Why Japan?

I though this was a very well done video by YWAM Tokyo sharing their perspective of “Why Japan?” – why send missionaries to Japan???

 http://vimeo.com/92343293

 

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3 Prayer Requests for the next 3 Weeks

1) Safe (and smooth for Paton!) travels to the Carolinas to visit friends and family.

2) Spiritual and emotional endurance as we have fun and say goodbye to friends and family in America.

3) That the Lord would provide what we need to get back to Japan by mid-April. We are just a few monthly supporters short from being able to return to Japan for this term.

So many praises we could offer for the amazing things God has done this past month.  Thankful to have so many new partners in ministry to Japan!

 

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3/11 Reflection — PM Abe: The Prophet?

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52, ESV)

This passage has always been an intriguing one for me because it describes the way the Lord can speak prophetically even through those who would seek to destroy the cause of Christ, and that he would use their actions to actually further the cause of Christ in the World — for his glory and the blessing of his church.

This passage came to mind recently as I read this article commemorating the third anniversary of 3/11 — when Japan was hit with a triple disaster (any of which would have wiped out many countries altogether): a massive earthquake, followed by a devastating tidal wave, and a nuclear meltdown.  Outside of Japan it is easy to forget this ever happened as Japan (true to form) seems currently unphased by the tragedy.  However, inside of Japan the devastation is still quite present as are the ongoing threats caused by nuclear waste — the damaging effects of which will not be known for years to come — and future earthquakes (i.e. we’re due one in our region very soon)

What stood out to me about this article especially was this quote from Prime Minister Abe:

“Japan’s revival won’t come without the restoration of devastated areas.”  

PM Abe is certainly talking about his own desire for a societal revival of Japan (in hyper-conservative ways), but this struck me as a Caiaphas-type remark.  PM Abe is thinking about the rebuilding of cities and schools and potentially even nuclear power plants(!), but we pray for that and so much more.

Our Mission in Japan (JPM) provided some of the first responders to the disaster, rushing up against the flow of evacuating traffic to bring food, water, and supplies to those in great need.  They followed quickly by sending a gifted brother to begin a church plant and ministry center in partnership with a US missionary in Sendai, which has grown quickly. And now we (CBI and JPM) are in conversation together about how our seminary can help produce future church planters in the area of Tohoku, which had almost zero churches before the devastation.

Our prayer and desire is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the one sacrificed for the salvation of many) might be proclaimed faithfully in Tohoku through new churches, which would bring about the true restoration of the devastated areas and the renewal of Japan.  Please join us in praying that PM Abe’s words might be fulfilled in the power of Christ for the glory of God and the blessing of Japan…especially on this day when we remember… 

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Japan Newsletter Article

We were recently featured in the Japan Partnership Newsletter!  Check it out! Japan Newsletter 5.3 (1)

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Why the Name Paton? A Legacy of Faith and Faithfulness…that sounds good!

Our son’s name is Paton Brett Rayl.  It’s pronounced just like “Patton”, but only has one “t” for a reason.  He was named after John G. Paton.

When Taylor and I began playing the name game (like all expecting parents do) we quickly discovered we had different (but complementary!) priorities in naming our child.  Taylor insisted, like a good mom, it had to sound good — to our ears at least — which meant it had to fit him not only as a child but also a teen and an adult.  She wanted a name we could enjoy saying and that he would hopefully enjoy hearing.  I felt strongly (according to my over-thoughtfulness) that his name should have meaning.  I wanted a name that could help guide him through the challenges of life and faith.  We both wanted him to feel part of a new legacy of faith, inheriting the promises of God not for us only, but also for our children (Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39), and hoped his name might help do this.  We had different (but complimentary!) priorities as we discovered.  However, it took us some trial and error to discover that. :-) If you know us at all you can probably picture the following conversations:

Conversation #1

Taylor: “What about [nice sounding boy's name]?”
Me: “Maybe…what is the significance in that?”
Taylor: “I don’t know…It sounds good!
Me: [shaking head]
Taylor: That’s significant too you know!”

Conversation #2

Me: “How about Turretin?
Taylor: “Turra-what?  Whose that?”
Me: “After Francis Turretin, the Reformer…”
Taylor: “It just sounds like ‘turrets’ to me.”
Me: “Okay, what about Brakel?  Named after…”
Taylor: “NO!”

It’s amazing we eventually landed on some names we both really liked (remember, different but complementary!).  And I think the first name that really landed with both of us was Paton.  It sounded nice enough to Taylor and it came from John G. Paton (hence the single “t” spelling of “Patton”), whose biography by John Piper and autobiography (still in print!) had greatly impacted us in our journey to full-time service overseas.  As we reflected on this name (especially compared to other options) after a few months it remained at the top of our list.

The initial connection was with John G. Paton as a missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).  His example of courage and perseverance as a missionary to islands filled with Cannibals has always inspired me since I first heard his story as a teenager, and it has impacted Taylor as well.  This is exemplified by the quote that John Paton is best known for in response to a “Mr. Dickson,” who argued he should not go to the New Hebrides because “The Cannibals!  You will be eaten by Cannibals!” (which was no idle threat, first missionaries to serve had been killed, cooked, and eaten right after arrival)!  After several times of this encounter, John Paton calmly retorted:

Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.

John Paton would go on to almost be eaten by Cannibals dozens of time during his first term of mostly fruitless service, which led to his eventual escape from the island of Tanna.  He later returned to the island of Aniwa, where the Spirit fell in power, and the whole island came to Christ.  His reflections on God’s call to serve in the face of great danger exemplify his life:

I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.  The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth.

What an awesome example to have as a namesake, right?

However, our hope for Paton is not that he will be the next John Paton by being a great missionary or pastor or anything like that.  What led us to eventually fall in love with this name was the story of the legacy of faith which John Paton inherited.  In his biography, Piper declares that John Patons don’t come out of nowhere — they come from a mommy and a daddy (provided by God).  John Paton grew up in a household of faith, which he shares about as the main foundation that prepared him for his eventual calling.  This is what we long to give to our son more than anything else.  The story which has stayed with me the most over years from John Paton’s autobiography is not a story of his adventures in the South Pacific islands, but of the deep affection that existed between by his parents who gave him a legacy of faith by their faithfulness.  This story comes from his account of when he first left home for college:

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way.  His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene.  For the last half-mile or so we walked together in almost unbroken silence,–my Father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long, flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders.  His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our  eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain!  We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said:

“God bless you, my son!  Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil.”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted.  I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him–gazing after me.  Waving my hat in adieu, I was round the corner and out of sight in an instant.  But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time.  Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dyke to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me!  He did not see me, and after he had gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face towards home, and began to return–his head still uncovered , and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me.  I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonour such a father and mother as He had given me.  The appearance of my father, when we parted–his advice, prayers, and tears–the road, the dyke, the climbing up on it and then walking away, head uncovered–have often, often, all through life, risen vividly before my mind, and do so now while I am writing, as if it has been but an hour ago.  In my earlier years particularly, when exposed to many temptations, his parting form rose before me as that of a guardian Angel.  It is no Pharisaism, but deep gratitude, which makes me here testify that the memory of that scene not only helped, by god’s grace, to keep me pure from the prevailing sins, but also stimulated me in all my studies, that I might not fall short of his hopes, and in all my Christian duties, that I might faithfully follow his shining example.

Our prayer for our son is that he will know, at least in part, a family who imparts such a legacy of faith and faithfulness.  We ultimately decided on the name Paton, not in hopes of what he will someday become, but in hopes of what we may seek to be for him throughout his life.  His name is a seal of our promise to him before God that we will do all that we can, by God’s provision, to lead him in the knowledge of the glory and grace of Christ for his joy and salvation.  And…at least to us and we hope to him…it sounds good!

Image

Paton Brett Rayl with both his namesakes

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Reflections from Cross Conference

(Updated 1/13/2014)

Before it gets too far in the rear-view mirror, I wanted to offer some reflections from my time at Cross Conference in Louisville, KY last month.  For those who don’t know, it was a large student conference (I believe 3500 was the number I heard) centered entirely around the pressing task of the church to reach the unreached peoples of the world for Christ.  It featured amazing speakers, most of which have had a direct impact on my life and ministry over the years.  Michael Oh was one of the keynote speakers and I was invited to represent CBI at a table.  My goal in being there was to share with students about the specific needs of Japan and how they can be a part of serving the people there (especially through CBI).  I was a little hesitant heading out with a newborn at home during the holidays, but as we prayed about it, we sensed it would be a very worthwhile trip.  It was indeed.  I was personally encouraged and blessed through the entire conference, and was delighted to have the opportunity to share with hundreds of interested students about the work in Japan.  So here are some of my reflections from a great time in Louisville.

 Reflections:

  1. God is doing something special in this generation — I know that’s kind of what gets tossed around for every generation of young people, but this felt different.  Each night as I walked back to my hotel (close to midnight) I saw students gathered around in groups of 4-20 with Bibles open and/or on their knees in prayer together.  It was awesome!  They were scattered throughout the whole trek to the elevator and they were either discussing theology or praying for the least reached…after 8 hours of lectures and break-out sessions!  One can only imagine the eternal impact those few days had in the lives of those students and in people groups across the world!
  2. God is doing something special in Japan — It can be hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re serving on the field.  It can continue to be hard when you reflect on your very small contributions in the midst of so much need.  So I love the opportunity to take a few steps back and share stories about what God is doing in Japan and our vision for serving the Japanese.  It is a joy to see others catch that vision, but it also helps me catch it all over again (analogous to pastor preaching to himself first and foremost).  It was so encouraging to meet many seminary, college, and even high school students who are thinking about and praying for Japan.  It was wonderful to providentially meet pastors and leaders who believe their church should have a special focus on Japan.  That’s why we go to conferences like these; in time we could see many from this conference (or who hear the audio online) serve with us an interns or support us in partnership.
  3. Passing the torch — John Piper has long been the chief Reformed pastor/scholar/missions mobilizer.  Knowing the backstory for the conference a little, it was largely formed around the vision that Piper has cast for years that Reformed theology = fuel for reaching the unreached.  As a mobilizer, no one has impacted Taylor and I more to be missionaries to the least-reached.  However, at this conference, the primary speakers seemed to be David Platt and  Matt Chandler.  I have no official data, but that was the feel from the students.  They know Piper, they’ve read Don’t Waste Your Life and love his teaching.  But Radical was the book that is probably on more of these students’ shelves than any other.  It was entertaining hearing students in line for coffee talking to each other about how excited they were for when Chandler or Platt was going to speak — it reminded me of the  way I once talked about Pastor John at my first Desiring God conference.  Cross Conference in many ways felt like a formal passing of the Reformed missions-mobilization torch to a new generation of pastor mobilizers (the order of speakers with Piper opening and Platt closing was one example).  This is not to say that Piper is done mobilizing missionaries — absolutely not!  But it is a blessing to know a new generation awaits to continue proclaiming a passion for God’s glory AND the joy of all peoples!

    photo (13)

    Two of my heroes in one shot

  4. Nerds for Jesus — I graduated from college in 2008 (not that long ago) from a university located in the belt-buckle of the Bible belt (Greenville, SC).  When I was a freshman in college, I remember being introduced to the only other guy I knew who had read and loved John Piper by the two only girls we knew who had read and loved John Piper (sisters of a Desiring God staff member!).  Seriously, that was the initial basis of our friendship.  We loved and were blessed by Piper and nobody else knew who he was (till we quoted him incessantly at every Bible study and discipleship group).  I noticed a shift in that by the time I was a senior with a lot more students knowing of his ministry via Passion, but folks like Mark Dever and DA Carson weren’t on the university student radar.  I share that not to say that my buddy and I were cutting edge, but to express amazement at 3500 students gathering around such nerdy speakers!  Don’t get me wrong, I love and treasure those nerdy brethren (and I hope myself to be one of their nerdy number), but 3500 students got pumped up for reaching the unreached through hearing Kevin DeYoung preach the five-points of Calvinism and they literally ran to get their free copies of Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.  That God would use academic Reformed theologian-pastors to impact so many students is great evidence that Piper is right and that Reformed theology, being Scripture-saturated, necessarily breeds bold missionaries and not the “frozen chosen”.
  5. Japanese students are everywhere — During almost every break, when the tables were open, we had  students sharing with us about their Japanese friends on their campus or heading back to Japan whom they wanted to love well.  This was important for us as CBI is eager to build partnership with churches near universities featuring Japanese exchange programs in order to recommend those English programs  for the students we work with and to help connect them with Returnees Ministries upon their return to Japan.  The universities were scattered across the US and ranged from large to small schools.  This was a reminder that being part of God’s mission in the US includes not just sending, but also serving those “sojourners” in your area.  I’m sure this is the case with other people groups as well, which makes the US an incredible place for impacting the nations — EVERY church should include a focus on the nations who are far and near.
  6. Final thoughts — The conference was super encouraging on multiple levels and I’m thankful I was there.  The audio from all the main sessions can be found here.  Each session is worth listening to no matter what your current involvement with missions.  David’s Platt’s closing message was super powerful as he spent most of his time quoting Romans 1-8 from memory — I felt like his work in memorizing this helped capture what it would have been like for the original believers in Rome to hear God’s word through Paul’s letter.  Michael’s message was very compelling from his introduction (“Give a dam for Christ!”) on, and I was grateful that he included a focus on physical needs as well as spiritual needs in missions — he was the only speaker to do so.  Don Carson offered arguably the best overview of the Gospel I’ve ever heard in one sitting, being both concise and exhaustive (if you are someone accusing The Gospel Coalition as being at core too “justification-centered” then you have not yet heard this message).  If you’re seriously interested in serving as a missionary, pay the most attention to the panel discussions with real-live missionaries, Mack & Leann Stiles and Zane & Catherine Pratt.  They helped bring reality to the mobilization and we may use their interviews as required listening for incoming missionaries (it helps that Dever is an amazing interviewer).   Lastly, amidst all the praise and commendation I can offer, there are also a few critiques worth mentioning.  The first is that there could have been an even larger representation of real-life missionaries talking about real challenges in plenary and break-out sessions — there were great break-outs  on culture-shock, serving as a woman in missions, and Michael’s session on honoring parents; other helpful subjects might have included: support-raising, “memoirs of an ordinary missionary” (i.e. not everyone is a Hudson, Paton, or Carey), etc..  Next, the emphasis on “Calvinism” was very central, I think with the assumption that if students were there, they knew that would be the case.  However, there were a lot of folks who were not Calvinists and who did not know much about Calvinism.  The speakers did a good job emphasizing how Calvinism should be fuel for missions, but I felt it became distracting to those who just weren’t there yet.  Suggestions here would include a more Bible-focused introduction with Calvinist conclusion (i.e. compel with the Scripture’s teachings and then show that is Calvinism), emphasizing that being a Calvinist is not required for being a missionary or sender, and lastly, avoiding the term Calvinism altogether!  That name does things to people that it probably shouldn’t (i.e. I heard a story of one student breaking down not knowing what she believed anymore) and it is not even a historic term the way that “Reformed” is (cf. Richard Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition).  My fear is that some students would have confused the important biblical teaching as a Calvinist teaching and thus dismissed the riches that were offered.  Overall, it was a very encouraging time!
photo (12)

Last bonus was getting some time with Michael in person after 6 months. Pray for him as he shepherds the Lausanne Movement

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The Craziest Five Weeks

Taylor looked at me yesterday with a look only a new mom can give and said, “I think this may have been the five craziest weeks of our lives.”  She’s probably right.  In that space we’ve had the blessing of Paton’s birth, learning to care for a newborn, both of our families here to visit, the holidays, my written ordination exams, and to top it off a 5 day trip to Louisville for the first ever Cross Conference…there’s probably more than that, but it’s been a little blurry.  God has been very kind in sustaining us these five weeks and providing a great support network as well through our friends and church.  It’s not over yet as we are still aggressively pursuing an April return which means we have a lot of support to raise and a lot of baby stuff to pack, but we trust God’s provision in it all.  We’re claiming the words of Psalm 103 1-5 and are thankful for a few minutes to sit down and share some of the things God has been doing in our lives and for the nations.

Of David.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5, ESV)

Learning to just go with the first pic attempt

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“We are not playing games…” –

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/when-we-send-a-person-to-his-death

http://www.worldmag.com/2013/12/a_life_laid_down

Today I read this response by John Piper to the recent murder of a man named Ronnie Smith – a Christian teacher.  According to World Magazine “Ronnie and his family moved to Benghazi to teach high school chemistry and to be a blessing to the Libyan people. … Ronnie’s greatest desire was for peace and prosperity in Libya and for the people of Libya to have the joy of knowing God through Christ.” 

Reflecting on this, I am sobered to remember that in missions, as Piper stated in his blog post, “We are not playing games.”

So please, pray for God’s mission in the world.  Pray for those who have left everything to follow his call on their lives.  Pray for countries like Libya, Bangladesh, or Japan with so little Christian presence & hope.  And I will pray too for my weak heart that when it’s time I will be ready to leave the comforts of home to pursue the joy of others.

~ Taylor

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Things that Surprised this Foreigner while in Japan

My husband found a post on Rocket News titled 46 Things That Surprise Foreigners in Japan.  I am sure that any foreigner who has moved to or visited Japan has their own list of surprising things, but here are the things from the Rocket News list that really stood out to me while in Japan.

#44 – The Lucky Bags sold at New Years. = These bags are awesome!  You pay a fraction of the retail price to receive a bag full of items sold by that store (jewelry, clothing, etc).  The catch is that you can’t see inside these bags prior to purchasing them, so you are buying blind and just hoping for a “lucky bag” full of your favorite things!

#40 – The Incredible Variety of KitKat Flavors = I learned that KitKats are not just milk chocolate covered wafers.  In Japan you find Orange KitKats, Dark Chocolate KitKats, and our personal favorite, Macha (Green Tea) KitKats!

#39 – Squat style toilets. = In fact, if you come across a Western style (not squatting) toilet, you might find an instructional manual like this one …

IMG_0206

#28 – Heated Toilet Seats = The majority of such Western style toilets have a function that heats the seat for you.  Nice & toasty in cold Japanese winters.

#21 – The quality & selection at a 100 yen store = We love 100 yen (apprx $1) stores!  You can get all sorts of little home and school supplies for really great deals at these shops.

#17 – The buttons to summon a waiter at a family restaurant = It’s true.  The waiters and waitresses don’t show up at your table just because you sat down.  Rather you push a button to let them know you are ready (or call “excuse me” if you are somewhere with no button).

#6 – Everyone eats KFC for Christmas dinner.  = Again, true story.  KFC has marketed themselves as THE choice for Christmas dinners.  People assumed that Brett and I had grown up eating KFC every year for this special holiday (for some reason, it was never even considered as an option in either of our families).

#1 – The trains come on time.  = Yep, right on time all the time.

We love Japan! ~ Taylor

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Establish Your Heart

“… Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8 b)

A couple days before we left Myrtle Beach, SC, to drive cross country to Dallas, TX, I read the book of James, then 1 Peter.  I was really struck by this recurrent idea of grounding yourself in the Lord’s faithfulness to endure trials with steadfastness and grace.  These books talk about enduring through fiery trials, suffering unjustly, testing of your faith, and even wives submitting to husbands.

The command remains.  Establish your hearts.

Well… it was not long at all before the Lord allowed me to see how far from established my heart truly is right now.  Over the course of this past week we went from storage stress to needing to  four new tires on the car to getting a parking ticket to booking the wrong hotel and then a trip to the emergency room in small town Mississippi and paying high medical bills to the doctor’s office to have a baby in America and oh yeah a speeding ticket on the interstate as we were leaving the ER and missing a sale by one day for plane tickets we need to Atlanta and catching a cold… and other normal life experiences.  But based on my responses to these and other recent happenings it’s embarrassingly clear that my heart is not really established.  My eyes get fixed on the here and now, and I forget to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7, ESV)

So if anyone reads this, let this passage from 1 Peter 1 encourage you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)

~ Taylor

Ordered to the ER by my nurse in Dallas while driving East Coast to Texas.  Thankfully all turned out fine for me & the baby. :)

ER 2013

 

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