Nagaokakyo's Christian Heroine
In Japan it is hard to bring the Gospel, because of various ideas about Christianity that got in to the Japanese mind set during the 300 years of isolation. At that time the Tokugawa shogunate did everything destroy the church and defame Christians and Christianity. Even 141 years after the end of the Tokugawa shogunate many people still have those attitudes. However in Nagaokakyo people are a little more open, since the town Heroine was a Christian. Her name was Hosokawa Gracia (or better know in Japanese as “Garasha”). She is famous for kindness and generosity. For a time Hosokawa Gracia and her husband Hosokawa Tadaoki lived at Shoryuji Castle (in the photo) in Nagaokakyo. Now-a-days this cutesy (top left) representation of “Garasha” adorns many publications from the local city council and street signs. Souvenir shops sell Garasha sweets. You can read more about her life here:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garasha
It's so true in God's kingdom, that some plough the fields, some so the seeds, some water, and some reap the harvest. Garasha is just one of many of God's people who worked tirelessly in Nagaokakyo and people have a more soften heart towards the Gospel here today because of their faithfulness. There is the more visible work such as Megumi (“Grace”) Kindergarten and the Evangelical Free Church's various play groups, English classes, etc. The various missionaries from Pioneers International that came here over the last 15 years. Then there is the less visible workers who faithfully serve God in the community building relationships. We are so grateful to God for all you have done and/or are doing here, even if we have a bit different approach to the way we do mission than you, we are all serving God. We've come to see over the last 6 and bit months here that He is co-ordinating it all.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1 (King James Version)
If you thought the Sakura were the only flowers worth waiting for in Japan, think again. With the Sakura blossom over for almost 20 days (at the time of this photo), it was time for the Azalea Season. Actually the Azalea Season is a lot more colourful that the Sakura, with red, pink, purple and white flowers. Set against the greenery of all of the trees now with a full array of leaves back on them, plus the warmer weather, makes Japan a spring paradise. With the 29th being a public holiday, one of our friends brought us to the city of Uji which is just south of Kyoto city. This photo was taken in the gardens of Mimuroto-ji (temple).
New leaves on the momiji (Japanese Maple) against a backdrop of red (created from Red Azaleas which were in full bloom). As I reflect on the days prior to this photo being taken. God had brought a long a number areas of new growth for both us personally and the church, through various tests and trials. Also on Sunday the 26th we had five people from Takino come all the way (85kms) to Nagaokakyo for the Sunday service. So in many ways we were experiencing new growth.
So now that I've mentioned Azaleas, I'll let you know that the next PBLOG entry will have something to with them... Stay Tuned.
My Fedora is Back
One big lesson from moving overseas is to send the things you think you'll need the most first! Well, here is one thing which because I needed it all of the time in Australia, so I held on to it until the last minute. Then when I packed my suitcase I just couldn't fit it in. So I ended up putting it in a box and leaving it at my parents' house. Well when I got to Japan, it was late autumn, actually the weather felt like Perth does in the winter, so I didn't really miss my Fedora that much. However when April came along and on sunny days the UV is quiet harsh, then I began to miss my Fedora. So I emailed my parents and asked them to post it to me, plus they sent me a couple of pairs of slippers, because I'm two sizes too big for any slippers I can find in Japan. I can't believe that my feet are so big in Japan, in Australia I take UK size 9 or 10 depending on the brand of shoe or slipper. Those sizes are average sizes in Australia. I used to play basket ball in Australia and most of the other guys in the team wore size 12 shoes, some even wore size 14! Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe wears size 17 shoes! The biggest size slippers I can find in Japan are equivalent to about size 7 (Japan size 26), occasionally I can find one or two shoes in my size in some specialist shoe stores here, but only expensive shoes and never slippers which you need to wear all the time here when working in schools.
Big THANKS again to Mum and Dad, for sending the items.
Coming from Australia I thought I came from the most sports crazy country in the world, but now I'm pretty convinced it is Japan. Especially for those in Middle School and High School, it seems that if they aren't the most academically inclined students, then they are put into sports clubs. That seems to equate to at least 3/4 of the students at the schools around here. Firstly they start school early to practice sport (everyday), then after school they practice sport (everyday). On the weekends they compete against other schools, and even on the school holidays they go to school to practice sport! Also a lot of the time it is not just sport teachers running the sports, but other teachers who get asked to do it and receive a tiny amount of extra salary for the extra hours work! All of this is probably a plot by the Government to keep energetic teenagers occupied and off the streets! Well, when I was taking a walk through the Imperial Palace Park, I came across a group of students, who rather than relaxing in the Park like everyone else, they had set up a make shift net and were practising their badminton. Yes, I shall declare the Japan the most sports crazy country on Earth until I am proven otherwise.