International Ministries

Wintertime Joy!

February 15, 2014 Journal
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Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                                                                                                 2014/02/15

Time has slipped away from me too quickly and with too many things to report.  My conscience constantly plagues me.  How can I tell you all that is going on and when can I take time to do it?  I am still here in Japan as your servant and because of your continued faithfulness.  I can only trust that you know that I feel indebted to you.


SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: I neglected to tell you about the results of a special privilege I was given in late November last year.  The administration of Shokei Gakuin, the school where I spent 18 years of my career, asked me to come to the school in Sendai to give a lecture to their faculty and staff. So I prepared through out the summer and fall to write a speech about the foundational values of the school.  This was to coincide with research I did for a book I wrote in Japanese about the 2nd principal of the school, Mary D. Jesse.  As I wrote and revised the speech, a former colleague at the school, Keiko Shishido, translated it as her “going away gift” to me.  What a gift it was!  But not only that, she and another teacher, Mari Sato, put together a party for me, inviting former students of the Shokei Abroad program and faculty who had been associated with me during those years.  There were forty who attended the party where God showed me how he had used me during those times.  I could meet a number of students who had become Christians.  Many more wrote of their new life in Christ, some hailing from America where they now live as a Christian.  The next day I went to the college’s new worship center and spoke to about 175 teachers, current and former staff.  The response to my words seemed good.  Many faculty who were new to Shokei in the last ten years had not heard of this missionary, Mary Jesse and what she stood for.  It was an encouragement to the Christian staff whose Christian witness is often stomped on or just plain ignored by the majority non-Christians teachers.  They bemoaned the fact that there are so few Christians who apply for positions any more, making hiring Christian faculty is very difficult.


A BRIGHT DECEMBER December was right on the heels of the speech at Shokei and I had to run to catch-up with a month of activities planned to express my thanks to all those who are involved in my present living arrangements (administration, maintenance dept.), mothers in the English Village program, and their children, the teachers who are so friendly to me, Wednesday Bible study members and personal friends.  I wanted to say, “Thank you one and all.” In order to do it my-style and my-way, I needed help.  ENTER volunteers Terri Simpkins for the first half and Tabatha Coker during the last week. “A great time was had by all” to put it mildly.  In spite of some kitchen “accidents” everyone from the plumbers, guards, mothers, children, teachers to the administrators felt warmed by our times together. They are all so anxious to do anything for me now (wish I’d come up with this idea a while back as a bribe!) (joke)


After the volunteers returned to the USA, the Turleys from Okinawa came for a few weeks, and with the Hwangs, my colleagues here, had a fun few days together celebrating our Lord’s birth and doing future planning.  What a great team I’m a part of!  This was probably the most fun Christmas I’ve ever had in Japan.


NEW YEARS CUSTOMS I “began” the New Year by giving the message December 29th on the subject of taking just one word to as a New Years resolution to work on for the New Year.  Spiritual formation and sanctification are not subjects preached on very often in Japan.  The reason seems to be that because there have been more non-Christians in the congregations than Christians, sermons on shaping our life in Christ seem to be too moralistic to the unbelievers, and perhaps, too personal to the small number of Christians present. Although these dynamics have recently changed, the custom of focusing on the Gospels remains. The message was surprisingly well received. When the service was finished, everyone pitched in for the annual New Years church clean up.  In American jargon, “spring cleaning.”  We were finally ready for New Years day.  On that day, I received some new years postcards. All New Years cards have a number on them.  If your number or part of the number is drawn in a nation-wide lottery, you might get a trip somewhere, a bottle of wine, or a few postage stamps with the Zodiac animal for the year. I didn’t win!


POTTPORI There are many things that I am involved in that do not make headlines.  They include things like doing research of missionaries of the past for the Japan Baptist Union, helping with arrangements to move some missionaries’ graves from one city to another, coordinating communication between International Ministries and Kanto Gakuin regarding a missionary associate who will follow me here at KG (whom I will introduce to you in another letter), making travel plans for Japanese delegates to the Global Partner Gathering at Green Lake….and arranging for a moving company for me!


RETURN APPROACHES I’ll be returning to the USA on May 30th.  Until I retire July 31st I hope to meet as many of you as I can.  Those two months I’ll be available to speak at your invitation and I can meet some of you at Green Lake in the summer.  Until then, I’ll be continuing to both sow and reap because of your continued undergirding to the end.

Pray for me in these final months that I will maintain a strong message for each event I’m asked to speak at. “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God” Isa. 41:10 NASB


In Christ, Roberta Stephens, Japan

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