But sixty years later her husband came down with a terminal illness, requiring that she take on the role of primary care giver. In the midst of this personal loss, hopelessness, and emptiness, she met a follower of Christ who invited her to attend worship services at my colleague’s church. Through warm Christian fellowship, songs, and regular hearing of the Word of God once again, S-san soon confessed faith in Jesus. For six long decades Jesus had patiently waited for S-san to come home to him!
For those who think missionary success must be quantified in a matter of months or several short years, let’s remember that the missionaries who first sowed the seed of God’s Word in the heart of S-san were never able to share her story of salvation with their friends and supporting constituency. Those faithful missionaries have moved on to heaven. If they were still with us today they might feel as if they were failures.
This is because missionary success in American and Canadian evangelical circles is typically quantified by reporting the number of new converts and baptisms. High numbers are equated with success (loudly proclaimed and widely acclaimed) and low numbers imply failure (embarrassingly hidden). Mission agencies, even those that pride themselves in caring for their missionaries, seem to persist in pushing this myth of the necessity of quantifying missionary success, when such a criterion for evaluation actually discourages missionaries who serve in the Buddhist countries of Asia such as Japan that are gospel resistant and anti-Christ.
Furthermore, this emphasis on quantitative success over the short haul is difficult to tease out of the pages of Scripture. If we must use the notion of success to evaluate missionary ministry we might be wise to reframe the discussion in terms of something like “qualitative success” that emphasizes the spiritual qualities of missionary ministry—such as faithfulness—while still giving a nod to quantitative statistics.
God will reward that faithful missionary couple who first shared Christ with S-san more than half a century ago. But they were far from successful in the way that is typically portrayed today.
Alternatively, TMC apprentice Kevin Hui is bringing a team of young people from Macau in early July to distribute TMC literature, learn about Sumida-ku in Tokyo where TMC is located, prayer walk, and join TMC for Sunday worship. Our focus will be to invite people to view the famous Sumida River fireworks with us on July 28 and to encourage Chinese speakers to attend the Hong Kong Bible Conference that will be live streamed to TMC in August. As always, our outreach has the purpose of inviting people into a saving and loving personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
On May 24 Dale was naturalized as a US citizen in Portland Maine. So Dale and our three children are now dual citizens of Canada and the US.
The decision to take out US citizenship was due to two factors: (1) It was becoming increasingly difficult for Dale to maintain his US alien residency (green card) status while living outside the US in Japan. (2) We are making plans to retire in Maine, Ann’s home area, perhaps by 2022.
The naturalization process with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service includes three steps: (1) fingerprinting at a USCIS facility (which Dale was able to do in Seoul, South Korea); (2) an interview and knowledge test of US history, government, and English ability; and (3) a swearing in ceremony. These are typically three different appointments. However, Dale was able to complete the last two steps in one day. Ann had fun watching Dale being sworn in.
In some of his spare time Dale has been enjoying tracing his ancestry. Interestingly enough, one grandmother and a number of direct descendants 3 or more generations back were Americans or born in the US, so perhaps Dale is returning to some of his roots.
How many people did you lead to Christ in your missionary ministry last year?
A recent conversation with a young Japanese pastor might place this Western “visible, immediate results required” and perhaps critical question in appropriate religio-cultural context.
Over lunch at a ministerial meeting young Pastor O. asked me, “Are you the son of Little-sensei who started the church I now pastor?” I told Pastor O. that I was, and that therefore I had probably met him when he was a toddler because his father was the first Japanese pastor of that church. Pastor O. was a Pastors Kid and I was a Missionary Kid. His father had followed my father in serving that church. While he ate his burger and drank his coffee, and I ate my sushi and drank my tea (I did have my coffee later!), we talked about our current ministries. Then he told me he had something encouraging to share.
He proceeded to tell me that my parents (Lea & Louise Little) had shared the love and gospel of Jesus Christ with a woman in the neighborhood of their house-church way back in about 1967. With a warm smile, Pastor O. told me that she had finally made the decision to follow Christ just a few months earlier.
So the loving and patient salvific work of God the Holy Spirit in this woman’s life spanned 50 years from 1967 when she met Christians for the first time (my folks) and heard from them about Jesus Christ, and then had ongoing contact with the church my parents had planted and Pastor O.’s father had pastored, all the way until Christmas 2017. It took this woman 50 years to finally find freedom in Christ from the captivity of idolatry of Shinto and Japanese Buddhism characterized by fear, deception, and manipulation. During that half century Jesus never gave up on her.
And then as if to bring me back to the reality of doing mission in Japan, Pastor O.’s face clouded and he said, “But the now grown children of the F. family that lived 2 doors down from you still refuse to believe in Christ even though they phone me when they are in trouble.”
Japan is perhaps the second largest unreached people group on planet earth. Its largely affluent young people are the most nihilistic in the world. Its evangelical church is in decline. The average age of Japanese evangelical pastors is almost 60. One missionary church planter God used to start over half a dozen churches in Japan used to quip, “Church growth in Japan is like the fastest moving snail.” It typically takes 20 years in Japan for someone to come to Christ after first hearing and understanding the gospel. Maybe we could increase that number to 50 years.
Why do I get the impression that, unlike Jesus Christ himself who is patiently and lovingly building his church even in Japan, critics who ask the question at the beginning of this post are more interested in success than in humbly learning and experiencing the meaning of faithfulness?
TOKYO MULTICULTURAL CHURCH quietly turned 5 years old on April 8, the Sunday after Easter. Thus the many hands showing five fingers in the above pic. We (Dale & Ann) launched TMC on Sunday Apr 7, 2013 in our apartment complex’s meeting room with eight people in attendance, including a core group of six.
On Easter Sunday 2018 we had 50 people in attendance, including quite a few visitors. TMC now has a missionary staff of seven (4 households), serving with the EFC of Canada Mission (EFCC-M), ReachGlobal (EFC of America), and the EFC of Macau. Sundays include Japanese Sunday school for children and adults, English worship service (with sermon translated into Japanese twice a month), and a monthly Chinese (Mandarin) fellowship. Our desire is to launch small groups and a Japanese language worship service in 2018.
By the end of 2017 TMC attenders were able to cover almost all of TMC’s monthly rental costs. Up until then, the shortfall was handled by our EFCC-M Ministry Enhancement Fund built up over the last five years by TMC’s partner churches. A BIG THANK YOU to those five EFC churches: English Department of Musashino Chapel Center (MCC) on the west side of Tokyo, First EFC of Maine, Trinity EFC (Woodbridge CT), Peoples Church (Pinckney MI), and Cayucos EFC (CA). Remaining funds from those partner donations, combined with contributions from future TMC partner churches, will be used for TMC’s enlarging phase:
Lord willing, we will launch and establish second and third TMC’s in the world’s largest megacity of Tokyo located within Japan, the second largest unreached people group on planet earth.
TMC is looking for 3-5 teachers for this summer’s outreach English conversation classes, July 23-27, with teacher arrival in Tokyo on July 20 and departure on July 31.
This summer ministry connects TMC with new contacts for ongoing outreach to Japanese people during the rest of the year. Summer students range in age from three years old (the beginning of pre-school and kindergarten in Japan) through adults. We expect about twenty students for the five days of teaching.
Some class preparation, including gathering resources for teaching, will be done before teachers arrive. But final preparation will take place during orientation on Saturday July 21. Lesson plans can be further adjusted after the classes begin.
Some requirements for the teachers:
- Recommendation from pastor or a missions leader of home church
- Follower of Jesus Christ, with a desire to share his gospel
- One year of service in home church (e.g., Sunday school teaching, small group involvement, ushering, nursery worker, greeter, etc.)
- Native English speaker, able to teach conversational English to both children and adults
- Undergraduate university degree preferred
15 TMC members or attenders and 3 guests joined us for our first TMC membership meeting on January 21, 2018. We glanced back over the past several years, looked forward to our 2018 lineup of events, and opened the floor for discussion of several issues.
As a result, we decided to share testimonies during worship services twice a month, start some Sunday afternoon small groups once a month, and add a second worship service that would be in Japanese when we reach the seating limits of our rental facility (probably about 50 people).
We hope members will take increasing responsibility in decision making as TMC defines and refines its leadership structure. Membership meetings will probably be held 2-3 times a year, with non-members usually invited as observers.
The Lord has financially provided for TMC’s rental facility through the giving of Sunday worshippers and the financial partners who have contributed to our ongoing TMC Fund within our EFCCM Ministry Enhancement Fund. The purpose of the TMC Fund is to cover a gradually decreasing portion of TMC’s rental facility costs during the church’s early years as TMC gradually takes on full responsibility for covering those costs. We are thankful that by the end of 2017 TMC attenders were covering almost all of TMC’s monthly rental facility costs! If we don’t need the TMC Fund for TMC#1 in 2018 we hope to use it to begin building TMC#2’s launch fund.
At the end of 2017 we had the joy of celebrating Christmas in Maine USA with our own “3 + 3” children! Matthew & Kristy came from Philadelphia PA, Bryan & Jessica from St. Louis MO, and Matthew & Victoria from Manchester NH. We were able to rent the same house as last year.
In Japan, after busy Christmas Sundays of worship and outreach, church life seems to go into slow motion as New Years preparations and family events take priority until the end of the first week of January. So the few weeks after Christmas Sunday provide a good opportunity for us to take a mini-vacation. Perhaps Christmas (or post-Christmas) in Maine is becoming our new Little family tradition!
On Sun afternoon Dec 17 we held our annual TMC Family Christmas event. We welcomed parents and children from our Sunday school, our apartment complex, 2017 summer English program, and Ann’s “Moms and Tots” English class. We shared the story of the first Christmas and sang Christmas songs. TMC young adults taught games and crafts, and served refreshments. It was a lot of fun and we value the personal connections we are making with each family.
On Christmas Sunday Dec 24 we had morning Sunday school in Japanese (adults and children) and worship service in English with sermon interpretation into Japanese, Christmas lunch potluck, Christmas caroling in the nearby park in the afternoon, and an evening Christmas candle service in Japanese with a “chalk-talk.”
TMC holds these kinds of Japanese language outreach events 3-4 times a year.
This brings us a step closer to launching TMC’s Japanese language worship service.
It was a time of refreshment and connection, providing a glimpse of the EFCCM’s desire to care for its personnel. We were especially grateful that our Tokyo Multicultural Church colleagues from ReachGlobal and the EFC Macau Mission could join us. And we are thankful that our Ministry Fund was healthy enough to cover the housing costs of the retreat.
TMC is indeed moving toward creating intentional space for the multiple cultures and languages the Lord is bringing to TMC—China, Hong Kong, Macau, India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, UK, USA, Canada, etc.—while at the same time reaching out locally in Japanese.
Located at one of the centers of the world’s largest megacity, TMC is a Christ centered, Bible based, disciple making church, trying to display the multi-faceted glory of God by worshiping and obeying Jesus Christ in a warm and welcoming multicultural setting.
TMC’s worship service is in English so we have been planning ways to incorporate other languages in our regular Sunday events. Ann’s children’s Sunday school in Japanese is one such non-English event, along with our weekly adult Japanese Bible study taught by Duane. This month we are also planning to begin a monthly Sunday afternoon Chinese language fellowship, led by Kevin. And we are moving toward launching a Japanese language worship service on Sundays, perhaps initially with a few months of Japanese translation during our current English worship service.
They met while undergraduate students at Biola University in La Mirada, California. After graduating they moved to the Burlington area where Victoria worked in retail clothing store management and Matthew launched his own subscription coffee company, Brothers Coffee.
It was a hot, sunny day for Matthew and Victoria’s outside wedding in charming rural Charlotte, Vermont, just south of Burlington. Dale officiated at the ceremony of the beautiful bride and handsome groom. (No bias there!) They read their personalized vows to one another and exchanged rings in front of family and friends. And then all enjoyed the reception that followed in the nicely repurposed wedding barn.
Matthew and Victoria began their honeymoon with two days in New York city, followed by ten days in Malta, where Victoria has relatives and enjoyed frequent childhood vacations. Within their first year of marriage they hope to visit Japan so Matthew can show Victoria around.
Matthew and Victoria are starting their married life together in Manchester, New Hampshire, where Victoria lived during her high school years. Victoria has been transferred to a retail store nearby and Matthew continues his entrepreneurial business endeavors.
All three of our children have gotten married within 15 months of each other (May 2016, Dec 2016, and Aug 2017)!
It is said that in Japan at least 10 years is required from first clearly hearing about Jesus Christ until coming to faith in him. Furthermore, because of group thinking in Japan (as opposed to the individualism of the West) it is strategic for Japanese people to be enfolded in a church for their journey to Christ and ongoing growth in the faith.
Several of the seven children in Ann’s moms and tots afternoon classes (and one more who cancelled) were invited by one of the moms. These children and their moms all seem interested in joining Ann’s weekly classes. If they do, they will continue to learn English as well as Bible stories.
We are thankful for the opportunity our July 2017 English conversation classes gave us to once again share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
All students in TMC’s English classes—children and their moms as well as adult students—hear about Jesus Christ in Japanese.
Go to the Onagawa Megumi Project website to buy their beautiful products! All proceeds go to paying the salaries of the employed ladies.
Megumi Project is a social enterprise that repurposes vintage kimono products, creates community, and shares grace with people living in post-disaster Onagawa, Japan.
In the fall of 2016 Dale taught Church Planting Theology at ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University (greater Vancouver), live-streamed from Tokyo Multicultural Church. The course was divided into three sections: Church Planting and Biblical Theology, Church Planting and Systematic Theology, and Church Planting and Missiology. Dale is now in discussion with Zondervan/HarperCollins about publishing a book based on this course. The tentative title is "God’s Ecclesial Mission: Theological Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Church Planting.” More on Dale’s writings about church planting theology here: http://www.itheology.net/cptheo/.
We are so thankful that we had more than adequate funds in our EFCCM Ministry Fund to cover our home assignment travel costs. Any honorariums we received along the way were deposited to our Ministry Fund for our ongoing missionary ministry.
Roads between BC and AB traverse one of our favorite places: the Canadian Rockies! We were able to take time between Sundays for some light hiking and sightseeing in Banff and Jasper. The pic below was taken in late May in Jasper National Park, AB, and is typical of Ann with her tea and Dale with his coffee. We also toured the west side of Vancouver Island in BC for the first time. Open spaces and long stretches of often deserted highways (especially in AB and SK) were a marked contrast to the photos of our Tokyo neighborhood we included in our church presentations. We loved the open feeling!
We also visited the childhood home towns of Dale’s mother (Peace River AB) and father (Rolla BC), as well as Dawson Creek BC on the Alaska Highway where Dale graduated from high school. Dale connected with relatives and did some research on his family history. Discovering his spiritual heritage along the way was an added blessing. Dale’s paternal great grandfather, Lea Miller, founded and named Rolla BC, likening his pioneer journey from Rolla Missouri to Rolla BC to the life of Abraham, who in faith followed God not really knowing where he was going. What a rich heritage! And what fun!
It is no wonder Dale’s father, Rev. Lea Little, who passed away in Feb, used to speak so passionately about “pioneer church planting” in Japan! He himself came from a pioneer family in the Peace River area of BC.
Over our 33 years of ministry based in Japan, the word “home” has acquired several geographic reference points. Currently we consider Sumida-ku, Tokyo our home. We are making plans to retire in Cape Elizabeth, Maine USA (2021? 2022?), where Ann was raised and where we try to gather with our children for post-Christmas each year. So Maine is also home for us. But our ultimate geographic home marker is heaven itself where we will be with Jesus Christ and his followers who worship him from all nations, including those we serve at TMC and our parents who have gone on before us.
Our leadership team has enjoyed numerous lighter moments!
During those nine years Dale transitioned JEMA from one full time office manager to four wonderful part time staff; moved the JEMA office to a new and more spacious location within the Ochanomizu Christian Center building in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; arranged for a new JEMA website and webmaster; refocused the annual meetings from leaders and business to networking and equipping (“JEMA Connect”); expanded the JEMA executive team; and rewrote JEMA documents to reflect JEMA’s current leadership model (“Constitution and Appendix”).
There is always more to do in helping JEMA network, encourage, and equip its members. But Dale sensed that his role as a catalyst in establishing a fresh and relevant leadership foundation was more or less complete in early 2017. He would now like to focus more intentionally on church planting and publishing about church planting theology.
May God use the current visionary and gifted JEMA leaders to further his kingdom in Japan that so desperately needs Jesus Christ!
JEMA networks and equips its approximately 900 members to make disciples of Jesus Christ through its leadership team, commissions, representatives, and endorsed ministries. JEMA is composed of over 40 Japan based mission agencies and their personnel, other missionaries or tentmakers who do not belong to those agencies, and individuals living outside Japan who are interested in reaching Japanese for Christ.
It was great to be back at TMC for a few Sundays!
We also renewed our Tokyo Multicultural Church rental facility contract for another three years, filed our Japanese taxes, said good-bye to our one year short term missionary Alicia who returns to Ottawa Canada in April, and welcomed Kevin & Grace from the Evangelical Free Church of Macao to our TMC missionary staff.
The portion of our Ministry Enhancement Fund that is set aside for TMC has been helpful in encouraging TMC toward full financial independence from the EFCCM, covering the shortfall of our TMC facility rent that is not handled by the offerings of TMC worshippers. We hope that by the end of this year TMC offerings will fully cover our facility rental costs so that TMC will no longer need to access our Ministry Enhancement Fund, allowing us to set aside some of those funds for launching TMC#2 in the next few years.
Furthermore, it would not have been possible without her husband’s unwavering encouragement. Perhaps the two are becoming a "dream team" of sorts, learning to serve God’s third culture kids scattered throughout the world. May they continue becoming a blessing to the nations!
A very brief bio of Kristy can be found at the Narramore Christian Foundation website. Kristy serves on the board. The global ministry of the Narramore Christian Foundation provides Christ-centered training and counseling for pastors, organization leaders, missionaries and their children, member care providers, and other Kingdom workers.
All four of his children walked closely with him through the last few days of his earthly life, providing 24/7 care as best as possible. Ann and Dale rushed to his side on Sat from Washington state where they cut short a supporting church visit. His daughters Lynne and Lorraine cared for him through some of his most difficult hours all Sun night. His eldest, Phil, visited often and handled all the legal paperwork.
Dale’s father took his last few breaths while Dale was reading Revelation 21 and John 11 to him from his father’s big study Bible. Dad is now not only with Jesus; he is also with his beloved wife and Dale’s mother, Louise Little. In the almost five years since Dale’s mother died, his father has never stopped asking for her.
Dale’s father was from the Dawson Creek area of northern British Columbia (“Mile Zero” Alaska Highway) and his mother from the town of Peace River in northern Alberta. They met while students at Peace River Bible Institute in Alberta. In 1949 dad began his missionary career as part of the “CIM 49ers,” the last group of new missionaries to enter China with the China Inland Mission. Mom had begun her CIM missionary career in 1947. She was the first CIM missionary educated at PRBI. They were married in Hong Kong in 1951 after escaping from house arrest in their respective Chinese cities, an incarceration forced upon missionaries in China by the Communist government.
In 1953 Dale’s parents began their ministry in Japan with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, the newly renamed CIM. After Japanese language study in Karuizawa, Nagano-ken, they led the church planting team at Hachinohe Evangelical Church (八戸福音キリスト教会) in Aomori-ken and then became the house parents of the OMF Chefoo school for missionary children in Sendai, Miyagi-ken. In 1965 they transferred to the Evangelical Free Church mission and moved from the Tohoku region of Japan to the Kansai. They were the founding church planters of Christ Community Church (クライストコミュニティ) in the Kobe city area of Hyogo-ken. During his final four years in Japan Dale’s father served in Kyoto as the field leader for the EFC mission in Japan.
After returning to Canada in 1975 for mom’s health reasons, dad became the first executive director of the EFC of Canada Mission, retiring in 1989. Dad’s life work as a missionary and missionary statesman spanned 40 years. Arvid Olson notes in his book "The Historical Development of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Missions" that dad was the "Father of Canadian Free Church Missions'' (p. 57). (More about Dale’s parents here.)
Dad’s Celebration of Life, followed by a graveside service, will be held at 1PM on Wed Feb 15 at Victory Memorial Park Funeral Centre in Surrey BC Canada. Pastors Steve Doerksen of White Rock Community Church and Ken Klassen of Evergreen Baptist Campus of Care will lead the services.
In early January we started out in Maine on the east coast and ended up in Washington state on the west coast, visiting supporting churches along the way in Michigan, California, and Oregon. During Sunday morning worship services we have the opportunity to share about our church planting ministry at Tokyo Multicultural Church. The Lord Jesus Christ is building his church!
And on our coast to coast trip we got to visit our three children…each in their own places: Vermont, Missouri, and California. After enjoying Christmas in Maine with them and their spouses/fiancees, it was a special treat to see them again!
Bryan and Jessica met in 2012 at their church (First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester MO) after Bryan began working as an engineer at Boeing in St. Louis. Jessica works as an occupational therapist in the school system.
Over a sixteen month period all three of our children have or are getting married. In May 2016 Kristy gave us a wonderful son-in-law, Matthew Fujiura. Jessica just became our first daughter-in-law. And we are looking forward to adding a second lovely daughter-in-law in August 2017 when Matthew Little marries Victoria Azagoh.
On Sunday December 11 we had another full house at TMC! Worship service brought out 27 adults and 6 children. That is a record number of children on a Sunday morning!…and so Ann is dreaming about launching a TMC Sunday School, perhaps in the fall of 2017.
For several hours 13 children and 17 moms & dads, along with half a dozen TMC helpers, celebrated Christmas. Of the 13 children, 9 came as a result of Ann and Alicia’s “moms and tots” outreach English classes, 1 was from our apartment complex, and 3 were children of TMCers.
The children’s Christmas party included games, singing, Bible story, and snacks. An impressive moment was when all the children waited to eat their home made cookies until they had said a simple prayer that Ann teaches during her children’s English classes.
Several adults heard the Bible-based Christmas story for the first time. Two moms asked Dale, “May I come to TMC on Sundays?”!
Aligning with TMC’s multicultural focus, 4 of the children have at least one parent who is Chinese. And given the 6 Chinese speakers in our morning worship service, we are hoping to launch our Chinese (Mandarin) Department in some fashion in 2017.
Baby Ray seemed right at home, falling asleep in Dale’s arms during the pastoral prayer on Sun Dec 4.
Born to loving parents who are TMC members from Japan and Bangladesh, we know that baby Ray will have many opportunities to be nurtured in the love and obedience of Jesus Christ.
So on our first Thanksgiving gathering in Japanese at TMC on Wed Nov 23, we had 28 people show up (not all pictured). Most were invited by TMCers. Many of them had never been to TMC before. And a number of them were non-Christians.
We enjoyed eating a turkey meal, singing, interacting about what we are thankful for, and listening to a Bible talk about thanks given in Japanese by Duane Dietze. What joy to point people to Jesus Christ at US Thanksgiving time in Tokyo!
But as an alternative to Halloween, on Oct 31 Ann threw a party for TMC’s Moms and Tots outreach English classes that would focus on animals of the Bible’s Noah narrative. The kids and their moms donned monkey masks, had fun playing animal games, learned about Noah and his ark full of animals, played in a model of the ark made from large cardboard boxes, and enjoyed some snacks.
For a first time event at TMC, this was fun! It provided another opportunity to share the Scriptures and develop personal relationships with young moms. Maybe Ann will do it again next year!
Alicia Lim’s home church, Ottawa Chinese Bible Church, sent a team of young people to teach outreach English classes for one week at Soka EFC in late July and early Aug. We had an opportunity to lead them on a prayer walk in Sumida-ku, the area around TMC. The prayer walk ended with a meal at TMC and a time of sharing TMC’s vision.
We do not yet know for certain that this will be the location of TMC#2. But we do want to launch TMC#2 by about 2020, continuing to establish TMC#1 until at least then. TMC’s church planting model for the world’s largest (and livable) megacity is both affordable and reproducible. More on our TMC vision here—scroll down to Phases.