Today, just happened to be the graduation day for the Okinawa DTS. I had learnt about this at our last NLT meeting by zoom before we headed out on our journey. Kazuhiko at that time invited me to attend if possible. If possible turned out to be an hour and a half taxi ride in rush hour covering over fifty kilometers.
It was both an honour and a privilege to be able to witness the students sharing testimony of both their personal growth and evangelism experiences during the school.
I also got to meet all of the staff. After the ceremony we headed to the mall for a celebration feast.
I only have two photos from the meal.
When the festivity subsided, I headed for a quick fix at starbucks and took another taxi back to home base.
Upon arrival I discovered the meetings had just finished and was pleseantly surprised to meet Jose, Maegan and family. We we out with them for the evening meal, it was very plesent to catch up with them.
However, my duties were not yet over for the day. I had been seconded to help purchase snacks for tomorrow’s morning tea break. I really enjoyed this though as I got to spend more time with family we have been getting to know.
You may be wondering why the guys on our team are all wearing jimbes today.
Well, when we researched our final destination for today we discovered that we could get in for free if we wore kimono. We wanted to visit the Samurais house and the castle in Kitsuki.
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, (note for anyone travelling in Oita. Many sites close quite early.) the samurais house had just closed. However, the castle was about a five minute walk from the Samurais house. Julianne really wanted to visit the castle, so she sent up prayer that we would not be too late.
When we arrived the ladies were just turning off the lights. At first they were hesitent and the first lady was not too sure if Jimbe qualified as kimono. However, with a big smile she turned the lights back on an gave us the free entrance. Julianne! Your prayers are awesome!!
The castle was definitly very stragitically located, giving us spectacular views from the third floor.
Tim, the serious samurai.
They are suce a cute couple.
And our fearless leader.
Here we visited a memorial site for a different kind of martyer. People who gave everything they had and gave up everything they had for a bigger cause.
I am more aware of the flying Kami kaze pilots of the war but these young warriors, were in one man submarines on a one way trip to death.
This picture shows a mother saying farewell to her son. We can view this many different ways but we chose to call out the samurai warrior spirit, that gives no thought for personal safety to submit their hearts and lives to further the kingdom of love, not by killing the enemy but bombing them with eternal, relentless, pursuing, reckless love.
This site gave us much to think about especially in light of our theme at our morning team time. Precious in the sight of God is the death of his faithful ones.
We made a special effort to take our hosts out for a meal. It involved a drive into Oita city and locating the only shabu shabu resturant there. It was an all you can eat service so everyone ate to the full.
We had to split the group into two tables but at our table we had a great discussion about the difficulties of the church work in Beppu city and what we felt would be the best responses.
Two main areas came up one was greed and the other was deception. As we thought and discussed about these areas, we felt that generosity and extending trust would be key ways to respond to these things. It was a priviledge to be able to talk and learn from a team who had been working in the city for over nine years.
After a nice ice cream dessert, we parted ways, headed back to the church to prepare for the next adventure of the day.
In the photograph on my previous post of Beppu city, you may have seen plumes of steam rising up from the ground, this is because Beppu is on top of a very large volcanic area.
Our next stop was at a place where several large steam and water vents come up from this volcanic activity creating spectacular places to view the steam and water coming out.
This particular location has at least eight different events that can be viewed and they are known as the hells of Beppu.
The water is extremely hot and not safe for anyone to try and bathe in. However Japanese have surrounded the spots with incredible, beautiful nature which they keep up meticulously .
This tied back into our team time this morning as we were reminded that in Nagasaki during the big persecution of the Christian church, the believers were sometimes thrown into the boiling waters to be killed.
We had read, “How precious in your eyes is the death of your faithful servants”. We saw two things this morning as we read that verse. One, that God notices and it was precious to him. The other was the faithfulness and commitment of the Japanese who choose death, rather than deny their faith in Jesus .
Just before leaving the park we took advantage of the onsen foot soaking area where the water wasn’t too hot and we could relax and soothe our feet before the journey home.
Our first stop of the day was at a nearby lookout point with a beautiful view of the city.
From this vantage place we were again afforded an opportunity to proclaim the name of the one who loved this city and the people who lived there.
We also learnt about the annual fire festival that at first glance looked like lava flowing down the side of the hill.
Right after breakfast our team has a group devotion time. This has been such a special part of our day and a real blessing to me.
You can see that we are all using our devices to read and meditate on the passage we felt led to use that day. However, you can also see on the table there is still a printed Bible too.
Our passage today was from the psalms with a verse that said “how precious in the sight of God is the death of his faithful ones” this was very significant for us with the places we had planned to visit.
Another blessing of our team time is noticing and praying for the needs of each other. We prayed for both Jose and Ellie this morning and were able to encourage them with truth from the same passage we had just studied together.
Everyday we are seeing what I will call divine coincidences. Today was no exception. Just as we began our time, a young friend in the USA called me “unintentionally”. I chatted to let him know, He did not know how his phone called me but as we were having a prayer time I offered to pray for him too.
He had recently visited Japan is curretly graduating high school and needs to know his next step. Strong in his heart though is the deep need of the Japanese for the good news that is found in Jesus. So his story fit right into our day.
Our next adventure was to take a cable chair, no seat belts, no stopping, just jump on and jump off. We went up to a Buddhist temple where Japanese people had been praying at for a very long time.
Part of the track had been carved out of the rocks. There were over 250 statues at this temple.
We finally arrived and here was the building. We found a lookout point from which we spoke out and declared the words we felt God had given us for Oita.
We moved on to one of the biggest Shinto shrines in all of Japan. This one was featured in one of the God’s Fingerprints in Japan videos.
The grounds were very extensive and included several smaller shrines.
The shrines were all closed however, so we did not get to see the place where Ame no minaka nushi was enshrined.
All in all this was a very full and busy day. Upon returning to the church where we stayed we discovered the close bye onsen that the pastor had told us about that only cost 100 yen to enter. Jose, Tim and I soaked away the tiredness of our bodies and enjoyed the bath lots and lots an lots.
Time for lunch. The Kawaradas overflowing with generosity and hospitality first helped us find a gluten free resturant then treated all of us to their fried chicken set lunch. It really tasted good.
There was a lot of friendly sharing and comparing of notes revealing so many experiences in common. Technology enabled to share these as well as family photos. The chicken tasted fantastic.
After lunch we visited a museum that was dedicated to Yukichi Fukuzawa who was from Nakazato, born into a poor family but he studied a lot and became a leading figure in the major restoration. Now the highest denomination of currency in Japan (¥10,000) bears his picture, so every one in Japan knows his name. He is from Oita Prefecture.
This is Yukichi studying in a loft type room that he built in the food storage building with one of his favourite students.
Finally, a bust of Yukichi made out if sheets of cardboard. Very impressive indeed.
Next on our to-do list for today was to visit the Kawaharada family, friends of Tim and Julie, who had met their son Masa in the USA when he was a high school exchange student.
They quickly and warmly welcomed us into their house and blessed us with traditional Japanese tea and snacks.
The father has the same name as my firstborn son, Kazuhiro. One of so many co-incidences on this trip that continue to bless us and confirm that God is in everything we are doing.
We noticed two samurai swords on display and Kazuhiro explained that while they were replicas and not the real thing, they were the same size and weight as the original swords.
Jose too realy got into being the spiritual samurai warrior that he already is.
Kazuhiro also brought out his Kendo training sword and we were able to tell him about the new Kendo Dojo they were building next to the Rugby stadium where the world cup games will be held.