Missionary Jonathan McCurley on itineration in Florida

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Global Missions Blog

35 degrees Celsius is 95 degrees Farenheit!

Konnichiwa Everyone!!!!!

The above calculation may be pretty simple for most of you to do that are reading this. But there is a reason it is there, and this most of you probably don’t know… That is the temperature that we have been experiencing over the past couple of weeks. Why it is not so surprising back home in Sunny Florida, the area we live in is known to be very cool in the summer. In fact the Emperor of Japan even has a summer palace up in the mountain nearby for the very reason of this being known as a cool summer place. Yet along with the rest of Japan and much places in the world right now, it is very hot. As we are organic at ARI, and in general Japanese do not use AC, we have no air conditioning to help us through the heat. So we have fans running, including our hand fans that everyone carries with them where ever they go. We also eat lots of cold things and try to stay in shady places as much as possible. A couple of weeks ago Jonathan went out into the field in the middle of the day. While the whole community joins farm work in the morning and evening, usually Jonathan is spared from the heat of the day. But recently he joined friends that were weeding soybeans and filling in the missing places. It has been a long time since he so appreciated the cool wind that sometimes blew through the soybean field.

The longer we are here, the more we realize how the weather and food have such an affect on our lives. Living on a farm especially helps you to be aware of the importance and prominent place of food in our lives. It also helps us to understand the importance of weather and how much our life depends on enough rain, sun, and wind. We are reminded that the heat and the cold, the wind and the rain have their purposes. But as a place known for it’s summer coolness reaches 95 we also feel that the weather and environment we live in is not quite what it should be. This makes us think again about our ministry and what it is we are doing. What is it that God has called us to do in the world. Jesus teaches to pray that the kingdom of God will take place on earth as it is in heaven, meaning that we should not yet be content with the way things are, but continue to have hope of a better world, and take part in making the Kingdom of God more real in the lives of people here and now.

One part of our ministry that has continued to blossom has been the gospel choir at ARI (Asian Rural Institute). It began 2 years ago with just a few people out of conversations of people at the local church and the school wanting to form a choir. Our main purpose has been to sing at what is called ARI Sunday, which happens once a month at this same local church. One of our students will preach and the choir will sing and there is wonderful fellowship after worship. But the choir has grown and attracted more and more local people who had previously not been connected with the church or the school.

About 1/3 of the regular members are local people with no previous connection. Last year we picked a name, Minngos. Minn is from Minna, meaning everyone, and gos is from Gospel. We also have continued to connect with other local groups and events. Last year we were able to sing for evacuees and local people and join in a charity concert. This year we joined another charity concert singing with a choir of over 800 and had our own first workshop, calling a gospel singer from Osaka to come and teach and share her talents. Our group almost tripled it’s normal size at the workshop. The vast majority of these people had never had a connection with ARI and were not Christians, but they learned about our ministry and about the Good news of Jesus Christ that day.

Some have continued to join us and recently a staff member approached Jonathan and said he had heard people in town talking about Minngos. He didn’t know that we were becoming so connected with the local community.

We have come to realize more and more how God is using these seemingly small ministries to reach out in ways unexpected. When the gospel choir began there were no grandiose ideas of connecting with so many people, but only a desire to share the good news with the ARI community and connect more with the local church. Once again we have learned that God has His own plans and asks us to be faithful in small things.

This summer as been full of events and activities happening at the school. Along with all the fun activities of the gospel choir, we have had many opportunities to learn about Japanese culture through participation in local festivals. In fact we danced in one and took home a handsome cash prize! A ice cream party is in the midst of being planned! The students of ARI also had a chance to share about their biggest learning over the past 4 months. They shared about things from organic farming to garbage sorting to leadership, spiritual growth and learning to live in a community. As our students come from countries that have so many problems, we learn more and more how important the training we are doing here is to the lives of hundreds of millions throughout Asia and Africa.

We’d like to share with you just one of the learnings that we heard on that day. Our friends Adarsh from India who is the only Hindu among us shared about his understanding of the Japanese concept of Mottainai. Mottainai is usally translated as ”what a waste,” or ”That’s still usable.” He shared that this idea of Mottainai was very important for him. He said that there are so many things in his country that people could reuse or use better, but that they just throw away. Especially things like animal waste, wasted cooking oil, rice husk or wheat stalks. These can all be reused as fuel or fertilizer or feed for little to no costs. He said that either from ignorance or a lack of effort, there is so much that is wasted in his country. But he also challenged us in the many things that are wasted in our developed countries. He said that in his country, you don’t throw away a shoe or a suit because it has a hole in it, you repair it. You don’t throw away a tire or a whole bicycle, you repair it. You don’t get rid of an electronic device just because a new one has come out. You definitely do not throw away perfectly good food because the expiration date has come. He challenged us that we too, in our daily lives, there are also many things that are mottainai. He said he will go home and surely teach his people about not being Mottainai.

This presentation was a wonderful reminder of the life we are committed to live at ARI. A live that values all that God has created and given to us. A life of responsible stewardship of our time, talents, tithes and the local resources and material things around us. But actually there is an even deeper meaning to the mottainai then what a waste. In the US we also probably thing that it is wasteful not to recycle and just throw things away, but if someone accidently drops their drink and it spills everywhere we probably don’t grieve in the same way that someone in Japan might. Although it is sad that we dropped the drink, mottainai takes the sadness even deeper. Mottainai does not only say the person who was going to drink that has wasted the drink. The materials gone into making the drink, the time of the person that was spent in making the drink along with the loss of it’s use makes the whole situtation mottainai, or such a waste. There is a sadness because the use of something has been destroyed.

Mottainai reminds us of the situation of humanity and our world. Because of sin and it’s ongoing effects we live in a world of waste. We also waste much of our lives in things that do not glorify God, but that create more problems. Whether they are problems for ourselves, one another, the environment, or our Creator, that is such a waste. Jesus challenges us to live a life that is not Mottainai. A life that remembers it’s purpose and lives in such a way as to make the most of the time and resources given to it.

What is mottainai in your life? What are you going to do about it?

We invite you to join us, people at ARI and the graduates throughout the world in living a life that is not mottainai, but that is used for the Glory of our Creator.

Jonathan McCurley

For pictures, click here.

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The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church

450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011