Thursday. Today we went to Nakatsu Castle, awesome building, complete with a moat. We walked all the way around it even though it was a VERY hot day. So hot that half way around our team decided to take shelter in the shade.
It was also on the walk around the castle that I discovered my shadow had really colorful socks.
The castle would have been a resident of the local Daimyo back in the samurai days. Having completed the circle we returned to the car park when I noticed this Catholic Church on the other side of the Shinto shrine. Apparently there are fourteen churches in the city of 84,000 people.
Everywhere we go it is obvious to see the Japanese appreciation for beauty expressed in the gardens, especially at the temples and shrines, so we respond by taking lots of pictures.
Ok! Ok! So this is what they were taking pictures of.
This afternoon was a plesent trip to the village of Yufuin. A very picturesque place surrounded by some breath taking scenery.
We took the scenic route there through the mountains and spent most of the afternnon leisurely strolling aroung taking in the sights sounds and smells.
We stopped for a local hand made soba meal at one of the restaurants before returning to Beppu for the evening prayer time with the church.
Today was a much less eventful day than yesterday but we began the day the same with breakfast followed by a team devotion. Today out team meditated on Acts 15 and shared together after our time of reflection.
Then Jose took time to make a video for us to share about the major events of yesterday. Pastor Kim and his wife showed up and we all went to Starbucks for coffee and mutual refreshment.
Thy are a long vely couple and we got to know them better as we heard a bit of their story.
At first the seating area was quite crowed. But by the time we finished it seemed that we were the only ones there.
Which was pretty good as we were able to make time to pray for the Pastor and his family.
All of us were impressed by the humility and gentleness of this man and his wife.
Driving away from Beppu station we went directly to our first Onsen – sorry no pictures. It was a truly amazing place with the baths up on the roof giving an excellent view of the city. We arrived before sunset so were able to take in both the daylight and the night time views.
In the onsen section there was a cave type room, when Jose, Tim and I went inside we played with singing different notes which reverberated around the cave. Then we decided to sing amazing Grace together. As we were singing a father and his young son came in who were from Hong Kong, the father asked if we were singing amazing Grace. We said yes so we sang the first verse again and he and his son sang along. A Japanese young man from Fukuoka also came into the cave and he too sang along with us. Even though he was not a Christian he somehow knew the song. When the young boy from Hong Kong left the cave we could hear him singing amazing Grace. It was a precious moment.
There was also a swimming pool that was part of this complex so we donned our swimming costumes and went outside. Ellie and Julianne joined us there and we swam for a bit then entererd anothe cave like structue that had salt water in it. Jose and Tim enjoyed floating from one side to the other.
Going back outside we relaxed while enjoying a wonderful light and water display the pool people put on in the evenings. It was a most pleasant way to finish our day abd we felt very refreshed.
We were able to purchase several souvenirs from the resort. In Japan one must buy souvenirs for friends whenever one travels. We didn’t get home until after 23:00 which explains why I am still posting yesterday’s events today.
With my last post I left you with a picture of the Oita Starbucks mug. Something I am going to treasure for a long time because of what happened next.
While waiting in line to purchase my Starbucks cup a sweet old lady came and was looking at the snacks so I started a simple conversation with her about all the different choices and she seemed to enjoy the conversation.
Our plan was to go to the roof, look out over the city and pray for the city. We had only got as far as the fourth floor when the sweet old lady came up and talk to us she wanted to bless us with some snacks that she had bought earlier.We offered to pray for her and she told us she needed healing for her throat so we took time to pray. She felt something changed. She obviously felt something that touched her heart because she wanted to give to us so freely, not just snacks but also some money, which was the first financial blessing we received on this trip.
No sooner had we said goodbye to her, than a young lady approached us and began to talk. Her name was Eri, and she too had a problem with her throat. As a singer she really wanted to receive the prayer we offered.
Eri, was so open we got to share the gospel with her as Ellie translated. Amazingly Eri responded with all her heart, spent the next hour on the roof garden with us, even shouting out Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus in a loud voice. Jesus must have really touched her heart and her throat.
Here Jose is offering to buy her a bible. At first she was reluctant but today she realized that love gives and took a big step to receive the offer.
Eri stayed with us until we got back into our car to continue our journey. My phone had run out of power so I connected to the power supply in the car. This connected me automatically to the sound system and “randomly” selected Jotta singing Agnes Dei in Portugese the language of Francis Xavier who had bought the gospel to this city so many years ago.
While the sports dome and the Aeon Mall are extremely impressive and will probably become things that Oita city will become well known for, there is also deep rich history that makes Oita a significant place.
Our next stop was at the martyrs memorial. Sculptured by a well know artist this monument is in memory of the over 200 residents of Oita City, who during the intense persection of the church chose death instead of renouncing their faith.
Somehow it seemed a little inappropiate to pose in front of the memorial as a group but here are some of us reading the account of those who gave so much because they knew how much God loved them and how much Jesus gave to to bring them salvation.
This picture represents that God has done so much here, before we came many people have lived courageously for Jesus in this city of Oita that God is calling our team to. We always need to remind ourseleves of how much and how many people have faithfully walked out their faith before we came.
From the martyrs memorial – which along with many other historical markers of the great persection here in Japan have recently been declared as world heritage sites. – we went to Oita station. When they rebuilt this station several years ago, they chose to erect two statues that spoke significantly of the history that formed the city.
One was the Daimyo, Otomo Sorin, who responded to the gospel and fully commited his life to follow Jesus.
The second one was Francis Xavier the Portuguese missionary who introduced Christianity in a powerful way several hundred years ago.
At the mall Jose and I got a chance to sit down at Starbucks, while others were shop fuddling. While I resisted firmly the temptation to buy the new series of Starbucks cups to add to my collection, the old collection did not include Oita. They did have one at this store but Julianne had already bought it. Fortunately the Starbucks at the station had one.
Every time I get to use it I will be praying for our Oita team!!!
Having felt the awe of actually seeing the awesome stadium and the honour of praying into a world class event, we moved on to the closeby Aeon mall which was absolutely amazing.
With a powerful theme of Joy and happiness and so many things set up to provide for the children we drank deeply of this air conditioned oasis in the middle of a very hot sweaty day.
We ate our lunch at a restaurant called Joyfull which had a drink bar called “Joy Cafe” The same name that Tokyo Baptist Church uses for its gospel sharing counseling coffee place. I just had to get a picture of that, even though I did not get the drink bar.
Feeling very full and very satisfied, we ruturned to our car passing the amazing play areas for the children.
You can actually have water fights here.
This area was a pleasant part of the mall.
Always follow your leader! Wherever he goes!!
Today started rather quietly, having bought bananas and tea yesterday I was able to enjoy my regular breakfast and be ready for our morning devotions.
We read a bible passage, meditated on it and then each shared our thoughts. We were encouraged to see God in all our little interactions. Believing that he was already here working and part of our job was to see what he was doing and partner with him. We prayed for our day, recognizing that we had all been chosen for this trip. We also prayed for the Tohoku team, the Hokkaido team and the needs for YWAM Tokyo to be able to purchase their present building.
Our first point of call was Oita Ginko Dome one of the selceted sites for the world cup rugby games next year. Even though it was a very hot day, our team put in a lot of extra effort to make these photos a lot of fun.
We were all pretty excited to see the dome and take time to pray into this significant world event coming soon to many parts of the nation.
Listed on this board were the dates of games that had already been decided along with the teams that would be playing here in Oita. We dreamed of contacting these countries and inviting them to send people to see their country play and to serve the local churches while they were here.
Our team got to walk around the stadium, even get to look inside and took opportunities to have fun whilst doing it.
Jose preaching to the crowds
And Finally me.
I am quite suprised at how easily we have been able to get around in this city of Beppu. Although sometimes we did need to consult the local maps.
The car navi has proved extra helpful is getting us back to the church which is situated in the middle of many one way streets.
On the way back we stopped at a seven eleven to pick up a little cake so we could again celebrate Ellies birthday by singing happy birthday to her.
After enjoying the cake together it was time to join the church in their prayer house ministry.
At the end if the meeting one of their members was travelling to Osaka. It turns out they have the same tradition as we do in Tokyo of praying for people when they leave when they return to the community. So it was very easy and natural us to join them as they paid for this member.
Wow so much that’s happened today I could easily have added at least three more posts but I hope this is giving you a taste feel of a first day here in Beppu City, in Oita Prefecture.
We returned to the church and had some down time before heading out to the store and buying our food supplies needed to eat breakfasts while we are here. I made sure we got bananas and tea!!!
Around 17:00 we drove to a hot spring foot bath where we relaxed and soaked our feet and in that environment took time to pray blessings over Ellie as it was her birthday today.
Then it was time to eat again! Outside the restaurant we posed together in front of a sweet background enlisting a friendly Japanese man to take the photo.
This resturant had you buy the food, then helped you to steam it in a steam tub using the power of the volcanic underlying lava.
Tim and I were the chefs and had to don arm guards and special gloves in order to do the job properly and not get burned in the process.
This was especially fun for me as in all my 30+ years here in Japan I had never experienced anything like this before. Here are the results of our gallant efforts.