Our final day in Tohoku. We had slept at the Zao Baptist church where we stayed on our first prayer trip to Tohoku. They rented futons pillows and sheets so we could sleep at a the back of the church.
Since our last visit Yamagata City had build its very first drive through Starbucks. Only a couple of minutes from the church. So after helping the pick up lady get the bedding into her vehicle we headed on over to begin the day in style.
We had already accomplished our mission of praying in Iwate Prefecture, Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture so our time here was mainly to relax and build on the relationships we established last time we visited and to break our journey back to Tokyo.
Meet Kazuki! Last time we met he was a bible student. Now he has completed his studies and is on staff at the church. Today just happened to be his birthday! Really? I love these God moments along the way! We gladly took time to pray for him and his coming year!
After coffee we went to Naoko’s Grandparents house to pick up some gifts they had prepared for Gary and Naoko. Their grandfather was just about to go for a hospital visit so we arrived at the right time to pray!
We were joined by Ken the Pastor of Zao Baptist Church, enjoyed a soba lunch together, then he took us all to a nearby Onsen. We took time to pray for Ken in the next season of his life and he in turn prayed for our trip back to Tokyo.
We got back to Tokyo around 22:00 a little tired but full of awe at how much we had accomplished in such a short time. We travelled 2,250 kilometers, achieved our goal of praying in the three northern prefectures of Tohoku and were even able to make it to the most northern point of the region.
Today, like yesterday involved lots and lots and lots of driving. However, we only visited one place so there are not so many pictures.
First we drove to the third and final prefecture of our trip, Akita. Unfortunately it rained most of the day. One unusual and fun thing for today was that we actually set foot on Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture. Akita Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture. Four prefectures in one road trip.
Like I said it rained most of the day. Here is our pitiful party in search of a place to eat with only one umbrella between us. We were looking for a Matsuya but for whatever, reason there were none to be found. We ended up eating at a Udon restaurant followed by paying homage at the local Starbucks where we were warmed and filled ready to press on to Yamagata where we would be sleeping for the night before returning to Tokyo.
By evening were safely arrived at our destination where we wee met by Kazuki who helped us get our stuff to the place where we would be sleeping. We also met Ken the Pastor who came over for the evening prayer meeting. Fortunately he was very understanding and allowed us to go out and get something to eat and find a local Onsen, after which we slept soundly through the night.
This is the beautiful guest house where we stayed last night in Misawa City. The nice lady, sorry no photo, likes to receive Christians as she desires people to not smoke or drink while staying there.
We were invited to meet Junko’s mother, a very jolly lady who enjoyed our visit immensely, serving us tea, coffee and snacks. Junko had us worship with her; it was a privilege to share in her desire to see God honored in her house.
A couple more hours of driving saw us arrive at Aomori station. These times of praying for the prefecture from the station at the centre of the capital city have also been times of receiving direction and understanding for the future work of YWAM in Tohoku. Looking forward to seeing the answers to these prayers in the not too distant future.
Fortunately Amori is a very civilized city and there was a Starbucks coffee shop right there in the station. This proved a necessary part of preparing and fortifying me for the long drive to the most northern point of the main island of Japan, Omazaki. This is also of course the most northern point of the Tohoku area, too. I found and inherited a hat that was on the ground and as there was no one around looking for it and it was about to rain heavily, I am giving this hat a new lease of life.
Like I said it was cold and beginning to rain so there was no friendly person to ask to take a team photo. We were supposed to be able to see Hokkaido from here but the inclement weather made that impossible. We did pray for tje Tohoku region and all that we had learned from this trip but also prayed for Greg & Rachael and the future work up in Hokkaido.
After our prayer time we celebrated Communion together in the car asking that The Lamb would receive the full reward for his sufferings in the Tohoku region.
I had promised Samuel who lives in Hokkaido that I would wave to him from this point. As we could not actually see Hokkaido today, I had to face time him instead. I love technology!!!!
Mosese is from Fiji; he joined our team in Tokyo just three months ago and has already developed a heart for Tohoku. He is an interesting brother and brings lots of joy and laughter every day.
On our trip back to Misawa we drove up to the temple on Mount Osore, which translates to Mountain of Fear. It is one of the three most sacred places in all of Japan and is supposed to be the gateway to hell.
They have blind mediums here who are supposedly able to bring you a message from a deceased person in the voice of that person. There was no one there to actually try it out, so we were not able to confirm that possibility.
This place was not on our original schedule but due to information we received on the way as to its spiritual significance in the nation of Japan, we made the slight detour necessary to intercede and pray here, too. The daylight was just enough to take these three pictures. Still raining though.
When we back at Misawa, having been on the road for over twelve hours, we thankfully found a hot spring to soak in and relax. Unfortunately, this meant that the grocery store was already closed and we were all starving! Especially Mosese!!!!!
Thanks to to the Internet we were able to locate a local convenience store not too far away but on the way we found a sushi store that was still open for half an hour. YESSSSSSSSSSSS. Perfect end to the day, I say.
When I got home I attempted to write this blog but no way. I was exhausted and just went to sleep. I am typing this in the van on the way to Akita, our third and final prefecture in Northern Japan. Don’t worry, I am not driving…Gary is…..
We slept in temporary housing last night. Once again the weather turned out to be beautiful in the morning and we were soon on our way to Morioka City the capital of Iwate Prefecture.
The drive was smooth and we even took the mountain pass. I was glad it was not raining or snowing. We arrived at Morioka station after about two and a half hours of driving. As our custom was we went to the entrance of the trains and prayed there.
I took this picture because I noticed the poster in the background that had the word PRAY on it. Not too sure what the poster was about but it was there so I had to take it.
Just a a five minute drive from the station was Morioka Bible Baptist Church. They had a lunch meeting and welcomed us to join them. It was amazing EVERYONE spoke English. It was encouraging to hear their stories and spend time praying for them and their desire to reach young people and start new works in the prefecture. Again we heard of the different churches who were working together. All of this as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
We had way too much fun here at the church and look forward to building on the relationships that were made. Even the group photo was special. Our team was encouraged by all that God is already doing in the heart of Iwate Prefecture.
Next we drove another hour and a half to enter the second Prefecture of our tour. Aomori Prefecture. This Prefecture is famous for it Apple industry. Two ladies Junko and Yoshiko, who had help arrange our place to stay came over for an impromptu visit which turned into an hour of prayer for the Prefecture and the nation of Japan.
Today was a very beautiful sunny day. For us it began quite early as we had to leave the Baptist Seminary at 06:00, our destination was Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. This will be our first new prefecture for these prayer journeys.
Today’s travel was much shorter than yesterday we were scheduled to meet Mark & Wendy Hoshizaki. Missionaries whom I had met at Tokyo Baptist Church before they were assigned to Iwate Prefecture.
We we made excellent time and arrived at our rendezvous spot, snapped a quick photo to remember the occasion then played follow the leader with Mark who led us to one of the churches he works with in Kamaishi.
This proved to be a beautiful house church with a few suprises. The Pastor is from Peru and preached mainly in Spanish while his Japanese wife translated. There was a missionary from Hong Kong and a volunteer from Kansai. Altogether a wonderful mix of people.
The church offered us lunch which we gladly accepted. During this time the pastor shared his dream to provide something for the young people in the area who currently have little hope as there are no universities or trade schools in the area and jobs are very hard to find. We took time to pray for him, his family and his dreams.
After taking our leave of the church, Mark took us to the spot where they are currently building the sports stadium for the 2019 rugby World Cup games. We knew that games would be played at this location and it was on our agenda to pray around the stadium. However, getting here we realized that it wasn’t even built yet. Mark and Wendy took time to pray with us before they had to leave.
It is a cause of big concern for those still living in temporary housing to see the city spending so much money on making new roads and building this stadium while they are still waiting for a house to live in having lost their houses in the tsunami of 2011.
Next on on our agenda was to visit Sasaki San. She had opened up here house to us when we were volunteering after the earthquake. We were all welcomed very warmly and spent a plesent time with her. Aogu and Kosuke, wish you could have been there with us.
The banner on the station wall is for the rugby games in 2019. Mosese is a rugby freak he has only been in Japan a few months but has already found opportunities to play. While we were praying at the stadium site a bus load of Kiwi rugby players drove by with a Tongan player who has been here for 3 years. Well when we went to the food court who did we meet but this Tongan guy. Who knows Kalafi Moala!! Small world. Keeping this short he ended up blessing Mosese with a donation!
Well the day ended well and through the kindness of Mark & Wendy we were billeted in temporary housing where we slept very well.
Last year I was privilegded to take part in the first prayer trip to the Tohoku area. We visited Miyagi Prefecture, Yamagata Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture. These are the three prefectures that are closer to Tokyo where we live. This time we are planning to visit Iwate Prefecture, Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture. The northern three prefectures.
Here is our team from left to right. Mosese from Fiji, Tom from UK Gary from UK-our fearless leader-Ryan from USA and me from Tokyo! We left Tokyo at around 08:30 and here we are at the first rest stop on the Motorway.
We stopped at Sendai to break the journey and also because the team feel that Sendai has a special significance for our work in Tohoku. First order of business was to eat lunch at Sukiya. After taking care of priorities we set of to pray. Here we are praying at the central exit of Sendai station. The excat place we prayed at on our last trip.
We had an hour to spare so we went up the hill to visit the site of the castle built by Date Masamune a famous Samurai. On this hill we prayed again and Mosese came up with a meaning for “Sendai” mixing English and Japanese. Send+愛 (ai) which means love.
I ran into this very friendly Samurai guy and managed to persuade him to pose for a photo with me. Notice he is also wearing a cross. I asked him about it and he told me that one of the retainers of Date Masamune was a Christian. Very Interesting!!! There really does seem to be some kind of Christian heritage in this city.
Well time hurried on and we had to return to the city to attend the regular worship service of the Faith Community Baptist Chuches regular Saturday evening worship service. This church was pioneered from Singapore by a couple as a result of the earthquake and Tsunami that hit Tohoku in 2011.
Before the service began Caleb, the pastor took time to share with us the miracle story of how they were able to get their current building for their church services.
When I entered the room I was immediately greeted by these two lovely ladies who remembered me from time I spent in Ome when I first came alongside the training base. I really am amazed at all the details that can only be God things that are a part of this trip and this is only the first day.
After the service I also go to meet the papa, who used to be a sports photographer and had been to Fiji to take rugby pictures. Here we are on our second trip with a new team member, Mosese, from Fiji who just loves rugby. NO WAY!!!! Now the gentleman is involved full time in Christain Education. It keeps getting better. Rhonda is just not going to believe this.
Sorry it’s almost mid-night and we will leave here at 06:00, so will have to keep this short. After the service the pastor took us all out for Chinese food and then we returned to the church and spent time praying for him and his wife. Their dreams and hopes for Sendai. I kept getting the words “Yesu Ai Ni” which is Chinese for Jesus loves you, so at the end I prayed out for a release of love in their hearts and in their church that would impact everyone they met and everyone who came to their church. That is when the pastor told me the meaning of Sendai is to send Love!!! Mosese. You nailed it. Too many God orchestrated coincidences in one day for me I think……
After visiting the eastern Cape we returned to the Lee household and shared all about our adventure of the day. As we talked we learned that that there was also a “Central Point” of Hokkaido. A large stone erected in the grounds of an elementary school. As this was practically on the way back to the airport for us we decided to make the effort and go there as well! The trip there was very smooth and we were able to just walk into the school ground and pray. Having prayed the four points open to the presence and power of God we invited the blessing and presence from all four points to flow into the centre. Both Greg and I felt a sense of completeness when we had finished praying and we went to the nearest sushi store to celebrate followed by a relaxing hot bath at the onsen.
Our time in Hokkaido has been very fulfilling and gave us a great sense of hope for the future. Even though we will head back to Tokyo and “get on with life” we both know that this is the beginning of something significant for YWAM Japan, Hokkaido, the nation of Japan and the rest of the world as God unfolds the answers to the prayers we were led to pray of this amazing island.
We will continue to pray for this island and its people and for the Lee family as they continue to sow seeds and reap a harvest in Tokachi. The day we left we helped them move many futons from their house to the facility where they would be holding a youth camp. We learned that about 60 people attended and they witnessed some conversions during that time.
Please take time after you have read this blog to pray for Abraham, Ayumi and Samuel as they keep pressing forward to see the victory of the cross established in Tokachi.
For this trip Greg felt we should be at the eastern cape in time for the sunrise. The bad news was this meant getting up at 01:00 and driving for over three hours to make it in time. The good news was that Samuel was able to come with us to worship and pray. The trip there proved fairly exciting as we actually saw about eight to ten foxes and maybe about twenty deer. Fortunately Greg has a lot of experience of driving in deer country and spotted a group of them about to jump into the road and warned me in time to be able to avoid hitting them! So thanks to Greg we made it safe and sound and just in time to set up before the sunrise.
There were a handful of other folks also at the cape to catch the sunrise but they did not seem too bothered by the three of us praying our hearts out just below them. The sunrise was perfect and enabled us to take many awesome pictures. Our heart today was especially for the indigenous Ainu people. It was seeing all those deer and foxes that caught our attention and focused us on the original inhabitants.
Right after we arrived at the cape the sun began to peek above the horizon. We cried our that just as we witnessed everything around us transformed by the light and warmth of the sun that we would see Hokkaido and Japan transformed by the power of love. I encouraged Samuel to speak out blessing over the island in Japanese and I stood beside him to encourage him and agree with everything he prayed. As our custom was at the end of the prayer we said “In Jesus name. YES!!!” and timed the YES with a high five. Greg caught that moment with the sun right behind us and our high five right in the middle of the sun.
I can’t explain what happened in my heart as I saw what had started out as a fun way to involve a fourteen year old boy in prayer those many years ago, turned into the nineteen year old young man with a passionate heart crying out to God for blessing on his island and crying out for the destiny of his people in the nation of Japan.
We left the cape and went just a little over to this impressive arch where Sam led us in singing in Japanese and we prayed a lot more too. We didn’t see any more deer on the return journey but were ale to stop at McDonalds in time for their breakfast.
Having returned to Hakodate by late afternoon we needed to fulfil another mandate of our trip which was to have fun! This necessitated a trip to the only Starbucks in town. Actualy the only Starbucks we had seen in all of Hokkaido so far. It was a fairly large building right next to the harbour and provided a great view from the balcony. Having enjoyed our coffee we then took the cable up to the top of Hakodate mountain which affords a spectacular view of the city as well as an awesome place to pray blessing over the island.
We stayed on top long enough to view a spectacular sunset which lit up a large area of rice fields ripe for harvest.
At Starbucks Greg shared a lot about his and his wife’s long term call to Hokkaido. Even before they met they had both individually known that they were to be working in this island.
The theme of the harvest had been a big part of our day today not only at Shirokamimisaki where we went to pray but also on top of the mountain. We were excited to see the different emphasis we had been directed to in our prayer journey at both of the points we had visited so far. This fuelled our growing excitement and anticipation for the remainder of our journey in Hokkaido.
I’ll begin today with another view from the hotel window. This time it is a view of Hakodate city. Hakodate used to be the main city of Hokkaido until the capital was moved to Sapporo. Going to the southern point was probably the easiest day of our trip. The weather was great, the distance not too far and the roads were quiet. Even though our Navi told us we would not get there until 15:30, we safely arrived in the morning. On the drive drive down we passed some rice fields ready for harvest and the farmer was setting up to get to work. This turned out to be the theme for our prayers today. We especially prayed the words of Jesus. “The fields are ripe for harvest. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the fields” We prayed for the harvest – many many Japanese people to respond to the love of God and we called out for many more workers to come to Hokkaido.
Unlike the western point you can drive right to the place where the marker is for the southern point, it was low tide so Greg and I went down to the beach and spent time praying there. We had the place to ourselves for over 30 minutes which gave us lots of freedom to proclaim the love of God for this island of Hokkaido. We could clearly see the northern part of Honshu – which is the island that we live on. – We snapped several pictures but we are both beginning to feel that the warm jackets we brought were a bit too much for the weather today.
As we finished early we decided to try out a local Onsen on the way back to Hakodate and also ate lunch in front of a a museum dedicated to men from Hokkaido who had made the top ranks of Sumo. When we arrived at the Onsen Greg – very wisely – made a point of covering up his I-Pad before leaving the car. When I tried to follow suit I realized I had left my I-Pad on top to the monument in order tot ake a picture behind the marker right next to the monument. Having taken the picture I got back into the car and left the I-Pad right there for about 50 minutes. Some times I am so happy that I am living in Japan, the I-pad was right there just where I had left it. The Onsen was so much more enjoyable knowing my trusty I-Pad was still safe.