International Ministries

Just Who Am I Here For?

May 24, 2012 Journal
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Dear friends,
    I am more than a month into the new school year in Japan.  I have already experienced the joys and disappointments, excitement and uncertainty of ministry.  Thank you ahead of time for reading to the end of this letter.
    Home Assignment:  I am hoping to share these experiences with many of you when I return to the USA for a short three months home assignment September through November, 2012.  If you’d like me to come and share with your congregation or just visit with small groups, please let Terri Simpkins know.  Terri is on my Missionary Partnership Team (MPT) and is coordinating my schedule.  The email address she can be reached at is <>.  Terri’s phone number is (206) 399-0029.  Or, contact anyone else you know who is on my MPT
   Starting in a New Place With every new place I’ve gone to start a new ministry, it has taken time before ministry begins to take shape.  Until then, it just takes patience.  The Japanese people need to watch you and get to know you before they entrust you with responsibilities.  While I wait, I begin to search and test the waters.  While I’ve been waiting this time, I’ve been asked numerous times to lead Bible studies with parents of children at Kanto Gakuin, speak in chapel and work with the children.  Some of these opportunities remain but some did not continue.  I wanted to share what is new this new school year, what excites me and challenges me right now.  

Helping With Home Evangelism Over the last 20 years, my friend Hiroko and I have laughed, cried and talked incessantly about the Christian life.  She invites me to family functions where only her two sons are Christians.  She dreamed of having me share the Word of God with the others in a more formal way.  Her sister-in-law’s heart is open.  Hiroko came up with the idea of inviting the women who come to her chorus group, of which her sister-in-law is a member.  Although we only meet once a month, this class of women…three of whom don’t own Bibles, five of whom are over 70 years old and one of whom is a Christian (Hiroko)…challenges me to make the Bible relevant to them.

English Village Project In Coordination with Kanto Gakuin I’ve opened my home for a day of “English only” for a project labeled “English Village.”  On Wednesday mornings, kindergarten mothers come alternating with elementary school mothers for fellowship, cooking, crafts and singing.  The picture accompanying this letter shows the first time we met when fourteen mothers brought their children to help eat what we made.  But it does not reflect the succeeding three weeks.  There are some communication gaps between me and the kindergarten causing confusion in the schedule.  In addition, on this same day there are conflicting PTA meetings and a monthly Bible study (which I used to lead).  Last week three precious mothers of three year old children came with their 18 month babies and this week two joined me in making minestrone soup and biscuits.  Not knowing how many would come, I prepared ingredients for 14 people.  Oh well, we had a feast, anyway.  Although these two mothers have more interest in English than the Bible study going on in another location, this is a golden opportunity for me to "be Jesus" to them.  Our conversations range from how Roberta became a missionary, to what to do with a know-it-all three year old.  Please pray for the women in the English Village project who come, and those who will be coming. As I was completing this letter one of the two mothers mentioned above showed up with her two children to deliver some cookies to me.  That's what I want...not the cookies...but them to feel free to come at other times.  My sin was to be resentful that I couldn't lead the Bible study this year.  But who am I here for?  Just these people.
    On Wednesday evenings, we have the second half of the English Village project.  It is a Bible study in English for teachers, staff workers and college students.  People are coming and going, trying to decide if they would like to become a member.  The level of English proficiency runs the whole range from high to low.  As was true with the mothers, there are barriers beyond my control, the worst of which is the long hours that people have to work.  Some people can come at 6:30 pm and some have shown up at 8:30 (their sign to me of their good intentions).  Aside from the fact that some are Christians and some are not, it’s interesting to note that two of them became Christians here in a similar Bible study 35 years ago led by a missionary.  Now they want to be instrumental in encouraging others to meet Christ.
    I’m dependent on Kanto Gakuin doing their part in getting the word out about this English Village project, but more than that I’m dependent on the Lord for wisdom on how to serve such a range of needs, and his encouragement in the midst of constantly changing circumstances.

    LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST…beginning next week for two weeks, two volunteers, Rev. and Mrs. Gary Rice and I will be traveling by van to three kindergartens in Fukushima and Miyagi Prefecture and in Yokohama to teach “WeeBells©” to five year old children and minister in any way God shows us.  After planning for nine months everything is set to begin May 30th as we travel by van.  Part way through the trip, my nephew, Thatcher, will be joining us.  Please pray for the four of us, for journeying mercies and the wisdom we will need to notice the opportunities God will show us.

Thank you, praying and giving friends.  None of this can happen without you. I am definitely here for you, too!
In Christ,
Roberta Stephens
Japan address:
Senkyoshi-kan B
1-50-1 Mutsuura-Higashi, Kanazawa-Ku
Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken
Japan  236-0037

To contact my MPT regarding any questions you might have or donations to the Luther Rice Society matching gift program, please use this email <>.  Thank you very much!