate another one in a few more!

Challenges too though

What’s a good story without a challenge to overcome, right?

Last week... was challenging. Terribly disorienting. Really pushed me to pray for clarity. Direction? A call to faith again in Christ. The wake-up alarm for a stupor of activity.

HS -“Seth, you should be listening to what I tell you to do.”
Seth - 🤷🏻‍♂️ *Am I doing that?* *prays about it for a bit*
Seth - “Holy Spirit, thanks for that, you’re always right. Needed to take some time to listen.”

I’m still learning how to hear His voice, and growing in active obedience to what he asks me to do. Especially when it's an uncomfortable ask.

What prompted all this in the first place was: my desire to remain serving in Japan vs. the practical situation before me.

Practically speaking, to remain in Japan and on the field full-time really only requires two things:

  1. A valid visa status
  2. Generous financial and prayer partners like you!

Aaannd, it's crunch time...

My visa will no longer be valid on Dec 10th. This is provided that I don’t change to a new status or visa sponsor before then.

Our mission team is working on a solution which could allow me to stay in Japan despite a few setbacks.

The goal has been (and still is) to change my status with church sponsorship on a missionary services visa.

The final step to secure that visa, my sponsor (the church) will need to guarantee that they can pay me a livable monthly wage in Japan.

Definitely a fair ask of the government here.

Believe it or not, the entire Paz Church team of pastors I work with are not paid by our local church at all. This includes our lead pastor who is more than deserving of that honor! I have incredible respect for my leaders who are taking the additional responsibility of support raising to serve the needs of our church!

For me getting that visa in the short term, I’ll need a bare minimum of $1500 in recurring monthly gifts. This amount only works if I move out from my current place into the church building. However, this is a temporary provision that I’m very thankful for and happy to take!

In 3 - 6 months I will need to again move into my own apartment, which means that I would need to then increase support to a new minimum of $2500 in total monthly gifts.
The total goal, as set by me and my organization to maximize long-term ministry effectiveness here is $3700.

Currently monthly income from support is around $700 per month, about 19% of my total goal.

Finding God’s option for me to serve long term on the field here is a decision I have to discern and then commit to in the next two weeks. I would seriously appreciate any help on this front you can offer, including connections to anyone who might be interested in our work.

My main options are fourfold (least desirable being 1 and the most desirable being 4):

  1. Fly to America -> continue to build my support team full time -> while navigating the current effects of corona in the US
  2. Stay in Japan -> find a new full-time teaching position while building this support team -> also balancing leadership responsibilities for Choose Life, existing church service responsibilities, care for my family group, Japanese study, and Bible College)
  3. Stay in Japan -> raise 40% of my total financial support goal -> move into the church building for the next 3-6 months -> work part-time teaching and support raising part-time (much easier to balance the other responsibilities and give back to the church) 👍🏻
  4. Stay in Japan -> God miraculously provides 100% financial support in the next few weeks 🙌🏻
    Leaving Japan makes it practically impossible to serve the church here and take care of my family group. Leading Choose Life will be especially hard as we need to gain critical momentum now. We need more volunteers mobilized asap to keep growing in the next 3-6 months or we face serious stagnation.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like the best time to go back to the US to raise support with the quarantine and social distancing requirements. 🙅🏻‍♂️ Lastly, if I were to go back today, I’m not sure how long it would be before I could come back into Japan to help again. Tourist visas are not being granted yet.

A mysterious Japanese style home in one of my favorite parks in Japan, near Shibuya Station.

“In light of the evolving situation...”

A certain virus just seems to be making things a bit more difficult than they might be otherwise. Certainly difficult for you too! I believe God is generous, and certainly powerful enough to provide for all our needs.

My goal was to be finished (or about halfway done) raising financial support by November 1st, which was *probably* over ambitious. 😅

It will take longer than that at the current rate. I’m super thankful to be around 19% funded for work here. Looking at the last month of full-time support raising, I will need a few more months (6 months?) to be solidly positioned as a full-time Paz church planter and leader of Choose Life in Japan.

This is where faith really factors in

I can’t fully see the outcome. The only option is to fully stand on the truth that God is good, and I heard his missionary call here correctly. He is a provider. All the while working really hard to partner with God, in partnering with others.

I guess if faith and trust was always easy, we wouldn’t grow. 😅
“Look at the birds He feeds, study His provision for the beautiful flowers in His fields. He cares more for us than these.” 🕊

Gospel work in Japan is a serious task and the potential is even larger than we imagine. Millions are on the cusp of hearing the Good News here. Our current window is essentially the first real chance in Japan’s long history!

A few more years of foundation laying to go. Together, us and God, we will continue to build a strong base of prayer, discipleship, and leadership development. Looking towards the massive revival growth the Holy Spirit has for this land.

Thank you so much, it’s an honor to serve together in this work. I’m committed to following Jesus, and putting him first.

As far as I can tell, that commitment means, by God’s grace I’ll stay here to serve for at least the next few months. If financial support needs remain, along with a support raising trip to America, when the dust settles. 🙌🏻

We’re fighting to get these critical ministry hours and those key Kingdom workers here on the field.

TLDR; - Summary
Great conversations guys. Loved catching up.

God is good, our church is growing. Two baptisms! Met two new friends to disciple.

It’s been a bit of a hard month too. My visa situation, kinda stressful. Corona-virus probs also. Found out that my actual financial support wasn’t very close to my goal. Prayed about it. Prayed a bit more.

Our mission team is talking about a solution. Lord willing, I can stay on the field finding more new financial partners. Prayerfully finishing support raising before Corona is over. Additionally, going to the US to secure that last bit of support after the corona-virus dies down, if needed. This is a critical time to be working with Choose Life here. Thank you so much for your prayer and support!

What is a challenging time where God showed up and really strengthened your faith?