September 2017 Newsletter
The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
By Pastor Craig
NASA proclaimed that the recent solar eclipse was the most-studied eclipse on record. Judging from the news coverage and viewing parties, I think it was also the most-hyped eclipse ever. Lois and I enjoyed a late breakfast and watched as daylight transitioned to twilight and then back to daylight again. We watched the birds and squirrels disappear for several minutes. We tracked the thermometer as temperatures dropped quickly and then rebounded. Although we didn’t have the special glasses we were able to see many incredible photographs and videos of the eclipse.
The most impressive photo I saw was a picture taken from outer space of the sun with the earth appearing in front of it. The earth was simply a small black speck in front of a massive ball of fire. My thoughts were turned to Psalm 8:3 – “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place…”. The position of the earth in relation to the sun is truly remarkable. Any closer and we’d burn up. Any further out and our water would freeze and we’d be unable to sustain life. The location of the earth in the orbit of the sun is precise, the work of God’s fingers.
The size and location of the moon is also precision work. Not only does it influence the tides perfectly but an event like an eclipse is perfect for a human audience. If the moon were larger it would blot out the sun completely but as it is, the results are amazing; only the corona visible and the diamond ring effect is breathtaking. While some may say that it is merely coincidence that the universe, life and a solar eclipse exists, the evidence to me seems clear that the beauty, order and energy of the universe is the result of detailed design, planning, and engineering.
After David writes verse 3 of Psalm 8, he asks the rhetorical question in verse 4, “What is man, that You are mindful of him?” How can a God so powerful, so wise, so infinite, know and care about people like you and me who inhabit the small, black speck in the solar system? But the Bible is clear. Not only does God know about us, He knows us personally and intimately, even down to the number of hairs on our heads. The God who created and sustains the universe, even down to the occasional solar eclipse desires to sustain us as well. And He is wise and powerful enough to take care of us at all times when we trust in Him. May the awe of the spectacle translate into awe of the One who conceived it, created it and shared it with us so we might behold His glory.
by Dawn Hamasaki
September already! Where did the summer go?! But we are excited for the coming year of Children’s Worship classes. We are so thankful for all the teachers and helpers who participate in this important ministry.
This past year the Toddler class (2 – 4 years) had nine to ten children. It was a very busy class! We are thankful for the patient and caring teachers, Linda and Josh Takano, Vickie and Chris Jo, Mina Chen, and Yae and Jim Lee, as well as the many helpers who worked with these children. This coming year, we expect to have six children, two of whom will be coming from the Nursery. We also have Vickie and Chris Jo, and Mina Chen continuing as lead teachers and are still in the process of recruiting two more teams.
The PreK/K class (4 years – Kindergarten) had eight children. The classes were very ably led by Melissa Nakamura, Kathy and Aaron Nishimura, Jennifer Tsuji and Jazmine Saito, and Raj and Annika Velji. Our PreK/K class this coming year will grow to ten children. They will enjoy classes taught by Melissa Nakamura, Jennifer Tsuji and Danny Cohen, Linda and Josh Takano, and Yae and Jim Lee.
Primary Church (1st – 3rd grade) was our biggest group this past year with 18 – 20 children. They were taught by the teams of Florence Kimura and Sharon Rustia, and Dawn and Bill Hamasaki. Junior Church (4th – 5th grade), with five to six students, was taught by Tiana Cheung, Sue and Steve Machida, and Naomi Yonemura. After a year break, these two groups again presented a Christmas musical, “Meet Me at the Manger.” With lots of prayer, lots of practice and hard work behind the scenes, the children did an amazing job with the presentation and, I think, really enjoyed performing the musical. We are so thankful to Patty Mayeda for her leadership with the musical. The classes also prepared Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.
This coming year the Primary Church teams will again be Florence Kimura and Sharon Rustia, and Dawn and Bill Hamasaki. Junior Church will have Tiana Cheung, and Rieko Kato who we welcome to the Junior Church team. We are also in the planning stages for another Christmas Musical this December.
Rally Sunday Video by Jim Lee:
Children’s Sunday School
by Carrie Ishimitsu
First of all, I want to begin by thanking the past Sunday School teachers for the 2016-17 school year. God blessed us with dedicated and faithful teachers who sacrificed a lot of time and energy teaching our young children at FBC. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
A few of the teachers will be stepping down in order to serve in other ways. Those include Rieko Kato, Ken Kumasaka, and Mike Ishimitsu. We are grateful to have Hannah Esposito, Jaz Saito, Stacie Lee, and Lauren Oda stepping in to teach this year. We continue to use the D6 curriculum which is based on Deuteronomy 6:5-9. I am thankful that my children have been able to attend Sunday School and that they have the opportunity to study God’s word and also have fun in the process! They learn through activities and games, memorize Bible verses, and assist in acting out Bible stories. This fall we will be studying Women of Faith from the Old Testament, Character Counts (Integrity) and Thankfulness in Christ. We are excited for this coming year. Come check it out!
This year we are blessed to have our teaching staff consisting of:
Patty Mayeda, Antoinette Nicholas-Williams, and Linda Yutuc (Nursery/2nd floor main building)
Mo Fain and Brenda Uechi (Toddlers/CE 1st floor)
Hannah Esposito and Alisa Williamson (Pre-K/K/CE 2nd floor)
Jaz Saito, Stacie Lee, and Lauren Oda (1st – 3rd grade/CE basement)
Paul Mayeda and Lynne Otsu (4th – 5th grade/TBD)
WASABI (Middle School) Sunday School
by Pastor Mike Kurtz
What are the essential beliefs of Christianity? And how should a healthy understanding of doctrinal issues—like The Trinity, the Church, sin and salvation—impact the way we live and act toward God and others? These were some of the questions addressed in our Middle School Sunday School class last year. It was a year of establishing foundational beliefs and exploring their implications in personal life.
We are thankful for Jerjou and Stephanie Cheng and their dedication and love for the kids for the last several years. For this coming year, they are stepping down for a rest, and I (Mike) will continue to teach. They will be greatly missed, but we know the Lord is preparing them for some big things ahead.
As we look to a new school year, we will be studying through the book of 1 John. It’s a foundational book that will help the students understand what it means to be a Christian on a very practical level. We will focus on developing this young community with many new students moving up from 5th grade. And, of course, we will those who have moved up to the high school level. I’m excited about the new year and covet your prayers!
ROCK (High School) Sunday School 2016-17
by Kenji Kumai
First of all, I want to say a GREAT BIG “Thank you!!!” to Chris Jo and Vernon and Melissa Yutuc. They have been so faithful as the high school teachers and the kids just absolutely love them. Not just for the teaching but also for the relationship they have built over the years with our students. It has been a true blessing for our class to have these awesome teachers!!
As every year goes by, we have to lose some students who graduate and move on. This year, we are sad to see Michael Nguyen and Camille Fain leave us for bigger and better things! They both grew up at FBC and have gone through the whole Sunday School program. Congratulations guys!!! We will definitely miss you guys! And we wish you both the best as you start your college lives. We picked up the Sasaki boys (Andrew and Nathan) this past year but they too are gone now as they have moved back home to PNG.
As if it’s not bad enough to lose a few of the students, we are also going to lose a couple of teachers. Vernon and Melissa Yutuc are going to be serving the youth group of another church where they both feel very strongly called by the Lord. So we are sad and will miss them sorely, but we are excited for them as they will continue to be used by our Lord.
Chris Jo will continue to teach again this year. I’m pretty sure that he is in his decades now of teaching the high school class. We are so grateful for his faithfulness and leadership over the years. We are looking now to add to the teaching staff. Please pray that God will provide the perfect teacher(s) for our class. We are excited to start this new year with our three new freshmen boys coming up from middle school: Nathan Crawford, Nathan Fukuda and Kulani Chan. Welcome on board guys!! We have a class this year with many seniors and we look forward to lots of fun but also a lot of growth. Please continue to pray for our high school class as well as the ROCK youth ministry which is the same group of students.
In Him, Kenji
College/Young Career Sunday School
by John Tsuji
The college/young career (CYC) group is excited to see where God leads our Sunday School class this coming year. We are a diverse group with people from several different home states and several different local colleges, as well as some faithful young careers. Last year, we built on the theme from the Fall Conference of being image-bearers of God and learned about what it means to be more like Christ. We also incorporated more small group discussion in an effort to keep things more intimate and develop more community. For this year, we have not finalized the curriculum, but we hope to continue to incorporate elements of prayer, fellowship, food and community to go along with the teaching. We especially want to focus on practical ways of taking the truths from God’s Word and putting them into practice. How can we be doers of the Word and not just hearers? How can we be a true Christian community that spurs one another on towards love and good deeds? The leaders will continue to be Brian Watanabe, John Tsuji, Lisa Tsuji, Danny Cohen and Jennifer Tsuji, but we are also considering how to incorporate more student leadership. We will continue the important rides’ ministry for which God keeps providing. We are able to offer rides from UW, SU and SPU and with God’s help, have never had to turn anyone down who requested a ride. Thanks to all who have helped out in this way. If you know of anyone who might want to join this class, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would love to have them!
John, for Brian, Lisa, Danny & Jennifer
Sunday School Adult Class
by Dave Bauson
Next Sunday (September 3rd), the adult class will begin a study of the book of Daniel. In the first half we’ll examine major events in the lives of both the famous and the infamous. The Holy Spirit will guide us as we examine their life experiences and the context in which they lived, giving us wisdom to live our own lives to God’s glory. Though written six hundred years before Christ, Daniel outlines God’s plan for the ages from his time through our time and beyond. This prophetic half of the book also holds gems waiting for our discovery. Bring your coffee to the downstairs serving room — be prepared to drink deeply of the Scripture!
Tacoma Urban Program
by Kalei Sur
This summer I took part in a 6-week mission trip called the Tacoma Urban Program. During the mission I saw how much God values and loves all of His children and His creation. At the beginning of the mission, God gave me a vision of my faith in the image of a tree. He showed me that up until now, my tree continually grew in learning about Gods grace, and what I lacked in was learning and understanding the other side of the tree called truth. On the side of grace, I saw how my faith flourished in learning of God’s continuous love that is so abundant—a truth that is important to not forget. On the side of truth however, I had and still have much to grow in seeing what makes Him a just, and powerful Father to us all. Through reading scripture and building relationships with the houseless residents of the Rescue Mission that I worked at, I saw how important it is to humbly be at the feet of those who suffer the injustices of the world. Being on the mission helped me to see the truth that God has in where He stands with all of His people and that He wants me to take stands and care for others the way He does. For me this means getting more involved in the houseless community that is close to my heart, and to be continually aware of the ways that we as a society oppress the marginalized so that I can take part in the action that God wants to see carried out— all while understanding that God doesn’t put value on how much work or progress we make, but that He sees all that we are led to do through Him.
Being on the mission this summer opened my eyes to seeing my previously unrecognized sins. Specifically, through studying thebook of Amos, God re-spiritualized the ways He has called me to live. Particularly through my vegetarianism and in the ways that I spend and value money, He showed me that everything we do is spiritual, and that He cares about the corporate sins that are almost inescapable in the society that we live in.
God is so faithful and full of grace through how relentless He is in capturing our hearts, to learn more of His. Throughout the entire mission, God surrounded me with His patience as I dived in to areas that were at times uncomfortable and hard to bare, and He led me to love on others in ways that I haven’t been able to before.
Tacoma Urban Program
by Lucia Wang
This summer, I learned that justice work is a lot of messy, hidden work that usually looks like deconstructing the false beliefs I have of: Jesus, the Kingdom of God, the marginalized, and myself. Before going through the Tacoma Urban Program (TUP), I saw social justice and faith as two separate things, but I quickly realized that they are absolutely inseparable. How could I separate the two when the marginalized are the very center of the Gospel? The Kingdom of God is for the oppressed. Meaning, as a follower of Christ, I must choose into living a life countercultural to individualism, comfort, wealth, and basically everything this society is setting us up for. And although I’m discovering more and more that the cost of following Jesus is extremely high, I am without excuse to continue partnering with Jesus in going to the marginalized and being in community with them.
Throughout the six weeks of TUP, my team and I interned at the Tacoma Rescue Mission (TRM), a crisis shelter for families transitioning out of houselessness. Two of my teammates (out of the five of us) worked with the kids’ program, and the rest of us did whatever the staff at TRM needed help with, so our jobs (washing vans, weeding, cleaning the shelter, etc.) looked different everyday. We did everything with the families there — sharing living/showering spaces, eating meals together, and hanging out with each other all the time. Over the short amount of time spent with the families, we got to know them really well. They shared their lives with us— from trusting their kids with us to sharing their stories with us— stories that hold so much weight in brokenness, pain, and injustice. Hearing story after painful story on a daily basis, I began questioning God. How much longer do they have to hurt? Will they ever know freedom? What is God thinking? The frustration of not being able to fix anything overwhelmed me— I wanted to run away, I questioned why I decided to do TUP, that maybe ignorance is bliss. My team members felt similarly as they experienced exhaustion from working with the kids or doing mundane tasks at TRM. Thankfully we had each other to lean on and call things out for each other in truth and love. I was humbled with the reminder that the weight of their burdens was far beyond my strength to carry, which pushed me to lean on God and trust His goodness.
Coming out of TUP, I realize that God was engraving into my team and I the blueprint of true justice work, which is not so much about going to protests, posting on social media, or wearing a BLM t-shirt. It’s also not about seeing results and fixing things. Instead, it requires a lot of sitting and listening. Although I’m still far from “getting it”, I’ve learned that justice work is slow, laborious, and 100% relational— it is about showing up and being there, it’s learning to be a good friend, starting from the people around us that already fall into marginalized communities. I’m left in awe once again of God’s brilliant ways. His design of us human beings is simple yet unfathomably beautiful. We are refined and transformed through the people we meet, with no barrier of “us” and “them” — just people created to be in relationship, extending love to one another.
Thank you all so much for your support prayerfully, financially, both, or in other ways; my team and I have been deeply blessed by your partnership. Jesus has done so many wonderful things this summer.
Wiconi Mission Trip
by Mike and Carrie Ishimitsu
Just like previous years, we helped lead the children’s ministry at the Wiconi family camp which provides Native Americans the opportunity to worship their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a culturally relevant way. This year, we acted out the story of Joseph across four skits to teach the kids about God’s faithfulness and providence when circumstances indicate otherwise. The skits introduced the teaching time, followed by “talking circles” where we gave the kids an opportunity to think and talk about what they just learned. We also provided crafts, activities, and snacks for the kids. During the powwow, we provided a kids craft station and helped with sound and clean up.
God answered prayer by creating opportunities to build upon relationships from previous years and to build new ones. For example, we met a Mohawk woman over lunch who shared amazing stories of how God had been actively working in her life, including healing her fractured relationship with her family. We also reconnected with a family from Panama who recently moved to the States. Trevor made lots of new friends from Micronesia while playing carpetball during free time, and our Seattle team grew closer while serving together. It was a blessing and a privilege for our family to serve in this way!
Bill’s Book Blurbs
by Bill Hamasaki
New Book for September
No God But One by Nabeel Qureshi
A couple of years ago, I read an article by a Christian leader who wrote that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, just using different names for God. Several months ago, I read about a Christian college professor who embraced both Christianity and Islam as part of her personal faith. Are these two faiths really compatible? Do Christians and Muslims share the same faith and worship the same God?
In his previous book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, this author shared the heart of his story and the heart- rending struggles he went through on his way to the person of Christ. In this book, he shares the mind of his story and the research that led him on a journey out of Islam and to the Christian faith. While he shows that there are several similarities and teachings central to both faiths, the differences have far reaching ramifications. He writes, “On August 24, 2005 when I could resist no longer, I bent my knee to Jesus and proclaimed my faith in him. Soon after, my family was shattered, and the next year of my life was by far the most harrowing I have ever endured. I was now an outsider, both to my family and to all my friends in the Islamic community. It was just weeks before I received my first death threat. I never regained my old friends, and my family has never been the same. I feel the painful fallout of my decision every day.”
He continues, “So when I hear people say that Islam and Christianity are basically the same, I have to try to restrain my incredulous response. Are Islam and Christianity the same? My parents certainly do not think so, nor do any of the dozens of friends I lost. This cliché is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of converts who have left Islam for Christianity and vice versa. Not only are these religions different, but the differences have far greater ramifications than I realized when I converted. I knew that the historical doctrines of the two religions were different, but doctrines do not exist in a vacuum. They work together to impact the way we see the world, which in turn changes who we are.”
This interesting and informative study of Islam and Christianity shows the vast differences between the two faiths and that only one is worth dying for. Just to let you know: the author was diagnosed last year with stage IV stomach cancer and given a grim prognosis for survival. He is currently undergoing cancer treatment and is seeking a miracle healing from God.
by Masami White
I am very glad that I am able to get baptized today. Thank you. I give my heartfelt thanks and praises to God.
First, I would like to share how I first met God. I don’t remember exactly when but around when I was in 4th grade, I had 2 close friends in my neighborhood. One of them was a very active person and she found information from somewhere that there was Sunday school at our neighbor’s house. She asked my friend and me if we were interested in going. I used to live in Kodaira city in Tokyo. It is Tokyo but it was countryside with many empty lots and woods. I have not seen a church, did not know what we do at Sunday school or anything about Christianity or Christ. On Sunday at 10am, I went to our neighbor’s house on foot. It was a little far for me as a child. Two female college students shared from the Bible. There were about 3-4 children every Sunday. The children took turns reading the Bible and then listened to the story from the passage. I started attending Sunday school with my close friends but they stopped going after a while. There was no snack or anything fun but for some reason, I continued to attend Sunday school. After one year, I received a New Testament because of my perfect attendance. I was so happy that I went to sleep with the Bible in my arms. The next morning, the cover of my brand new Bible was wrinkled and I regretted that I slept holding my Bible. However, I stopped attending after graduating from elementary school. It was because I thought I would never be able to become a Christian. I was not a good girl. I did not think that I was able to become a person that Jesus taught us to be. My new life at a middle school was more appealing to me than God’s world. I never went back to God, read the Bible, or talked about Christianity with my friends. When I look back, it feels like God was always in my heart. I felt guilty but pretended that I did not notice God’s existence and continued to ignore Him.I graduated from college, got a job, worked, and went after what was fashionable or popular. I was soaked into this world and cherished its values. I lived so many years without God.
I came to the States and got married. About 8 years after that, all the sudden, I became ill with a rare disease. The disease I had never heard of or seen. I went to see a doctor right away. However, the doctor said that doctors were not able to cure this disease and I had to cure it myself. “What do you mean? How can I cure the disease that doctors cannot?” I was angry and felt at a loss. But because I was pushed away like that, I decided strongly in my mind “I WILL cure this disease by myself. I will prove that I can.” That’s how I started fighting this disease. I went to see a counselor and a family doctor and received advice and tried everything that I heard that seemed good. Every time I tried something new, I would get a little better, but after a while, I rebounded back to the original condition. It got better little by little and got worse and it repeated many times. In order to cure my own disease, I had to learn about it. I read hundreds of books about this disease and how to cope with it. After a while, I learned that my disease is originally a brain disease. Since I did not know much about the brain, I started reading books about it. One day, I was reading a specialized book, which explained the structure, function and mechanism of the brain. At the end of one chapter, it said “if you look at the meticulous, elaborate, orderly, beautiful mechanism of the brain, you may think about the existence of God.” When I read that sentence, I was very shocked and upset. “What do you mean? I’m reading a book about the brain. What does it mean? What is happening to me?!” But all the sudden, I came to an understanding that everything comes from God and returns to God. That’s right. God is the only cure for everything. I cannot cure myself. I finally understood that there are things that I cannot do anything about. I felt my heart cry “I want to return to God. I want to return.” I made a firm decision. “I will go back to God. I will.”
There was another change in my heart. My heart felt light just as having a great weight lifted from my shoulders. The hole in my heart was filled in a moment. My life before was very blessed and I was living comfortably. I was with my husband who protected me, I had a house to live in, as much food to eat as I wanted, and a job… but I felt something was missing. I did not know what that was. I knew and felt that “this is not the life I’ve been seeking. Something is wrong. Something is missing.” I had been seeking for a long time to find out what that was. What I had been seeking was God. That’s why the hole in my heart was filled immediately and with a feeling of well-being. I stopped reading that book immediately. I did not need that book anymore. I searched and purchased the Bible through Amazon. And then, my husband started attending an international church. God already provided a wonderful Japanese Christian for me. She organized a ministry called “Second Level Ministry” and she held my hand firmly and brought me into God’s world. I met so many wonderful Christians through this ministry and was able to grow closer to God. This is my story of the return of a prodigal daughter.
My disease is not cured yet. It has been 6 years. Before coming back to God, my disease was the biggest obstacle in my life, but now it is not a big problem. Because of my disease, I was able to come back to God’s world and I learned a lot. It feels like God is saying there are more things I can learn from having this. Now I leave my disease up to God’s will. Even if healing is not God’s will, I will accept it.
A while after coming back to God, a memory from my childhood that I had not previously remembered came to my mind. Because of my particular background, I had been feeling very sad. One day, I was sitting by myself in the school playground many hours after school. When I looked up in the sky, golden clouds looked like a big island and the sun was shining in the center of the island. It was so beautiful that I thought that might be Heaven. I said with a small voice, “I want to go there. I hope I can get there. But I don’t have the courage to die.” Soon, I came back to reality and thought “there is no way I can see Heaven from here and there is no guarantee that Heaven exists” and I looked down. I remember going home looking down because I did not want to see the beautiful golden sun and clouds goes down.
God heard me back then and remembered my cry. He showed me mercy although I don’t have any redeeming trait or anything special. Over the decades, God did not forsake me, rather He kept knocking on the door of my heart even though I had been ignoring Him. I’m finally at this point. I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward God. I cannot find words to express my gratitude enough.
My resolutions for the rest of my life are to walk God’s way without deviating, to live for God, and to live the life that is pleasing to Him.
FBC Fall Conference
Dates: October 7-8. 2017
Location: Black Diamond
For more information, please contact Pastor Mike.