Posted by: grantmiho | October 12, 2014

Are We Rich?

While driving home the other day, Allie asked me an unusual question. She said, “Papa, are we rich?” She had just asked about going to Disneyland again. But, telling her that we only go on special occasions, she commented on how it costs a lot of money. Some things do sink in to her :) She hasn’t quite grasped the reality of finances and the cost of things, but she is beginning to perceive the reality of paying for things.

This was an interesting question for me to answer. For one, I am trying to answer a 4-year old who has limited understanding about concepts like rich and poor. Further, it is a somewhat relative concept. Lastly, it depends on what we mean by being rich.

Wealth is a very relative term. In the US, for instance, the average income is around $50,000. Recently I noticed a chart that stated how families earning over $100,000 a year were in the top 20%. Many people I know in this bracket would likely not call themselves rich, even though they may be in the top 20% of the wealthiest nation on Earth. Compared to the rest of the world, we now that 1/3 of people live on less than $2 a day. Even for the median income in the US or Japan, they would be in the top 10-15%. Yet, a public school teacher would likely not classify themself as rich, even if they are living above 85% of everybody else.

Last week I noticed another chart for the highest and lowest salaries of college majors. In the top 10 were variations of engineering. In the bottom among the humanities and art were pastoral studies, theology, and religious studies. Nobody expects (or hopes) for a missionary to be associated with the label “rich.” As with some of the other majors, we didn’t go into our field for income potential but a desire to make a difference in lives of others or pursue what we are passionate about.

Even though our salary qualified us for housing assistance when we were back in the US, we feel incredibly blessed by God for His provision in our life. Though we don’t and likely won’t own a home, we are completely free from debt and have been able to fully pay off our credit card bills each month. Our girls have never had to miss a meal due to lack of money to buy food. One economist once said that you are rich if you never have to think about money. Thanks for our generous supporters, we truly are not anxious about money.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul encourages Timothy to be rich in good deeds and generosity. In this light, we hope to be a “rich” family that holds loosely to what we have, no matter how much it may be. Every time we welcome people over to our home, we are grateful to God allowing us to use our space and provide food for our guests. We hope our new church will become a place that is known for our generosity. This is a richness that all of us can attain, no matter our earning potential or bank account level.

As I responded to Allie, I tried to convey how we are not wealthy (especially in case she talks about this with friends as school), but blessed to have a nice place to live and have our needs met. While we may not be able to buy everything or go anywhere she wants, we will care for her needs and do our best to create great experiences and memories as a family. We also hope she feels “rich” in love and generosity to her friends, Japan, and the world.  May you and your family also strive to be “rich” in this way.

Posted by: grantmiho | September 14, 2014

Picking up Speed for the Fall

Wow, hard to believe it is already mid-September. Today we hosted our fourth preview service, which had over twenty people. Each month feels stronger and stronger. Our team is bonding and stepping up to serve and lead in so many ways. It is a great feeling to have so many show up early to set up and pitch in to clean up afterwards, while each playing a part (or multiple roles) in the service. We are now moving into bi-weekly services, before we aim for weekly services in December.

For the past three services, we have had a new visitor each time! Two were college students and one was a family. Another beautiful element is how Highrock Church in Boston played a part in their lives. One of the college students went to church as a child. During her overseas study in Boston, we helped connect her with Highrock, where she visited a few times. She ended up bringing her friend recently which was her first time to step into a church in Japan. This morning, two days after moving back to Tokyo (only one station away from our church), a family with two young kids came to our service. They had been in Boston for work. Despite any background with Christianity, they got connected to the Japanese ministry at Highrock and even began going to services. After our service, a dozen or so of us got lunch together and hung out for nearly two hours in the park next to our meeting location. Their kids played so well with our girls and seemed so comfortable with us already.

After the next service, we will have met five times in four different locations. Despite the challenge of people finding us and settling into one fixed place, God is definitely at work here. We are amazed at our incredible team. We are blessed by the new people we are meeting. Once we find a regular place to gather, we anticipate more opportunities to reach out and offer creative new ministries. Pray that God continues to use us, even as we are nomads. Pray that we will continue to delegate and release our leaders to serve, as we realize our limitations with two small girls. Pray that our community continues to welcome, connect with, and care for people joining us at Tokyo Life Church!

Posted by: grantmiho | June 11, 2014

Quick Updates on Tokyo Life Church

We are now just two and a half weeks away from our first preview service. The wheels are moving and things are already happening. Here are just a few recent developments and topics for prayer. 

1. While we have one meeting place in Ikebukuro in July, we just found out that we were declined to use a school that we hoped may be a more regular meeting location. We will continue the pursuit of a weekly rental location. This is a major prayer item.

2. Our launch team continues to grow in diversity. Though a small team, we are already over seven nationalities from three continents. The newest person to join is the brother of a pastor friend who is studying music in Tokyo. We welcome new people, especially gifted musicians :)

3. Two different friends have put us in touch with possible exchange college students moving to Tokyo in the Fall. At a retreat church retreat, a man who works in campus ministry at several schools in our church plant area expressed how he hopes to connect us to some college students. We see God going ahead of us and building bridges already.

4. A recent Boston college grad who had hoped to join us just learned that he was placed in northern Japan, Yamagata, to teach English this year. We trust that God will use him there and use this year in Japan to do incredible things in his life and around him. Yet, we are sad that it did not work out for him to be near us. Another recent grad has an interview very soon for a teaching job here in Japan. Pray for our Highrock friend to come to Tokyo and serve with us. 

5. In July, the executive pastor at Highrock Church-Arlington, Eugene Kim, will be joining us for ten days to help train our worship team and work with us in these early stages as a church plant. We are excited not only to gain his insight and vast experience in leading worship and planning services, but also for building bridges between our team and Highrock. 

Thank you for following what God is doing here in Tokyo. This is just the beginning of our adventure as a new church; one surely fraught with unexpected challenges but also unimaginable joys.  

Posted by: grantmiho | April 20, 2014

Jesus Lives and is Still at Work in Japan

ImageToday, we concluded one of the most incredible weekends of the year. Holy Week and Easter is always a special time of year, but this weekend was particularly special to us. As we lead the Alpha Course since January, one of the ladies that has been coming accepted Christ last month and took the step of faith to be baptized today. Over the past month, Miho regularly met with her to help her grow in her newfound faith. As we got closer to Easter, she indicated that she preferred that Miho baptize her. This was a great honor, especially since this was the first time for Miho to perform a baptism. Her testimony was very moving as God used another family from our church to reach out to her over the past few years and now bring her to this decision. She also shared how she has already begun to notice God at work in her life through how she responds to her husband and kids. This morning, three other women were baptized alongside Noriko (two of them Japanese). 

ImageYesterday, we hosted a Family Easter Outreach. One of Allie’s friends from school came with his older brother and mom. Through an Easter egg hunt, dying and coloring eggs, and a dramatic reading of the Easter story, tons of kids, primarily Japanese, got to hear the Gospel for possibly the first time. We had 90 kids and 50 parents show up, which is bigger than previous years. A few families from the Alpha course came with their kids, while one woman brought 18 kids from the school she teaches. We loved our team at the church who led everything, which allowed us to care for our girls and be good hosts to our guests (though Miho did do some translation). In the past, we were used to planning, promoting, leading, and cleaning up after our family events. 

This will definitely be a memorable weekend for years to come. God is alive and still at work here in Japan. We are seeing it firsthand right now and look forward to more lives changed in the months and years ahead. 

These words, spoken by Mark Twain, really capture our feelings today following a random encounter with a pastor friend. While on a walk with our girls, we bumped into this family on their way to a Hanami party (Cherry Blossom viewing). After a brief chat, they mentioned a dinner they had with a young woman the previous week. Since she had come to our Alpha Course a few times, they knew we knew her. Through our conversations when she came, we sensed an openness to Christ, though questions still lingered. Due to her interest in Jesus, she had visited their church as well recently. 

They then told us how during dinner she asked how to become a Christian. As a pastor, it is hard to imagine a more exciting questions to be asked. Right then and there, they led her to Christ!! 

They went on to share how while they would love to have her join their church, the distance from her home may be too much. So, they plan on encouraging her to visit a more local church in her part of western Tokyo. I think I particularly appreciated this response since it is all too common for pastors to come across territorial, especially given how small churches are here and how important each person can be for their congregation. 

In Corinthians, Paul shares a similar thought to Mark Twain (though Paul came up with long before the Tom Sawyer author). He talks about how one person may sow a seed, another water the plant, and finally a third may do the harvesting. In this case, we know that people have been praying for her before she even came to our Alpha class, another missionary had been meeting with her, and that God probably has used more people than we could imagine to bring her to this point. Though we didn’t have the joy of having that conversation with her over dinner, we all can rejoice of what God did. Ultimately, He is the one who deserves the credit anyways. It is not our questions during the Alpha class, Nicky Gumbel’s teaching during the video, or any other conversations that truly matter. God’s Spirit may have worked through these, but He should be the one that we praise at the end of the day. 

My hope is that we all continue to serve with an attitude that God deserves the credit. Sure, we want to see our churches grow, lives to be changed, feel that God is using us, but I hope these ambitions don’t interfere with us playing our small parts together in seeing the Kingdom grow wherever God desires. 

Posted by: grantmiho | March 7, 2014

Get Great Japan Prints, Give to Church Plant

Our friend, Tommy Wong, has recently posted some of his incredible photos online to sell. We’ve known him since Boston, but he also came to Japan for two years with the Navy. During his time here, he captured some beautiful shots. (There are also photos from other places). Given his heart to support what we do (along with two other charities close to heart), this site is dedicated to sell prints, posters, cards, and canvases of his photos with all the proceeds (minus the costs to print) going to charity. You can have the money split between the three groups or indicate if you would like for your purchase to benefit our Tokyo church plant. Please consider supporting us while benefiting from some beautiful art for your home. 

http://www.redbubble.com/people/twong

Posted by: grantmiho | February 2, 2014

Joys of Being a Team in Ministry

While the pastoral couple have been on sabbatical these past couple months, Miho and I have been privileged to lead communion each month. We could list the myriad of ways that we love being a team serving together in ministry. Today was another reminder why we love being a team. Together we explain the Lord’s Supper and invite everyone to joyfully come and take the elements. Along with the various stations, we stand to the side to pray for those not ready to take communion, especially little kids. As the kids come, I pray for the English speaking kids, while Miho prays for the Japanese speaking kids. Such a simple act, but has had a profound affect on us. It is hard not to have joy as you kneel down and place your hand on a young kid and pray over them that they understand what Christ has done for them and that they come to love and follow Jesus. 

Last month, Allie decided she wanted to stay in the service instead of going to the nursery. As we led communion, she stayed seated with another lady. To our surprise, she come up on stage smiling. What a precious moment. She seemed so happy to see us leading up front. While we often pray for her, that moment was special for us. 

From where we are now, we could not imagine serving any other way. God brought us together with similar passions, complementary gifts, and a love to work together. 

Posted by: grantmiho | November 10, 2013

Tribute to Grandma Gloria


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  On Friday, November 5th, Grant’s maternal grandma passed away at the age of 87. For the past few years, she had suffered a stroke and had limited mobility. Over the past few weeks, her health was declining and was placed in hospice care. Fortunately, the doctors called my family to spend Friday with her. My sisters were able to hold her hand until the last moment.

While many of you may not know my grandma, I wanted to share some memories from her life. For starters, I would not have my name without her, as she married my grandma, Ray Grant, and my mom passed her maiden name to me. My 1/4 Norwegian heritage also comes from her, which I am proud of. She grew up in NE Iowa, in a largely Norwegian community of Decorah. What I remember from her childhood was how her duty was to bake a cake EVERY afternoon for her large family. Maybe it was a different time and place, but it also made me laugh to think of having cake every dinner.

I also remember laughing with her about various things. She used to have a Chrysler New Yorker that said, “The door is ajar,” when you opened the door. As a kid, I didn’t know the word “ajar.” So, I always thought it was calling the door a “jar,” which didn’t make any sense to me. Being silly, she would also pronounce foreign words, like French, as they looked. One example is her calling hors d’oevres “horse dervies.” She knew the correct French for appetizers, but it made us smile as kids. The greatest joke that comes to mind was at a birthday party when I was likely in Elementary school. She brought in this huge box wrapped in paper. As I tore into it, I noticed the label and the smile melted off my face. Trying to be respectful, I thanked her for her gift, though I didn’t know why she would have thought I would like it. It was a ceiling fan (box)! Just like you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you can’t know the gift just by looking at the box. Inside, it turned out to be a giant “Fievel” stuffed mouse (from the movie, “American Tail”). I loved it, but felt so embarrassed by being so gullible in thinking she would give a kid a ceiling fan as a gift.

Another memory stays with me due to my scar. During the floods in 1993 in Des Moines, her basement flooded and she broke her leg by slipping on the water as she was cleaning up the mess. My job as a 12-year old, was to take turns staying with her and helping out around the house. We played a lot of cards and Scrabble (which was her favorite game with my mom). One day I was cutting watermelon and sliced my finger. As it bled and bled, I begin to feel faint and my face turned white. Next thing I know, I wake up in a pool of blood on the floor after passing out and hitting my head on the counter. I ended up getting stitches around my eyebrow, which was a first for me. We had a great time that summer, despite my injury.

When she moved into her retirement community in Ankeny, anytime I visited, she would always want to introduce me to her neighbors. You could tell that she was proud of her grandkids. She greatly loved us and we greatly loved her too. She will be missed. But, we have hope that we will see her again in heaven. My sister talked with her last week and heard her share her faith in Jesus. This is a great comfort. She had been to church as a child, but never expressed much interest in my lifetime. Though her short-term memory was fading these past few months, a nurse mentioned how she would sing hymns that were lodged in her long-term memory. Just like Miho’s dad taking 20 years of prayer and finally a heart attack before he came to faith, we hope this will be a hope for any of you who have family that you have been praying for over many years.

Posted by: grantmiho | October 30, 2013

Unique Look at Lord’s Prayer

We are privileged to lead a bi-lingual small group composed of a dozen people; half being Japanese. We are taking the group through the book, “The Good and Beautiful God,” by James Bryan Smith. It combines a fresh look at God’s attributes with weekly corresponding spiritual disciplines. Recently we covered a chapter on God being trustworthy. Smith gave a new perspective on this aspect of God by delving into the Lord’s Prayer. 

He broke it down to show how God is: Present (“art in Heaven”), Pure (“Hallowed by thy name”), Powerful “your kingdom come”), Provides (“give us this day our daily bread”), Pardons (“forgive us our trespasses”), and Protects (“Deliver us from the evil one”). 

As we led the discussion, we asked each person to reflect on which word they most or least resonate with when they think about their relationship with God. It was interesting to hear somebody share how God as a provider is difficult for them. 

For us, this was the word that jumped out to us. We have again and again experienced God’s provision. We laugh about not having a place to live when we returned to Boston last summer, only to have God give us a brand new resort-like apartment with a swimming pool at a 40% discount. Though our giving dipped a little in the summer, several churches caught up on their giving in September. We received double our normal amount, which helped balance everything out. Again, we see how grateful we are to regularly experience God’s provision in our lives. While our salary is nothing to envy, we have never gone without having food for our family or had anxiety about over drafting our bank account. God’s provision has not always been on our timing or at the amount that we desire, but He has shown Himself to be completely trustworthy in our lives. 

Thank you to so many of you who display such generosity and love towards us. We are able to thank God because of your partnership in our ministry. We hope your generosity will also lead to stories of God providing for you and showing Himself to be trustworthy, not just with your finances but all aspects of your life. 

Posted by: grantmiho | September 15, 2013

Small Win, Great for Momentum

Two weeks have passed since we arrived in Tokyo. We have now overcome our jet lag; not that this means we are fully rested. Allie has already begun preschool (and loves it, though she is the only non fully-Japanese student). Though we have been primarily focused on getting settled into our home and unpacking, things are already moving. Today we started our bi-lingual small group at church and started as a group of ten; four being Japanese.

Yesterday we participated in an all-day church council retreat (read: overseers/elders/leaders) where we had time to more fully present our vision for the church plant and how it may come together this year. We felt fully supported by the group. We sensed some energy and excitement for this new direction of the church and new venture. We also dreamed, discussed, and prayed about all that we hope to see God do at KBF (Kurume Bible Fellowship) this year; which was great.

At the end of the day, one of the Japanese council members approached us to tell us that he’s on board. We didn’t even give the leaders an invitation to join our launch team. Yet, he proactively offered to join this new movement of what God will be doing. So, we have our first official Launch Team member!!! If only gathering several dozen more people came this easily :)

Another family with similar aged kids at the church have expressed an interest to help be a part of the church plant, though we are not sure yet what this means. We also had lunch with one of Miho’s longtime Christian friends who lives in Tokyo and asked her to pray about joining us (along with her recently converted fiancé). Although this is a season of settling into our new church, getting to know people, we are excited about how God is already at work in building up a team.

Please keep us in prayer as we settle into the new church, for unity with the staff and leaders, and for our Launch team formation.

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