Waiting For Green…

Well, it’s been many months since we’ve posted here. The cold winter on top of Mt. Akagi has come and gone. It’s time to open things up again and get ready for the 2012 season! Hope we can keep you up to date on news from ABC over the next few weeks and months.

In fact… I’ve just returned from our Akagi Bible Camp where we spent a few hours in the rain planting grass seed. Last October we were finally able to tear down the oldest section of the camp – which we had been hoping to do for a long time. Yesterday a few of us were finally able to gather up at the camp to start some cleaning and preparation for the summer season (campers don’t actually start coming until the end of July since that’s when kids get out of school for summer vacation). Although we have a couple more short work camps planned in July we wanted to get some grass seed planted now in the big open muddy area left after the building was torn down.

I’ll be honest…the poor weather was pretty discouraging in terms of opening up our old, rather moldy camping facility. Impossible to get things dried out and aired out. Yet, in terms of planting grass seed it may just have been ideal. We’ll see.  Hopefully I can get back up there in the next couple weeks and see if the brown has turned to green.

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Demolition Completed…

Here’s a quick video for a final report on the demolition. We got back up to the camp on the afternoon of Oct. 17 and stayed until around noon on the 18th. It was great weather and the fall colors continued to be inspiring. We were able to trim some trees, get a few other odd jobs done, and sign off on the demolition project with the Sato Construction Company. They finished on the 18th and we were really pleased with the good job they did. It’s both a bit sad to have that oldest building gone (the Lord gave us almost 50 years of use out of it!) but also exciting to contemplate some new things we can do with that space. Thanks for your continuing prayers for ABC!  (reported by Tim Johnson)

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Saying goodbye to the “Kyu-kan”

The “kyu-kan” (meaning the “old” or “former” building) is the name we use to describe the oldest building on the ABC site. In reality it was connected to the “hon-kan” or “main building” by a hallway and set of stairs, which in turn is connected to the “shin-kan” or “new building” by way of a covered walkway on both first and second floors. I’m not sure who started this way of naming and referring to the different buildings but it has been in use ever since I was a child. In reality ALL the buildings are old. In fact, the “kyu-kan” was old when we purchased the camp in the early 60’s. And while we keep remodeling and trying to repair portions of the camp, it was time to say goodbye to this oldest building.

A couple years ago “tearing down the Kyu-kan” was actually part of a project that we had received offerings for from many campers at our Covenant Camps in North America. We’re a little behind schedule but are finally moving ahead. Tearing this portion down will allow us to open up a bit more space on our land for other uses as well as to move forward in “beautifying” our site a bit.

Last Friday (Oct. 14th) I made a quick trip up to the camp from Tokyo to check on the progress. Sato Construction Co. of Shibukawa had been contracted for the demolition. When I got there they were in full swing. In beautiful fall weather they were busy sorting debris and loading trucks. We are told that the work will be done by Monday, the 17th so we look forward to being back up there to witness the completion of this project.

We praise God for His faithfulness in providing this old building to us for all these years. Now we seek God’s continuing guidance as we move forward with new projects. Take a look at this video for a brief visual report:

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Akagi Fall Colors…

On October 14 I  drove up to the camp to check on the progress of the Sato Construction Company – they’re the company we’ve contracted to tear down the oldest section of our camp. See the report and photos here. It was such a beautiful fall day that I couldn’t resist taking some photos and a bit of video. This footage was taken around Kakumanbuchi, the nature preserve near the camp and also I shot a bit over by Onuma, the main crater lake up near Akagi Bible Camp. Just my cell phone, so it’s not the best quality but it’s good enough to see how beautiful the whole area is at this time of year. Hope you enjoy this brief video.

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A Surprise Visit…

As well as our own Covenant camps, ABC hosted three other groups in August. A church from the Tokyo area came up and enjoyed our facilities for a family camp. Another Evangelical Free church in the Saitama area brought 30 elementary-aged children for a wonderful camp. Finally, a denomination that has several churches in the Gunma area held a camp at ABC for about 30 of their college-ministry group. In each case, we experienced God’s strength and help as we provided delicious meals and helped around the edges with their programming needs…. and it appears that these campers had a really great time at Akagi Bible Camp as well. Thank you Lord!

We also had a surprise visit from Ken and Mie Tsuruki and their son Towa. Ken Tsuruki served as our camp manager for two years from April of 2008 until March of 2010. They came up to Mt. Akagi with Mie’s parents just to look around, see the area again, and stop in to take a peek at what was going on at ABC. It was fun to spend a couple hours together.

Andrea Johnson with Ken and Mie Tsuruki. (Hannah Park, Towa Tsuruki, and Sky Johnson in front…)

It just so happened that when Tsurukis arrived at the camp Pastor Kogure, another former manager, and his daughter Akari were also visiting. Here Towa gets reacquainted with his good friend Akari after almost 2 years.

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Young Family Camp

On August 12-14 we held a camp at Akagi for young families. This was a bit of an experiment. Once young people get married and have children it seems to get harder and harder for them to find the time or money to get together at camp. About 20 folks gathered at ABC for this camp…. about half of them were “former” campers of some kind, and about half the participants were completely new to ABC. Babysitters were provided to take care of about 10 small children so the parents could spend time together and explore some of the themes of being a Christian couple and a Christian family. Pastor Makoto Hiyoshi (the temporary part-time director of ABC) along with his wife Kinko, were the leaders for this camp. I don’t have many good photos of my own but when I get some more I will try to post them here. We will be doing this camp again next summer and there was a very good response from those who came.

The faces are very small and it’s hard to see folks but here’s a group photo taken during one of the outdoor lunches.

Three of the “younger helpers” in the kitchen for this camp: Towa Tsuruki (who was visiting with his parents and grandparents), Sky Johnson, and Hannah Park.

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Jr. / Sr. High Campers Arrive!

On August 3-6 we had our Jr. / Sr. High Camp at ABC. Pastor Nagasawa (a 20-something pastor from Hokkaido came with his wife – pictured in the front in center) and spoke about the topic of “worship from our heart”. It was a great 4 days together! We hope to get a video put together soon but for right now you can take a look at a few photos. The kids divided up into groups and practiced leading the rest of the campers in a song that they each prepared. On the final night they dressed up in yukata (summer kimono) and jinbei (a Japanese style shorts and top that men wear) that are often worn at summer festivals and worshipped together with great joy. It was inspiring to see them dancing around and enjoying praising the Lord together.

The chapel, set up for worship band practice…

Pastor Nagasawa, speaking to the young people on the final evening.

Listening to each others’ performances…

What do you think of when you hear “BBQ”? In Japan that means fried noodles, various meats, and lots of vegetables all stir fried on large “teppan” or steel trays over the fire.

Wow! Really?   Squash, potatos, onions, mushrooms, eggplants, and wieners. Yummy!

Throw in some green peppers, pork, and chicken…. and then ladle some delicious BBQ sauce over all of it after you’ve cooked it up…. fantastic!

For dessert, we bake bread dough, stretched over bamboo poles over the hot coals. When it is baked golden brown, you take it off the stick carefully, and put butter and cinnamon sugar into the opening in the dough. Seriously delicious…

Andrea Johnson and her crew of workers in the kitchen for this week!

Stephanie Linquist and Hannah Park were both volunteers in the kitchen. Stephanie was visiting in Japan with her cousins Sam, Lilla & Sky Johnson and helped out at two of our camps. Hannah was helping out at Akagi Bible Camp this summer with her parents Kyoung Ho and Joy Park, recently arrived missionaries from Korea.

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Elementary Camp 2011!

Yes, it’s official….we had a great camp from July 25-28th with almost 40 campers and staff enjoying 4 days on top of Mt. Akagi. Thanks for your prayers. The weather, though not sunny much of the time cooperated enough to allow us to have our outdoor BBQ and other activities. Pastor Ali Lejaian, former captain of the Iranian Olympic soccer team was our special speaker, sharing with the children about the great theme of forgiveness. (He shows up a couple times in the video below….. playing indoor soccer with the children…. and wearing a pink shirt) There were children who decided for the first time to believe in Jesus and some who made the decision to be baptized. We praise God for these miracles of new life. Here’s a 10 minute video that will give you a glimpse into our time together. In the soundtrack are two songs that the children sang and recorded onto a CD while they were at camp. (Scroll down below the video to see a few photos as well.)


Pastor Ali in center with children after an indoor soccer tournament.

Game night in the chapel.

The candlelight cross during our closing evening service together.

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The Campers Are Coming!

Next Monday on July 25th about 40 campers and staff will be coming up the mountain for our first summer camp of the season. It’s an elementary camp and the children are in grades 3-6.

For some final preparation about 16 folks (12 adults and 4 children) worked on July 18 and 19 at ABC. Mostly we did outside yard work, cutting down all the grass and weeds, planting some flowers, fixing a broken fence and making a new walkway through the fence so we can go between the buildings easier. Here’s a look at the mended fence with a new “gate” through to the staff building.

Although they’re pretty tiny in this picture we tried to plant some flowers for the front of the building to add a bit of color and joy.

Sharing a tea time together. Pastor Mokoto Hiyoshi and his wife Kinko provided us with many delicious meals while we worked.

We were so glad to have sunny weather on Monday and get most of the outside work done because it started to pour on us from Tuesday morning. We moved inside for some plumbing repairs and final cleaning of all the rooms.

When we arrived on Sunday night we found mold all over the floor of the chapel. It had been closed up for many days and the moisture had turned into a white mold covering the entire surface.  We were able to wash and dry the floor as well as apply some wax the next morning. Here’s what it looked like when we were done.

In 1997 campers in all of our Covenant Camps across the US and Canada gave an offering so that we could turn this once-storage-room into a beautiful chapel and meeting space. It’s hard to believe that we are starting our 15th summer of using this chapel! Thank you to former ECC campers and thank you Lord for your provision!

A final shot of some of the workers before we headed home (everyone in this photo came from Kanagawa which is about a 3-4 hour drive from the camp.) We are very grateful for their help.

Finally, thanks for praying for the campers that are arriving. We hear that about a third of them are not part of the church or Christian families so it is a special chance to share the gospel with some of them for the first time. Dear Lord, may each of them see Jesus in a new way over the next week.

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June 3-4 Work Camp

Thirteen adults and three children from seven different Covenant churches came to help out at our June 3-4 work camp up at ABC. Most of them made it into the photo above. We were concerned about the possibility of heavy rain but it turned out to be perfect weather…. as you can see from the video below.

We had actually hoped to put in several days of work in April and May but the earthquake and tsunami disasters changed all of that as several of us were involved in making trips north. So we were actually just opening up the camp for the first time – getting water hooked up and flowing again, opening windows to let fresh air in, and cleaning up some of the mess that we had left last October 18th when we tore down a section of the old building (see post from last October).  A retaining wall behind the chapel had been pretty severely damaged from ice and thawing as well as from the earthquake so we were able to complete the rebuilding of about 75% of that wall. The rest will be completed in a couple weeks.

We had some new folks join us for this camp – Kyoungho Park, his wife Joy, and their three daughters Hannah, Yuna, and Kristina came to ABC for their first time. They are recently arrived missionaries from Korea, serving at our Shin-Akitsu Covenant Church in Tokyo. They were a big help and their girls were a big hit!  A quartet of 4 (two couples) from the Hiratsuka Covenant Church participated for the first time in work camp and they were skillful, full of energy and funny to be around. We had a lot of good laughs.

Thanks for praying about our upcoming camping season. There will be 6-7 camps happening from July 25 until the end of August. Our biggest prayer concern (besides getting the buildings in order and cleaned) is to have enough good volunteer help in the kitchen. We are also praying that God will use each camp….that each camper will have an opportunity to see God in a fresh and new way, and to commit their lives to the Lord. (report submitted by Tim Johnson)

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