Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Your Average Palm Sunday in Japan

It's me again! I'm still alive and quite well, just on the other side of the world these days, in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan.

Someday, I might rewind to the topic of leaving Haiti, but for now I will give you a glimpse into my new adventures. Tis the season for cherry blossoms, immaculately trimmed topiaries and trees, and a myriad of breathtakingly beautiful flowers in every shape and size on my everyday walk to school and church (same building).

Just one of the beautiful sights I pass every day
Passover & Easter season are upon us as well, but it is less obvious here, as there are no Hallmark campaigns, or sales on egg-dying kits, or marshmallow Peeps (so sad! :( ) to be seen. Less that 1% of the population in Japan are Christians. It's a REALLY big deal to make a decision to follow Christ in a culture that has been steeped in Buddhist and Shinto practices for hundreds of years. 

When I think of a typical Palm Sunday service, there are few pictures that come to mind: waving palm fronds, singing a few "Hosanna" choruses, revisiting the events of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, special music... Even in more spontaneous churches (of which I am very familiar) the look of a Palm Sunday service can be a bit "routine". 

Not so, in Japan! The "triumphal entry" at Church of Praise International on Sunday was blue tarp covering the carpet, leading to a styrofoam baptismal at the back of the sanctuary. Service started with the baptism of a new believer, who recently finished a discipleship course at the church. This was not the end of  His celebrations on this day. We'll pick up the rest of his story in a moment.

Baptism was followed by worship, then presentation of certificates for the graduates of the apostolic/prophetic training program, then communion, then sending out a family that is moving to a different prefecture (state), then sermon, and finally finished with a wedding. Yep, you read that right! Talk about a 1-stop shop! 

Back to the guy who was baptized at the beginning of service... His wife accepted Christ a few weeks before their wedding in a Shinto temple. In addition to making a public declaration of faith in Christ by being baptized, he and his bride wanted to renew their wedding vows before God in the presence of their new church family. It was such a precious sight! And what an amazing testimony they have now! It was an honor to be a part of their celebration. It became OUR celebration. 

New life, new beginnings, new journeys, new families, destiny fulfilled: it's what Palm Sunday is really all about. 

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