Dear Praying Partners,
Thank you. Thank you for partnering with us over these last several years as we have moved three times in six years and been a part of three brand new church plants. It has been a joy to know that God has given us supporters who continually lift us up before Him, and continually pray for our hearts to be turned towards the source of true Joy and true Peace. We echo Paul’s words in Phil 1:3-5 where he says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. Always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Thank you. Please enjoy a few highlights of our last year. We look forward to how God is going to work in 2019 here in Okinawa!
Linnea ~ For me, this past year has been about learning to balance life. I shared in March about how I felt burnt out for the last couple of years. God needed to heal me but I didn’t know what that would look like. God has continually, relentlessly, and overwhelmingly pursued me, as He does for each of his kids. Although all our problems/issues are not solved – our marriage still needs work, our ministry and life balance still need work, and our own hearts are constantly running from God to our own sinful coping ways – God continues to show me that He first loved me. He gave, He ran, He made the first move and will continue to be the One who loves us best.
He has shown me much grace through providing mentors, counseling, friends, prayer warriors like you, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit to touch places that no one else can reach.
One of the constant tugs on my heart throughout my life has been a feeling of rootlessness. Interestingly enough, that’s the exact feeling all military families, feel. While I was in the Philippines on a missionary women’s retreat at the end of Oct, God used the theme of Col 2:6-7 (Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving,) to show me that my roots that I’ve been longing for in people – places, shared experiences, and life, are found in Christ. I can stop running after fulfillment elsewhere. It’s in Christ.
So how has my year been? Humbling. Exhausting. Full of people. Saying goodbye and saying hello. Learning how to have healthy rhythms for our family. Learning how to remain in Christ when times are hard and good. Hoping in Christ and not whether or not my circumstances, internal struggles or daily life changes. Learning to hope in Christ even when I don’t change as quickly as I would like. He is faithful and just, gracious and kind, loving and ever pursing.
Jonathan – My year has been humbling as well. All of life, from ministry to marriage & parenting, and so many things in between, have demonstrated that too many areas of my life are still in great need of being increasingly shaped by the gospel and submitted to Christ. Much deep-rooted pride, and insecurities, still resides in my heart. But, like Linnea wrote, the Father relentlessly pursues and shows mercy. He is patient and he is persistent. And, through the Spirit, he goes to work in my heart and life every day – with gentleness.
I am thankful also for the way God has provided financially for my family this past year. It was a challenging year. But, we never went without. And in the closing weeks of this year, we have been encouraged by the kind generosity of a few friends and family in our Pillar Church families, who have given unexpected gifts. We press into 2019, with more challenges ahead, but confident in the God who provides.
Linnea will write more about the church on a following page, but of note, we were both so thankful to complete our Acts 29 (www.acts29.com) assessment this year, and rejoice in Pillar Okinawa being added to the diverse global family of church planting churches that is Acts 29. This process, requiring countless hours of reading, writing, homework, and various assessments, and growth requirements, took just over two years! We are thankful for God’s grace in this, and thankful to be a part of the Acts 29 family. Now, we have shifted our focus to church planting in Okinawa, and strengthening the Acts 29 family in Japan.
For our kids…
Emma has been growing into a very fast reader. She is often in a book, and loves being read to still, which is a blessing. She still finds joy in friends, and loves us best. She is a good bike rider and often circles the blocks around our house.
She loves art and creating and the process of making someone happy with her work. She is a joy and a blessing on every level. We are very grateful to have Emma as our first-born. She has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up but it alternates between teaching, art, being a mom, and a doctor.
Johnny has been growing up too. He still wants to be a construction worker when he grows up. His image of a construction worker may be completely different from an American one though.
He loves trucks, mud, dirt, Legos, and sweets. He also loves running with Jon and Owen. He is a strong runner – having run up the entire steep hill by our house the other day. Two of his closest little friends have moved away this year and although we have tried, he hasn’t been able to be close to too many other little people. He doesn’t go to preschool yet because of the cost, but we work on some workbooks at our home, and he loves the new Sunday preschool class at church. It’s the highlight of his week, although he says they sing too many songs. He has learned quite a lot of the Bible stories from that class. He’s very matter of fact, so hearing anything from Johnny’s perspective is a lot of fun.
Owen is the little toddler who often falls, running and moving at the speed of light most times. He is a wiry, skinny, constantly eating, and ever-clinging little guy. He loves fiercely. That’s Owen. He lives up to his name of young warrior. He is also incredibly sweet. But only if he knows you. Out of all our kids, Owen is the shyest with strangers. He will cling to us and bury himself into our shoulders as far away as possible from someone else new. But once you are his friend, he will climb right into your heart.
At almost two, Owen loves riding with dad, running with Dad, eating with Dad, and hearing Dad pray and talk to him at bedtime. If Dad’s there, he wants to be too.
Medically, nothing has been confirmed as to why he was so sick, but he has been largely dairy free for about six months. We began introducing some of it back slowly and he has had no side effects as of yet. He is caught up on all his immunizations in the fall and we rejoice that he has not had an ear infection for several months. God gets all the praise for his health. We marvel at where Owen is at right now as opposed to last year when we wondered if he would ever be well. Thankful for the healing God provided.
Pillar Okinawa –
The life of the church has, of course, been one of the constants in our own lives. We have seen the church move into another facility for our worship gatherings in February, while we continue to rent the other building for children’s ministry. We have seen the body here grow and grow and grow to the point of needing two services on Sunday mornings, and the Saturday evening service ending for the sake of the workers. We have seen the beginning of another kid’s class to bring the total kids classes on a Sunday morning to four per service (birth – 5th grade).
Thankful also for the addition of three excellent and dedicated ladies to replace our amazing outgoing children’s coordinator, who had taken the church from a small plant through three moves and graciously loved our kids so well! We have seen the addition of four more elders and sadly the loss of the Fugler family, our one other founding elder, due to their PCS move.
We have seen our friends move, and new friends have come. We have sadly seen two church discipline cases play out and labored in prayer for the families involved. We had a month of Jon finishing his chaplaincy training and seen how the body of Christ has done the work of the ministry in his absence. Seen the beginning of the Gospel to Okinawa (GTO) church planting initiative and church revitalization classes and how God has begun a good work, which He will take to completion.
We’ve seen how God has prepared the hearts of many to serve in the church family through counseling, missional community leaders, fight club coaches, discipling others without any recognition, ladies bible studies, men’s bible studies, serving through meals, babysitting, help with deployed spouses, and help with marriages – which quite literally get run through the ringer here, praying, ministering to the local communities, and the list could go on and on.
We have seen how God has richly provided for the needs of the church in allowing us to end the fiscal year debt free in spite of the renovations and unanticipated but much needed AC replacements earlier this year.
We’ve seen how God has been growing and changing lives for His kingdom. We’ve seen how God has worked in three very specific sermon series in the last year. One on hope last Christmas, a sermon series on work at the beginning of the year, and a series on hospitality and then rest this fall. These have been referenced more times then we can count among our church body for changing minds and hearts towards the gospel of Christ.
We have the challenge every church family does in keeping volunteers on the schedule but God has been gracious in that usually volunteers have to serve one Sunday a month. That is a huge praise for a church plant!
We have seen how God has provided chances to love on the Acts29 Japan church planters this year through our church’s first mission trip to Tokyo where a few of our church members and their kids went to help with an ESL camp this summer. We have had the chance to pray for, minister to and be ministered to by our partners in Acts29. Three times church planters have come from Tokyo to preach and encourage our hearts. Our Acts 29 Retreat in Nov was really encouraging. Our friends had the chance to rest and we all had the chance to connect and pray together for the church plants we all hope to see occur through this partnership! Looking forward to how God will continue to use these families for the joy of Japan.
We have seen how our friends have continually led an ESL class at the church for the better part of a year. They have been consistently loving and graciously pouring into the lives of the Okinawan friends who have come to learn English. There have been some great conversations about the gospel through that class. Looking forward to how God may use that class to even be part of one of the Okinawan church plants in the future.
Lastly, as we have mentioned before, the church, in order to constitute as a legally recognized organization in Japan, will need to complete the Syukyo houjin process. We have seen the beginning of that process and the next step that needs to be completed is the members voting on by-laws. This step in the process will hopefully be completed in Jan at our next members meeting.
As we close this crazy long letter, we wanted to remember an incredible blessing that God has given. At the beginning of 2018, we wrote that we were financially in need of $22,000 for the year. Through the ministry of people here, the love of many of you, the support of our faithful churches, and through Jon’s reserve work, God has granted us the amount of $22,000 +. Every month we have not gone without and in fact this last month, God has given us above what we needed. We are praising Him and thanking you for partnering with us in this way. He has been faithful to provide for our needs and we are grateful.
Looking forward to how He will continue to work in 2019!
Jonathan and Linnea Ransom