Maki and the Neal family at the airport.
Teaching our Mission Partnership Team how to make, "Taco Rice", an Okinawan favorite dish.
David and I have known Maki for the four years we served at Okinawa City First Baptist Church (Okinawa Daichi). As a 13 year old when we first met him, he was a very open young man serious about his attendance at church with his parents, and possessing unusual English skills. A baptized believer and the son of two commited Christians at church, Maki also attended David’s English Sunday School regularly. Always attentive, Maki often posed serious questions about the Bible. During his free time, Maki would come to church on his own and practice the drums or just “hang out”.
We were especially impressed with the confidence and ease with which Maki made a speech representing Okinawa in English in front of over 700 youth and leaders in Hong Kong at the Asian Pacific Baptist Youth Conference in 2009.
While making our plans to return to the U.S for six months, I began talking to Maki about the possibility of attending a Christian school in the US for his 11th grade year and taking part in a home stay with a Christian family. Maki and his mom agreed to pray about it and at the first of the year told me that Maki decided to go. We immediately started getting ready for this trip with weekly English lessons and getting all the visa and school paperwork done. The day we received the OK for the visa was one of a huge victory over legal “red tape”.
Maki arrived in West Virginia on August 5th to stay with John Mark and Melanie Neal and their family from our home church in West Virginia. Upon his arrival, he was immediately whisked off to our WV Camp Cowen for two days to attend Camp Global and then off again to New York where David and I were speaking. He is excited about school and his stay with the Neals and already we have seen him asking many questions about Christianity and the truth of the Gospel from many believers he has met.
What would we like to see happen? David and I would love to see Maki grow in his faith as he learns from his home stay family and experiences life in a Christian school. We would like to see him learn more English so that he can communicate his faith freely and internationally. We would also like to see him bring these skills back to Okinawa to share with people there and then to be able to share with the broader Asian community surrounding Okinawa.
Pastors in Okinawa often say that their vision is to share the Gospel with Okinawa then Japan then Asia and then the world!! Their faith is true and their hearts are humble. One problem is that many don’t speak enough English to be able to communicate freely with others around the world. We saw that with some other youth we took to Hong Kong for the conference...that they weren’t comfortable in English as their Asian counterparts were.
Leslie had been praying about just this thing for the past year...how to provide opportunities to learn English in Okinawa so that Okinawan Christian youth can share their faith with others around the world.
Right before our departure to the US in June, two pastors came to us and asked if we would do just that. They are asking us to start an intensive English and Bible program right in Okinawa! We are now praying and working towards establishing this school on our return to Okinawa where we can teach English, Bible and culture with the aim of helping our young people become ambassadors for the Gospel in Asia and the world. We would also like to be a bridge to help these young people attend seminaries in Asia and take part in home stays just like Maki.
We ask that you pray with us about this...it is a big venture, but our God is bigger than any of it.
We ask for your specific prayers for preparations for the school, for Christian home stay families and for volunteers from the US to come and help us teach. Maybe God is leading you to be a bridge?
Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.