Japan Trip Log

Thanks for praying. The trip to Japan exceeded all my expectations. I wanted to write a prayer update or two while there, but although the days were filled with good work that left me happy, wanting to share, I was also too tired by the time I got home to quite pull it off. So here are some note and thoughts from the journey:

Week one:

Arrived safely. Seemed like one euphoria after another. Just walking into the ViBi office was a joy. Am I allowed to be this happy? Thrilled to see Yamada (a hearing Japanese man who studied with SIL) fitting in so well at ViBi. Loved seeing Hori doing the comprehension check.

Was challenged by the fact that it was so hard to explain Matthew 12:18-21. Why is the concept of justice so hard to explain to an oppressed minority group? Something seems wrong here. Are we evangelicals that far distanced from our communities? Or maybe it’s a lack of Old Testament background in the Deaf church of Japan. It is certainly not because God is unconcerned for the needy and oppressed of our communities.

Sunday one:

When I got to church the first Sunday, two delightful surprises awaited me. Two people, a not-yet-believer who works on the Bible translation team and a believer we’ve been praying for who has not come for several years, had both started attending a couple weeks ago. What a joy to see them in church community.

I also had a chance to connect Mr. Nara to God’s word, a man whose wife and children left him, who is still out of work after six months, and struggling with why God isn’t helping.

Week two, first half:

Major nostalgia getting to attend a CB pastors and missionaries meeting up North, connecting with old friends, making some new ones, seeing all the young pastors interacting with those ready to retire, and share both ViBi and Wheelchair ministries there.

Several pastors noted that at the Edinburgh 100th anniversary world missions meeting here in Japan, Deaf people “made the list” of unreached people groups. Though it is not new to us that Deaf people have a language and culture that is different from the hearing communities they intersect with, we were excited by this strong validation of the importance of Deaf ministry worldwide.

Week two, second half:

Preparation for the annual ViBi board meeting went down to the wire this year with the office work transitioning from Ms. Kuwahara to Mr. Yamada, but again, it was fun to be a part. Since I helped set up the accounting software system years ago, I got to be part of tracking down a problem in the reporting and fixing it. (Those who know me will understand the near-miraculous nature of this.) No time to write and ask for prayer, but you know I was praying!

A special joy was seeing Mr. Yamada, after only a few months exposure, interacting with the Deaf leadership team in Japanese Sign Language with no interpretation to make corrections on the annual reports for the meeting.

Enjoyed connecting with ViBi board members. God has given us a great team to work with on this level too. Giving exceeded budget last year, and next year’s budget is larger still—a testimony to God’s gracious provision.

Sunday two: I saw Mr. Nara today. What a change in his demeanor! He has totally re-framed his situation. All the spare time that had been such a source of bitterness and frustration for him became an opportunity to seek God in the Word. And instead of complaining how his wife had treated him, he was asking about ways to connect his friends to Jesus.


About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
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