International Ministries

Giving thanks with a grateful heart

November 27, 2007 Journal
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Dear Friends in Partnership for the Gospel,

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul so often connects thankfulness with activities and expressions of the Christian life, that giving thanks seems as natural as breathing. Chapter 3 verse 15 speaks of it as a command—“and be thankful” . Verse 16 speaks of teaching and singing “…with gratitude in your hearts.” In the following verse 17 “giving thanks to God the Father…” is tied to the authority of the name of Christ. Because these thoughts have pervaded our minds as we approach the Thanksgiving season, our hearts are overflowing with feelings of gratitude for what our Heavenly Father is doing in the lives of people around us—particularly with students and their families.

Okinawa Christian School International (OCSI) is a school with a vision for outreach to the Okinawan and international communities living on the island. With only about 30 percent of the students coming from Christian homes, our goal is to share the Gospel as we strive to teach with excellence. As secondary principal of the school and responsibility for 18 teachers and 7 grades, Leslie is being confronted with many aspects of administration and dealing in love with students that are the same the world around.

Recently, Leslie did something she never thought she would have to do. She visited a Japanese jail to see a student there who had been in trouble with the police. This young man had never been a difficult student, but had been led astray by some friends and ended up in jail after stealing a car. His mother, who had attended church, but had never made a public decision for Christ called OCSI in tears as she relayed what information she knew. Our teachers began praying for him as did the Christian family of the young man living in the US. On her first visit to her son in jail, the mother took a Bible to him. When Leslie visited the jail and asked if she could bring any homework or things for the young man to work on during his time, the policeman said that any textbooks would be acceptable, and that he already had one that he was reading all the time…a small black book. The policeman didn’t know it, but our student was reading the Bible.

This special young man read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament. He says now that the Bible is what kept him going. When he went before the judge at one point, he was hopeful the judge would let him go but the judge gave him 10 more days. Disappointed, our student realized God had a plan for him to witness and learn. He now wants to return to the jail to witness to and thank those who worked with him there. The student, his mother, and his two young brothers will be baptized soon.

When Leslie met with him and his mother on his first day back at school, his mother shared a story that gave Leslie an amazing insight into the spiritual battle fought out of sight of our human eyes. If we spoke at your church, we most likely spoke about the yuta, or women shaman here in Okinawa. The shaman's services are paid for by many non-Christians to divine the future and explain about any bad events or happenings. The maternal grandfather of our young student isn’t a Christian and neither is his other daughter. When this grandfather went to a yuta to help him decide where the family grave should be, the yuta said, “I can see your one daughter and her family, but I can’t see your other daughter or her family. There are people praying to their God and He is keeping me from being able to see them”!

Our prayers and the prayers of Christians around the world were heard and were protecting this family of new believers! Can we hear this story of how our Father in Heaven fights for His own and not feel wonder and gratitude?! We hope that your hearts will be filled with thankfulness -- a gratefulness that feels like breathing -- as we ponder the wonderful ways of our Lord.

Thank you for your prayers for us. We ask that you continue to lift us up as well as our family and the work that God has given us. We know He hears your prayers.

In Him,
David and Leslie

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How thankful we are for the students at our school.
Our school motto is Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way they should go…”