The Schafer Family: Mission to the World, Tokyo
Long-time Grace Chapel members Jason and Mandy Schafer, along with their two boys Finn and Gus, are serving as long-term missionaries with Mission to the World (MTW) in Tokyo, Japan. MTW is the missions arm of the Presbyterian Church in America. Jason graduated with his Master of Divinity in 2015 from Covenant Theological Seminary and is a teaching elder in the PCA.
Tokyo, Japan is the largest city in the world with 38 million people. It is one of the most influential cities in Japan, Asia and the world, culturally and economically. Yet, it is one of the most Christ-less cities in the world. Only 0.2% of Japanese people profess faith in Christ. Most have never met a Christian or heard the hope of the Gospel.
The Schafers long to see Christ redeem both the beauty and brokenness of Japan. The Japanese are diligent, hospitable, and loyal, yet many struggle with isolation, depression and hopelessness. As part of the church-planting team in Tokyo, they are working alongside Japanese leaders and fellow missionaries to establish communities of faith, bringing Gospel hope to where there is none.
The Branum Family: Living LYfE, Lincoln, NE
Tim and Amanda Branum met the summer of 2002 while both working at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Alabama. They were married in March 2004 and now have three daughters, Maddie (11), Emma Kate (7) and Lottie (2).
While serving on short term mission trips the summer of 2013 and 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska, Tim and Amanda met several Yezidi families and both felt called to be more involved in Lincoln. They began to pray about moving to Lincoln and opportunities opened for them to relocate, so in January 2015 they moved to Lincoln. Since moving, they have been involved in several different activities with Yezidi families. They serve in English classes, Bible clubs, teen nights, family picnics, and a summer week in the park. They also enjoy visiting families in the evenings and on weekends.
Their hope for this organization is to create partnerships between Christians and Yezidis, to meet the needs of the Yezidi communityand to develop services that sponsor and support recently immigrated Yezidis in Lincoln.
The Hsu Family: Grace Vancouver Church, Vancouver, B.C.
Tanya, kids and I have lived in Vancouver, BC in Canada for almost four years now. Vancouver is a post-Christian place with little Christian memory among its local Canadian residents. But it is also a multicultural urban center where almost half of its residents do not claim English as their first language. There is heightened spiritual interest in this city, though there is also great opposition. The work of the Gospel is slow work, challenging and discouraging at times, but also rewarding and hopeful work. While we have a congregation of about 125 people, we have both gained a number of folks as well as lost a number over my four years. Our numbers have stayed about even to this point.
Much of this is due to the mobility of the city as Vancouver is a very difficult city to make life work as far as its expenses. One statistic I heard recently was that 91% of the houses in the city proper are now on the market at a value of over a million dollars. To give you an idea of the housing market here given foreign wealth that floods in mainly from mainland China, when Tanya and I moved here in 2013, we were shown some very humble and modest homes on the market, even some tear-down and rebuilds, on the low end of the market for about $800k. Of course we could not entertain buying such a house at such incredibly high prices, yet had we chosen to find a way to buy one of those houses, those same houses four years later are now valued at almost twice the value with no sign of a market correction anytime soon. When the wealthiest of the wealthy from China want a house here, in some ways, the foreign money flooding in buoys the very expensive market. Coming from Nebraska, it’s difficult to describe the housing market here- it’s like I live on another planet.
As a result of the economics of the city as well as the fierce autonomy of the people, Vancouver while beautiful is also a lonely city. Our family has certainly struggled with loneliness, missing Nebraska, but also feeling isolated in this place of “exile.” We have found beauty in some of those places of isolation though, as most in this city are forced to rent (as we do) and to share houses together (as we do). We have a beautiful young family of four living below us in 800 sq. ft. while the five of us live upstairs in the “spacious” 1200 sq. ft.! of our house. Within one house to the south and two the north (four houses total), seven nations are represented and we all come from different places. One neighbor from Japan has attended an Alpha class at the church exploring the foundations of Christianity and we have other opportunities to connect with neighbors who feel displaced and disconnected as well. Ministry opportunities abound in this mission field. We see people come to Christ slowly but surely at Grace Vancouver Church and are seeking to equip our people in “whole life discipleship” both sharing the Gospel in incarnational and proclamational ways as well as seeing every small action and investment as a meaningful participation in the Kingdom of God. It’s slow work, but it is rewarding work.
Thanks for all your prayers- the family is doing well overall, Mia is 15, Isaac 13 and Calvin 12. They are all creative and developing in their own wonderful ways. Tanya is serving faithfully in many roles at Grace Van. I recently finished my Doctor of Ministry program which I launched six years ago at Grace Chapel, and I am also trying to stay fit doing Crossfit and open water swimming in the ocean as a few examples. We are so thankful for all of Grace Chapel’s prayers and financial support as we would not be able to grow and flourish here without that support.
My dissertation was on how transplants develop belonging and find community in a new place. In the acknowledgments section, Grace Chapel gets a shout out! Here it is:
Grace Chapel, Lincoln, Nebraska, when I walked away from my last worship service, just before moving to Vancouver, I wept bitterly as I walked down Sheridan Boulevard. It was as if a close family member I had grown up with for many years had been torn from me. When you grow up with a community from ages twenty-seven to forty-two, it forms you. When I think of your name dear Grace, I think of much good, perhaps most the words of Bono, “It’s also a thought that could change the world.”
Blessings and thanks to all of you,
Mike (on behalf of the family)