In Japan it is New Year, rather than Christmas, that provides the opportunity for gatherings of the extended family. In the few days before New Year there is the annual “spring cleaning” (or should we say ‘winter’ cleaning!) There are also many other matters of business that need to be fitted in just then, for example “thank you” presents for those you feel under obligation to.

One of the customs that keep us busy at the end of the year is the exchange of New Year greeting cards. As Christians we include suitable words from Scripture. The cards have to be made using the computer, and then have personal hand-written notes added – to all 250 of them! You may consider this a labour, but to my husband Shuichi it is a “labour of love”. In this way, for 40 years, he has kept in contact with old school and university friends, past teaching colleagues and students, and many others, and it has turned out to have had unexpected results for the gospel. When we moved to this area 24 years ago, he found that many of these old friends were now in positions of authority in local schools. This has opened doors to principals’ offices in the 18 local schools, both primary and secondary. So over the years he has been able to present videos, DVDs and books containing the Christian testimonies of famous figures that the schools are already interested in and using in their curriculum, not knowing they were Christians!

These openings did not stop when the teachers retired, because each contact has led to others, and the trust relationship has continued; and continues still. After renewing acquaintance at the schools, we have then been welcome in some of the homes of these teachers, often being able to meet the wives, share further literature, and invite them to our outreach events.

“I have set before you an open door, that no-one can shut!” This is a Scripture verse (Rev 3:8) that we continue to stand on. And we combine it with the promise, “He who sows bountifully, will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6) Please continue to pray with us for a fulfilment worthy of our risen Lord.

Elaine and her pastor husband, Shuichi, serve with WEC in Japan.