From Leading to Advising at TMC

Dale is trying to transition from major decision making leadership at TMC to an advisory role. He’s encouraging others to lead TMC’s monthly Leadership Team meetings and Members’ Meetings. Ann has already made the transition in her areas of responsibility. After Dale moves to an advisory role both Dale & Ann would continue to connect with TMC leaders and others for encouragement and coaching. Dale would also continue recruiting and onboarding new leaders.

However, TMC’s current leaders are not quite ready to assume the leadership roles Dale carries. But one couple is interested in coming aboard as full-time English ministries leaders (more in our next letter). So perhaps Dale will be able to make the transition in the near future.

An advisory role at TMC for Dale would give Dale & Ann more time to focus on their Regional Coordinator ministry in Asia (Taipei, Chiang Mai, Manila, Hong Kong). But any missional ministry, whether at TMC or in Asia, is contingent upon their good health and the financial support of their support team in Canada and the US.

40 Years and Counting

1984 pray card
In June 1984 we arrived in Japan to begin our missionary life there under first the Evangelical Free Church of America mission (now ReachGlobal) and then the EFC of Canada mission (now ServeBeyond).

The Lord has been gracious to us through his people and we are thankful. With his help we think we have a few more years to go!

Seminary Teaching in Jun

Dale taught the first half of his modular Contemporary Theology seminary class in Japanese Jun 24-26. The second half will be at the last week of Oct. This is his 22nd year of teaching part-time at Japan Bible Seminary.

He was particularly encouraged by the comment of one his students after his presentation on postmodernism, describing Japan as a soft postmodern culture in which personal relationships are illusive or shallow:

Your description of postmodernism and your classification of Japan as a soft postmodern culture fits me perfectly. Until I became a follower of Christ at the age of 26 I was indeed a soft postmodernist who desperately wanted to develop meaningful personal relationships because I had none. It was only when a Christian church and its people welcomed me into their circle that I was introduced to the love of God and his objective, universal truth.

It seems sometimes theology aligns with reality!…and might move toward doxology.

TMC Visit in Jun

We were at TMC on the Sundays of June 9, 16, and 23, with Dale preaching on June 16. During the weekdays each of us met one-on-one with some members or attenders. David & Lina Cheng are taking the lead in many ways, not only in Chinese ministries. This is the kind of leadership we are nurturing at TMC.

In June David & Lina became Mission Associates with ServeBeyond, seconded under a Memorandum of Understanding with their primary mission agency, SIM in Singapore. You can donate to their account #2-2377 at efcc.ca. The two mission agencies are partnering in mission for planting and establishing TMC.

In the middle of our Tokyo trip Ann returned to Maine to care for her 95 year old mother who had been hospitalized shortly after we arrived in Japan. Her mother was discharged but needed Ann’s help at home. June-July is hectic strawberry season on the family farm, so Ann’s sister, who is mom’s primary caregiver, was grateful that Ann was able to help with mom. We are thankful that mom is now doing much better.

Children are Welcome at TMC

Tokyo Multicultural Church is like a one-room school (remember those?). We meet in one large room (at least by Japan standards) on the first floor of a business building. All TMC activities happen there, including children’s ministries. Some children come to TMC’s twice a month Sunday school and some only come during the worship service that follows (they live further away). The total number is about a dozen. For a few months a play corner was set up at the back of the church for them during the worship service, behind a divider. But hey, legos on hard table tops can be noisy!…as well as the excitement that goes with them. So recently the children’s ministry team has been focusing on how to incorporate the children into the worship service by preparing things for them to do. (In Japan and many Asian countries, the worship service is seen as for adults, not children.) This attempt to welcome the children into TMC worship services seems to be working, at least for the moment. Ann has been coaching the children’s ministry team along in this direction.

Partner Visit - Victory Church in HK

2024_02_26 Victory 15
Victory Church, an EFC of China Hong Kong church, reaches the members, friends, and families of the infamous Triad gang. Their major annual event is an evangelistic banquet attended by hundreds of former gang members and their families, many of whom have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We attended that lively banquet for the first time in February, seeing how the director and his wife are so loved by those they serve.

Partner Visit - Medicare Resources in HK

2024_02_26 Medicare 3
Medicare Resources in Hong Kong is a ServeBeyond partner ministry. They share God’s love with the poor through providing medical care, educational resources, poverty relief, community development, and disaster relief. In February we finally had the opportunity to meet with the leader of this ministry and visit the office. What an important ministry happening out of a small office!…and with such smiling staff.

Church Visit - Hong Kong

2024_02_25 EFCC IC 5
Like Tokyo Multicultural Church, the Evangelical Free Church of China (HK) International Church in Hong Kong serves both nationals and expatriates. Trying to learn from and connect with like-minded churches, we visited the EFCC Int’l Church while in Hong Kong in February. On one Sunday we enjoyed both the English worship service and the lunch that followed. God is scattering people from all over the world to the major cities of Asia, and some of the EFC denominations in Asia are rising to the challenge of including all peoples in their vision of sharing the gospel of Jesus.

Feb-Mar in Asia

From Feb 24 - Mar 5 we traveled on from Tokyo (Narita) to Hong Kong, Macau, and Chiang Mai for visits with ServeBeyond global workers and partners. In HONG KONG we were guests at the annual evangelistic banquet at Victory Church (EFC China) for Triad gang members and their families, attended Sunday worship at the Hong Kong International Free Church, met with the leaders of “Medicare Resources” at their office, and had a lunch with the Overseas Missions Board of the EFC of China. In MACAU we visited with Kevin in his home country (TMC’s part-time associate pastor for Chinese ministries). And in CHIANG MAI, THAILAND we met with ServeBeyond personnel (pic), going over their annual reviews and discussing possibilities for ServeBeyond’s second Asia retreat, this time in Krabi THAILAND (near Phuket) in Oct.

Lord willing, we travel next to Asia in June, this time maybe only to Japan.

TMC Visit in Feb

We were in Tokyo Feb 4 - 23 for in-person coaching and leadership at Tokyo Multicultural Church. Dale led another monthly leadership team meeting (as he normally does but often by zoom) and a congregational meeting. Dale & Ann both met one-on-one with various TMC members and leaders, usually at coffee shops or restaurants. One highlight was a visit by two ladies from EFC of Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada), one of our primary supporting/partner churches.

TMC Additions and Subtractions

For the past few years our focus has been to recruit and onboard new young pastoral/missionary staff for TMC ministries so the church can be established and we can transition out of our overall leadership role. In 2023 the Lord faithfully sent us Bob & Keiko for part-time English ministries and David & Lina for full-time Chinese ministries. Praise the Lord!

But one development over the past few months feels as if it is moving us in the wrong direction: TMC’s Japanese ministers pastor will be moving on from TMC. Dale has always had a good relationship with this pastor who joined TMC in 2019, and that positive connection continued through Dale’s numerous discussions with him about leaving. Since 2023 TMC has only been able to pay him a stipend rather than a salary. So he needed to consider other pastoral options. However, because of the expectation in Japan (not at TMC) that both husband and wife of a Japanese pastoral couple serve the church, he felt his gifts would be better used outside a full-time pastorate. So as of April he will take secular employment and perhaps develop a part-time ministry. May God bless him and his family as he goes!…and TMC as we seek the Lord’s will for leadership in our Japanese ministries.

Christmas 2023 in Maine USA

2023_12_24-2 (1)
We enjoyed 2023 Christmas in Maine USA, hanging out mostly at our house with our children and grandchildren. As Ann likes to say, we now have 9 children: the 3 she gave birth to have each married (=6) and 2 of those units have 3 children (=9).

TMC 2023 Christmas in Tokyo

Christmas 2023 at TMC included a children’s event, potluck, and caroling in the part—in addition to worship services celebrating Advent and Christmas Day.


Ann's Mother's 95th Bday

2023_12_03 MomM bday
Ann’s mother celebrated her 95th birthday in December! That gave us a chance to have a small family gathering at our house in Maine, just down the street. We were able to take a few pics of Mom Maxwell with her four children—an unusual opportunity in the Maxwell (and Bamford, Little) clan!

Sep-Oct in Japan and Asia

Our first trip to Japan in 2023 was in Feb, the second in Jun, and the third from Sep 23 - Oct 21. For the first 10 days of our fall trip we visited Chiang Mai and Singapore as part of our Asia Regional Coordinator role with ServeBeyond. The rest of the time we focused on guiding Tokyo Multicultural Church through leadership transition, Dale meeting one-on-one with pastors and Ann with some of the ladies.

2023_10_17-2 Cheng
The highlight was meeting David & Lina Cheng in-person for the first time. They had arrived with their two children via Hong Kong just a few weeks earlier in order to begin serving as TMC’s full-time Chinese ministries couple. We met with them for orientation to both Tokyo and TMC, as well as to ServeBeyond because they are seconded from SIM Singapore, their sending mission agency. For the next few months we will continue providing them with orientation over zoom a couple times a month. Then after that we will meet with them every 4-6 weeks as we do with most of our ServeBeyond global workers in Asia.

While in Tokyo Dale also preached, led a TMC Members’ Meeting, and finished teaching the last half of his Contemporary Theology modular class this year at Japan Bible Seminary. In addition, TMC held its first children’s blessing event (not to be confused with baby dedication).


Partner Visit - Singapore

2023_10 SIM - 1b
David & Lina, Tokyo Multicultural Church’s new Chinese Ministries full-time pastoral couple are being sent from their home country to Japan through the Singapore branch of the SIM mission agency. In early Oct, Dale & Ann visited the SIM offices in Singapore to meet the folks helping to develop the Memorandum of Understanding between SIM and ServeBeyond for the placement of David & Lina at TMC. In-person talking, laughing, eating, and praying is the best way to get an MOU off the ground!

Global Worker Visit - Chiang Mai, Thailand

In early Oct Dale & Ann visited ServeBeyond global workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

2023_10 Thailand - 6
The recently launched Beautiful Feet Ministries supports the growth of a local church through teaching Bible in the church and sponsoring girls in a nearby student hostel. The gospel is shared while discipleship, outreach, and compassion ministries take place.

2023_10 Thailand - 10
In addition, a bilingual former “missionary kid,” now with ServeBeyond, teaches at a local school where she can be the aroma of Christ.

July in Maine

It was great enjoying some precious summer family time with our children and grandchildren at our house in Maine!


Resources for Teaching Kids

Ann set up a curriculum library at Tokyo Multicultural Church for continuing children’s ministry. Over the years she has collected a number of free resources. One such resource is the free “Bible App For Kids” for parents and teachers. It is available for mobile devices (App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore). Presently there are 41 interactive Bible stories available in 66 languages. Children can listen to the Bible story and follow along with the words. Touching the screen brings entertaining animation. In addition, each story comes with an activity to review the story. More information and printable flashcards and coloring pages can be found at this website: https://bibleappforkids.com/

June in Japan

Our first trip to Japan in 2023 was Feb 21 - Mar 9 (3 wks). It was supposed to be 4 weeks but we had to shorten it because we both came down with covid (light symptoms) a few days before our original departure from the US. More about that trip here.

Our second trip was May 30 - Jun 29 (4 wks). We travelled to Tokyo on weekends from our house in northern Japan where we stayed mid-week. So we were able to be in-person at Tokyo Multicultural Church every Sunday in June. Read More…

Making Salvation Accessible by Clothing the Gospel with Community

“Thinking Theologically About Church Planting” series by Dale Little

Some contemporary evangelical theologians in the English speaking world (e.g., Newbigin, Pinnock, Yong, Tiessen) have proposed the idea that salvation’s parameters are broader than traditionally portrayed by evangelicals. However salvation is better understood as accessible through the proclamation of the gospel, with the resultant birth of churches. Read More…

Church Planting as God’s Missional Re-Creation

“Thinking Theologically About Church Planting” series by Dale Little

It is possible there are fundamental incompatibilities between current Japanese culture and the Church of Jesus Christ birthed in Japan through the gospel. For example, vertically structured Japanese culture seems to exhibit a tendency toward leadership by control. So Japanese pastors naturally tend to lead through control, which makes the pastor central to ministry, rather than leading by empowerment, which emphasizes the significance of lay ministry sourced in spiritual gifting.

This culturally rooted controlling leadership style raises theological questions, not only about personal leadership style, but also about decision making in the local church. Congregationalism is leadership of the many. It might be emerging as the predominant decision making structure among evangelical churches in our postmodern world. It has strong Biblical support. By contrast, Japanese culture tends to push pastors toward leadership of the few or even leadership of the one. Read More…

New Pastoral Couple for TMC English Ministries

2022_11 Bob & Keiko 2
On Apr 23 Dale led a TMC Members’ Meeting by zoom from Maine, in which members voted to call Bob & Keiko as TMC's next part-time, bi-vocational English ministries associate pastoral couple. Bob is from Zambia and Keiko from Japan. Keiko had been a missionary in Zambia but they met in Japan while Bob was studying at Tokyo Christian University. They had been in the candidate process since Dec, meeting several times with the Pastoral Search Team and also with Dale & Ann. We are grateful Bob & Keiko accepted the invitation and look forward to onboarding them.

They will join Moto (Japanese ministries pastor) and Kevin (Chinese ministries associate pastor). Lord willing, David & Lina will soon join TMC via Singapore as Chinese ministries full-time pastoral couple. We are thankful for Jon & Laura’s continuing part-time ministry at TMC until their retirement in a few years.

One More Mary

“Women of the Bible” series by Ann Little

Of all the Marys in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene is mentioned most often. Magdala was a place name, so she was actually the Mary from Magdala. One verse offers an insight as to the reason for her devotion to Jesus: Luke 8:2 “and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out.” Jesus had healed her from a tortuous life controlled by seven demons. I cannot imagine the horror of that kind of life, nor the incredible relief, freedom and joy at being healed. No wonder we see her faithfully following after Jesus. Read More…

TMC 10th Anniversary

On Easter Sunday Apr 9 TMC celebrated its 10th anniversary! We were back in Maine by then so sent a bilingual English-Japanese video greeting, recalling the early years of launching TMC in our Tokyo apartment complex.

Toward a Theology of Ecclesial Mission

Summary of paper Dale presented at the Church Planting Theology Conference in March 2023 at St. John’s College, Durham University Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research (UK).

Books and articles that deal with church planting are common, but seem short on theological considerations about church planting. In general, church planting literature seems to predominantly emphasize the pragmatics of church planting such as strategies, case studies, goal setting, demographic surveys, leadership styles, cultural insights, etc. Now, this is helpful and appreciated by church planters like myself. But it would also be beneficial to see more of a focus on theological aspects of church planting. Even publications on theology of mission seem to give little attention to church planting.

Despite this apparent lack of theological reflection about church planting in the literature, implementation of church planting seems to remain a priority for cross-cultural evangelical missionaries and mission agencies as well as for in-country evangelical denominations. Given this situation, an attempt to place church planting in theological context might be a timely reminder that church planting is ultimately rooted in a theological framework.

The purpose of this paper is to suggest a hypothetical book that attempts to present church planting from a theological perspective, drawing from the fields of biblical theology, systematic theology, and missiology. Read More…

Academic Paper - God’s Ecclesial Mission

2023_03_24 UK
On Mar 21 Dale read a paper in England at Cranmer Hall’s Church Planting Theology Conference (Durham Univ.) titled “Thinking Theologically about Church Planting—God’s Ecclesial Mission and Ours.” Perhaps his paper will appear in a follow-up publication from the conference.

After the conference we enjoyed a week in Scotland, chasing down family roots and friends/relatives.

TMC Budget Reduced

2016-10 (1)
On Mar 5 Dale led a Members’ Meeting in-person at TMC in which it was decided to reduce the budget in order to become less dependent on subsidies and help achieve financial stability. Tokyo’s covid restrictions over the past few years have made it financially difficult for the church. TMC’s pastors who need financial support now receive a stipend instead of a salary.

TMC Baptism

On Feb 26 Dale baptized a young TMC lady from South Africa. For preparation Ann & Dale had zoomed with her 5 times. Her testimony of God’s faithfulness was so encouraging! It was also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with our primary partner church on the west side of Tokyo where we held the baptism, Tokyo Musashino EFC or Musashino Chapel Center, and where we pastored 2008-2010.

TMC Sunday School Restarted

During the fall months of 2022, before moving out of our Tokyo apartment in Dec, Ann had been recruiting a TMC children’s ministry team. In Jan 2023 they were able to re-start a twice month TMC Sunday school. She continues to provide coaching and curriculum for the new team, including bringing Easter resources in our suitcases on our Feb 2023 trip to Tokyo.