Nurturing the church in Japan

Posted on March 31, 2015 by Global Mission Support

Nathan and Sharonette Bowman

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New playground equipment is enjoyed at the kindergarten.

The Rev. Nathan and Sharonette Bowman accompany people in every stage of life in their ministry in Kumamoto, Japan. Nathan serves as pastor, chaplain and community advocate at three congregations. Sharonette has taught English as a second language, and serves as a facilitator and leadership developer. To support them and their ministry, click here. To support another of the more than 240 ELCA missionaries in the global church, click here.

Dear Family in Christ,

We have entered spring on a chilly note, but not near as cold as many of you have experienced this year. The cherry blossoms are beginning to dot the landscape and are expected to go into full bloom around Easter, after which the ground will be carpeted with pink petals.

Christmas this year became a celebration of God’s bounty. As we began distribution of the Christmas presents for children in 16 institutions in and close to Kumamoto prefecture, we were at about 70 percent of need (30 percent short) when we began dividing the gifts into the 16 stations at Powlas (Nursing) Home here at Jiaien. Two hours later, we confirmed that we had a bounty, and not a deficit of about 30 percent. God blessed the work by multiplying the gifts before our eyes even as we were distributing.

Last year’s Christmas gifts for the children included wooden toys made by Davis Crater of Minnesota and another gentleman, Louis, from Arizona. Later, we heard that Davis’ battle with cancer ended in late January, as he was called home into the eternal presence of our Lord and Savior. At his wife’s request, a memorial gift was used to repair, paint and upgrade two rooms at the children’s center at Jiaien in his memory. These two rooms had been an eyesore, and in any other country would have been condemned. We were also able to replace light switches, which were a fire hazard. Now it is repaired, and the pathway to the infirmary is brighter and clean. We pray for God’s comfort to strengthen and bless the family of Davis Crater.

As Japanese laws concerning the care of children change, there has been a push to incorporate nursery schools with kindergartens. Called “Kodomo-en” or children’s gardens, (Isn’t that what kindergarten means?) many kindergartens, including Kuwamizu Kindergarten, have had to upgrade their facilities to accommodate babies from 6 months old. As the school year begins the beginning of April, Kuwamizu Kindergarten has completed a new facility for $700,000. Additional playground equipment will give the 140 children many opportunities to share, explore and grow.

From winter to spring, we have been blessed with time to repair and to rebuild. Part of ministry is providing a safe worshiping environment. Our pews at Kuwamizu Church are very old, and in my opinion, uncomfortable. As a preacher, I do not have to sit there very often. To the members of the church, the old pews are sacred. Many people have sat in them and offered prayers there. They are also falling apart. Many are in disrepair. Part of being a missionary here is to safely welcome people into God’s house! “Maintenance” is not a well-known word in this country! We will see what can reasonably be done!

We have continually been blessed with new opportunities for ministry in every area of our ministry. The International Church ministry is also in a time of transition. Our Indonesian pastor will be returning to home with her family, and we are sending back to America two missionaries who have worshiped and led worship for us. One will be going into seminary, and another will become a librarian. They have been a blessing to us. We welcome three new missionaries who are called to teach English at the Lutheran schools here in Kumamoto as short-term missionaries (two years of teaching).

As we approach Easter, we thank God for the amazing gift and sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died to make fellowship with God possible and to give us not only a new lease on life but to give us eternal life in God’s presence. Next week, we will celebrate this amazing gift with many services and then join once again in the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We remember with thanksgiving your commitment and faithfulness in ministry and mission, as you continue to support us with your prayers and your gifts. May God richly bless each of you in your mission of outreach and encouragement in the name of Jesus.

Celebrating Jesus, who gave his life for us,

Nathan and Sharonette Bowman