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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

Confused in Christ: Introducing the Momose Family

Hello again from sunny California! For those who don't know, we have been fundraising since September 2019 in order to start our second phase of ministry. Mark has been called as one of the pastors of Kaihin Makuhari Megumi Church and has been approved as a new MTW Team Leader. Please see this brochure for an overview of what we hope to do. Here also is a brief 5 minute video.

It is my great honor to introduce the Momose Family (the picture above). When people here the Team's Goals, I get these looks of: "This sounds great and all, but how are you going to pastor a church AND plant a church at the same time?!" And the simple answer is: I won't be, thanks to the Momoses! Josiah Momose is one of the very few young pastoral candidates in the Presbyterian Church of Japan--but he is no ordinary candidate. Josiah and I are both 'third cultural' kids who grew up in Japan, but we are definitely different in gifting and personality. Let's say I'm the loud, verbose, disorganized vision guy, and he's the humble, concise, precise, faithful, hard-working, 'execution' guy who keeps me on the straight and narrow :) Not only do I deeply respect (and maybe covet!) Josiah's particular gifting, without a shadow of a doubt and a bit of exaggeration, I can say that Josiah is more bilingual, humble, and godly than I am. It was an honor to have him join our team and also am glad he will co-labor with me under Hirohashi-sensei this coming October. If you did not know, during the course of this year, the Bocanegras have been fundraising not only for our own salary and general ministry costs, but also the majority of the salary of the Momoses. Thanks to all of you, we have fundraised a large part of the Momose salary! Please reply to me directly if you are interested in partnering with the Momoses. ----------------------------------------------- I, Josiah Momose, was born north of Osaka, Japan to missionary parents from Pennsylvania. My father worked with a team of church planters planting bilingual congregations of a non-denominational church around the Kansai region (from which Hirohashi-sensei of KMGC hails). As a missionary kid, I knew many Bible stories but actually recognized my failure to meet God's holy standard and called on the name of the Lord Jesus when I was about nine years old. Perhaps the greatest influence my parents had on me was that they gave me Bibles and encouraged me to read and study them (and modeled that practice) as I grew. The conviction that God's Word is truth and vital for my soul nurtured my interest and increasing delight in Scripture. Through my teen years, as a Japanese American living in Japan, I felt confused about my cultural and ethnic identity. Relatedly and more importantly, I struggled with pride, usually in the form of perfectionism, difficulty to forgive, a sense of failure and worthlessness, and judgmental attitudes. The Lord used my college experience in the United States to teach and shape me about these important matters. During my undergraduate career, I was able to recognize strengths and weaknesses to both American and Japanese culture, and seek to learn from both. A teacher reminded me that every culture has elements bolstered by the Gospel and others challenged by it. I could be a "confused" person so long as my key identity in Christ and God's church (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Pet. 1:1). The most profound change I underwent during college was in my understanding of the Gospel and God's grace. I learned or relearned truths such as imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believing sinner and the total sufficiency of His work for His people, as well as salvation by grace alone ("Calvinistic/Reformed soteriology"). I finally was able to accept more and more in my heart that I would always and only be standing before the Father, acquitted, accepted, and adopted "in Christ." I also started to realize that becoming more holy in living is part and parcel with being justified and adopted, not the grounds for God's acceptance of me after I had been "saved by faith" to enter His family. These theological "Aha moments" began to revolutionize my struggles over guilt, forgiveness, and accepting others. I am still often far from living out perfectly the doctrines I began learning then, but by God's grace, able to return to them and live confident of His renewed mercies each day. Meanwhile, I also recognized the calling God gave me during my college years. Pieces of "internal call" and "external call" converged, and I devoted myself to preparing to share God's Word with people in Japan for the building up of Christ's bride unto God's glory. A pivotal decision for me was deciding to work in a Japanese company environment between undergraduate and seminary studies. Many Japanese friends told me during my last year or so of college, when I shared my new sense of calling to pastoral ministry, not to go directly to seminary after college. They tried to convince me that if I wanted to understand and minister to Japanese people, especially the Japanese men (who are so underrepresented in Japanese churches), I should get out of the books and live their life for a while first. I hesitated at first but chose to take their advice. God gave me a position at a patent law firm, and I joined the throngs on the trains in the rat race of Osaka City. I learned better the mindsets and desires of Japanese peers and elders, learned more Japanese, and saved money for seminary while there. This trying time helped me become more comfortable in Japan but also aware of the grave need for the message of the Gospel even more. It also gave me time to serve at my home church and consider seminaries. I eventually went to Westminster Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia. One summer break halfway through seminary, I had an internship at the church where I serve now and met my wife-to-be (also a mixed-culture person). The next summer, we married. In the winter following that, when seminary was nearly over, I started having conversations with Mark Bocanegra (whom I had not yet met in person) on Covenant Theology in relation to infant baptism, a sticking point for me as I reflected on applied theology. Four months after graduating from seminary, I started to intern for two years at the church where the Bocanegras were. I co-labored with Mark for about one year there, and we felt we could stand shoulder to shoulder and complement each other's giftings in ministry. Partway through my internship, I came to hold to the covenantal infant baptism position and began to take the examinations necessary to seek to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Japan. I want to join the PCJ instead of an American denomination for a number of reasons. First, we expect to live the rest of our lives here and think it will be better for me and the churches in Japan if I am directly associated with the native denomination. Second, this makes it possible long term to have a much lower financial support need from abroad, so we can stay "on the field" more. At the same time, I hope that my "confused" identity will enable me to be a bridge between missionary and native colaborers in Japan. Choosing to join the Kaihin Makuhari Team with the Bocanegras is a big step for me and my family. My wife and I are looking forward to work together with this team and learn from it as well as the session of Kaihin Makuhari Grace Church. I am excited for the opportunity to prepare on the job for pastoral ministry, church planting, and training more workers for the harvest. I am raising support for this in addition to what the rest of the Stateside Makuhari Team has raised, and am about $200 short of our goal. Please pray for us that God would provide according to His will and that we would walk faithfully and humbly in the strength He provides, standing firmly in Jesus Christ.

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