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Two years ago, four siblings became connected with our Christian community after their father took his own life. Their mom had been out of the picture for some time, and the grandparents, in bad straights financially and physically, were unable to care for them.
Initially our church became involved with providing visits and food. Then we began an after-school program with dinner and tutors because all four children were behind in their schoolwork. That first summer, the four “orphans” became a part of our camping program, living on the campus and receiving love from staff, campers, and the whole community.
Desperate to keep these children out of an orphanage, the grandparents appealed to the Albanian courts to give our Christian community custody of the children. In God’s perfect timing, a Dutch couple—a couple who had fostered more than twenty children—joined our ministry team. They brought a wealth of experience to this situation and a willingness to embrace these four siblings.
Over the past two years we have seen transformation in each of these kids’ lives as they are growing up in a loving, caring, and nurturing community. I thank God for this daily reminder of what the body of Christ looks like.
Kent writes: To improve my Japanese speaking skills and meet young people, I have been part of a language-exchange club for more than a year. Each week about thirty people show up and, Japanese and foreigner, we pair up and spend one hour speaking in English and the next hour in Japanese. Afterward many of us go out to eat together.
One of the people I’ve met is a university student named Grace (her English name). One time when we were paired together, she asked me if I was a Christian because I was brought up in a church. I answered, “No, I know lots of people in the US who grew up in church but are not Christians, and I have Japanese friends here who never went to church growing up but are now Christians. Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian.”
“Oh,” she said. “Then what’s the difference? How do you cross over from just going to church to really becoming a Christian?”
What missionary wouldn’t love to be asked that?
I spent the next fifteen minutes explaining the Gospel, and when I finished, Grace said, “Here in Japan there are many cults and religions; some of them are dangerous, so most Japanese are fearful of religion. But listening to you, I can feel those fears melting away.”
Since then Grace has helped Yuko and me in many ways—introducing us to her friends and helping us organize outreach events. She is not yet a believer, but the open, honest, and trusting relationship we have developed with this Japanese university student is allowing her to explore questions of faith without fear. It is encouraging to see God at work in her heart!