The sounds and sights of life are all around at ARI. Cherry Blossoms, birds chirping, grass growing and insects buzzing. The warmth of the Sun and the smell of the flowers is nice, but the bees coming close to our windows, spider webs reappearing and mosquitoes starting to appear takes a little more will power to thank God for. But we do thank God that the spring is here and that the community is alive at ARI. Since we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus 2 weeks ago many events have happened here. The two big exciting events have been the 40th opening ceremonies of the Asian Rural Institute’s training program and the annual hanami picnic. For those of you who need to brush up on your Japanese, Hanami literally means flower viewing. It is a tradition of elite Japanese society that goes back hundreds of years with it becoming common place during the Edo era (1603-1867) and now one of the big events in Japanese society to begin the new year. Many Japanese companies and schools have a day to where the community goes out and sits under the Cherry blossoms on blue tarps, eating and usually enjoying rice wine a little too much. We had our picnic this past Thursday with all the trappings of Hanami, minus the rice wine. The Cherry Blossoms are really beautiful on the one hand and really sad on the other. Cherry Blossoms appear and within a week or two disappear and do not reappear until the following year. In fact one Japanese Christian compared the morning fog in James 4:14 to the Sakura…James asks “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
I think it is an interesting comparison. Not only is our live short, but our life is many times a beautiful thing that God has carefully crafted, but at the same time it is so short and therefore sad, because like the Sakura, it’s here only a little while, then it’s gone.
So Hanami is a wonderful time to cherish the short glimpse of beauty that we are given through the blossoming of Cherry Blossoms. And as it is a time to take off from the daily routine and spend some time enjoying God’s beautiful creation, it is also a chance, a reminder to encourage us to live in the present and take advantage of the moments of life God has given us, offering our lives back to Him, remembering that He gave us this beauty to be a blessing to the world around us. Last Saturday we could see the beauty that God has created as ARI held it’s 40th opening ceremonies. Many of the participants dressed in their traditional clothing and they all had the chance to practice their newly learned Japanese. With their introductions they also shared about prominent issues they are facing in their home communities and countries. In that we were reminded of reality, enjoying but not lost in the beauty of the day and the nervousness of each participant trying out their new Japanese. For at the same time, we were reminded that what we were celebrating at ARI in this 40th class of participants also comes from brokenness of our fragile world. While there is so much beauty that we can see in each other, it is so easy to disregard that beauty, forget the fragility of life and see sin destroy all the good that should be. Thus ARI is now in its’ 40th year of training people for rural development. Yet, as we begin to live with this new community and see the desire and determination of many to work for the transformation of the world, we are encouraged not to look at the problems that might be before us, but to look beyond them to the God for whom nothing is impossible. This is the way that God’s people throughout history have faced insurmountable problems. From Jeremiah to Jesus we are reminded that although things seem difficult with human strength, with God nothing is impossible. Since we believe that God has called this ministry into being and this past year has shown us again that this ministry is of His doing, then all we can do is trust that what God has called out will be accomplished.
We ask that you would claim in your prayers that promise with us, that nothing is impossible for God. Claim that promise for all of the hurt happening throughout the world, particularly Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. As the 30 leaders are trained at ARI this year, pray that they will learn here to rely on God and to know the love of Jesus Christ so that they can work for their people and work for the transformation of their communities. Pray that we as staff at ARI and all those who support the ministry of ARI will also be encouraged to work for the transformation of the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. And pray that our lives, actions and words will share the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to those around us in Japan, to those who are searching for healing to their own hurt. After all in scripture we are constantly reminded that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that God has given each one of us gifts to be used for the actualization of the Kingdom.
Finally, as you pray for us consider whether God is calling you to support our ministry financially. We were recently informed that another church has decided to sponsor us which we are thankful for, but we are still looking for those individuals and churches that feel a burden to financially support what God is doing here at ARI. If you do feel that tug, go over to the Advance webpage and donate or sign up to enter into a covenant of your support to us.
Thank you as always for taking your time to learn about what we are doing and we pray that God would continue to strengthen us all so that His will be done and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.