Things are going well here in Pittsburgh, and the Bible study for my Japanese students is continuing. Thus far, we’ve had three lessons concentrating on: the reality of God and His creating us, the laws God gives which we all break and the punishment we deserve, and the good news that through Jesus Christ we can be forgiven and receive eternal life. Several things have been striking as we’ve done these studies, but perhaps the most astonishing thing to me personally has been to see that " “ as a whole " “ they barely have any even foundational concepts about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Although I’ve known for many years that there are extremely few Japanese believers, what’s recently been so surprising to see is how even basic concepts - which virtually all Americans have heard of and/or believe - are all Greek to them. For example, the idea of a Real God Who personally created them and this whole universe is a huge thing for some of them to try and grasp. Now I know we have lots of atheists and agnostics here, but I’ve never encountered a situation with them like I’ve had with my student who we’ll call "T." When we were discussing God and His creating us recently, "T" seemed awestruck to listen to that idea" ¦ it was like he was completely dumbfounded. Not because T couldn’t believe that concept, but because that was perhaps the first time in his whole life (he’s in his mid-thirties) that he even heard and considered that idea. For most Japanese, their religious thoughts are a mix of Buddhism and Shintoism, and they have a variety of gods and/or ancestral helpers they can appeal to. But for many in Japan, this is much more tradition than it is actual faith" ¦ it’s like how most Americans go to church on Christmas and Easter. And so, in starting this Bible study with them, it seemed wise to first tackle the three main issues, being: that we personally have a Creator, that He gives laws which we break and thus deserve His wrath, and that He loves us so much that He sent His Own Son to die for our sins. Please pray for these students! Many of them have heard, more-or-less understood, and perhaps even agreed with many of the things we’ve discussed; but once again, many of these truths from God’s word are radically new concepts for them to try and grab hold of. Many (and perhaps most) Americans are already aware of (even if they don’t believe) the ideas that God created us, that there is a Heaven and a Hell, what the 10 Commandments say, that Jesus died on the cross so God would forgive us, and so on.
In Beslan news, I recently called a few of my friends there, and The Lord blessed us with good conversation, although one of the calls was in response to a tragedy. You may recall reading about Alina, a young teenager who survived the terrorist attack along with her older brother. Her mom and dad recently traveled to Moscow, where Alina’s dad had heart surgery " “ but very tragically, he died. I called and talked a bit with Alina, as well as with her mom (Roza), and they are understandably in a state of shock over this tragedy. Alina’s dad (Oleg) was only about 40 or 45, and I still remember the day we watched an old movie together just like it was yesterday. As mentioned already, both Alina and her older brother (Zaur) were in the gym for the three days during the 2004 terrorist attack, and they both were wounded " “ especially Alina. Her and her brother went to Moscow for vital medical treatment following the attack, and Roza accompanied them and I believe they were there for perhaps a month or longer. After they returned to Beslan, Roza herself had some sort of breakdown " “ most likely from all the stress and anxiety she lived with during the three days her two children were under the threat of death, and the following weeks of intense medical procedures in Moscow. Her husband, Oleg, also had a heart condition" ¦ I don’t know if he had it before 2004, but even if so, I’m sure those three days took a heavy toll upon his health; indeed, heart problems are quite common to this very day among those whose children were hostages during the attack. Alina and her family are one of the families that I’m very close to, and so I know that her dad’s early death has totally thrown them into sorrow and tragedy. Alina herself is such a great kid, as is her brother Zaur" ¦ I don’t say that in flattery, but that in truth they are two teenagers who are more thoughtful and kind than many their age are. Alina wants to become a singer someday, and she dreams or visiting Chicago again and being able to go to college there. Please pray for Roza, Zaur, and Alina " “ that Jesus will comfort them, and help them to rest in the shadow of His wings. If The Lord places it upon your heart to send them a sympathy card or gift, please let me know and I can inform you as to how to do so. I know this family very well, and can assure you that a simple card from you would really touch their hearts. (* See family photo at end of update.)
I recently got an email from a mom in Beslan named Svyeta; you may recall reading about her in the past " “ she was a hostage during the attack along with her only child/daughter. Sadly, her daughter did not survive. She and her husband have since adopted a little boy, a cute little kid named Arsen. (Her husband " “ Valiko " “ is the man who, on my first short visit to Beslan in spring ’05, asked, " ˜Who will stop the spiritual murder/killing of the Ossetian people?’ That was one of the sentences that just burned in my mind, and helped me realize how much Beslan needs Jesus. Their daughter who was killed " “ Elvira " “ was the girl who about a month prior to her death wrote the poem about God’s angel coming to take her.) Among other things in Svyeta’s email, she wrote that she and some others have started to attend an evangelistic church there" ¦ and this is a huge, huge step for her! Praise and glory be to Yah! Please pray for Svyeta and these others, that they will fully give their hearts to Jesus Christ.
One other thing I’d like to ask prayer for is for my dear brother in The Lord from Senegal, Africa, named Diegane (pronounced JAY-gahn). He’s the one we have prayed for many times, who had to wait so many years before marrying the girl he helped bring out of Islam, due to her fathers insistence that Diegane first convert to Islam - which of course Diegane refused to do. To The Lord’s praise, they married earlier this year, but please keep Diegane and his wife Marem in your prayers " “ the following is from an email which he recently sent me:
May I ask you again to storm Heaven with prayers for my wife and me? You know here in Africa, particularly in Senegal, when married and weeks after having joined her husband, the bride goes back to her family for greetings. She can also spend weeks there. This is what happened with my wife. When the time came for her to go to say hello to her family, her parents - as they got mad at my refusal to convert - took advantage of her presence there and forbade her to come back to my town. Our marriage created a wall between her father and mom. Her father no longer wanted to talk to his daughter, nor to his wife (Marem's mother), who was weeping all the time and in the long run fell sick. She got fed up with life because of the "shame" (as they put it) that our marriage caused them. Temptation of suicide was dangling over her head. In such a situation, I got calls from everyone in the family and relatives begging meÃ‚ to just " ˜fix’ the situation by accepting to convert to islam even if I was pretending. I refused. They kept putting pressure on me and Marem. Marem could not endure such pressure, she also was always weeping. It was difficult for us to leave in peace.... We kept on praying. So, here is the situation: Marem is pregnant, by God's grace, but is at her family's. I do not want her to stay there while she’s pregnant, and I do not want her to give birth there - but I do not want to put more pressure upon her. She does not want to hurt her parents, as some people tried - and reconciled - her with her father. I support her in this difficult situation. Please pray that Lord speaks to the parents, mainly to Medoune Paye (Marem’s dad), who is the major obstacle. Pray that The Lord call them to His Kingdom like He did with Saul. Marem will come back, but she doesn't know when. She told me that she does not want to give birth there. Please keep us in your prayers. I have become single once again. This is real spiritual warfare, my friend, and we need God's direction and support. Thank you!
How wonderful it is that we can take refuge in The Awesome God that we serve, a God Who can do far more abundantly beyond everything that we can ask or think! No man can oppose His will, and His plans can be thwarted by none. When we pray to Him, may we remember to Whom we are praying " “ The Eternal God, Who never grows weary, and Who’s still got the whole world in His Hands.
Jesus Is Lord!
Peace I leave with you " “ My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do
I give unto you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.Ã‚ (John 14:27, NASB)