Babienco Missions

Stories and Updates from Michael and Caitlyn's mission service in Japan
-April/May 2024-

Sakura Season and a Short Trip to Yamaguchi

The cherry blossom (or sakura) forecast was wrong this year, but when the sakura trees here in Japan finally bloomed, they were a sight to behold!

Every year, the Japanese population – and any tourist hoping to come to Japan at just the right time – looks forward with eager anticipation to when the sakura trees will burst forth with beautiful pink flowers and usher in the beginning of spring. Caitlyn and I were equally excited, and the beauty that the cherry blossoms brought forth is hard to describe. The landscape was littered with pink trees nearly everywhere you looked; places that had been dull during wintertime were awash with beauty, and suddenly, the warm weather had decided to stick around for longer than a single day.

The field director for our project, CW, recently visited Japan for two weeks. Every AFM project has a field director who helps to make sure things at the project are on track, provides support and help for things needed, and offers new ideas for ministry from someone who has a fresh set of eyes on the project, among many other roles. This visit was a huge blessing for both of us, and we are reminded again of the critical importance of field directors in making every AFM project work and move forward efficiently and wisely. This was C’s first visit to Japan, and it just so happened to coincide with the blooming of the cherry blossoms, which we all thoroughly enjoyed when he was here.
Here are some cherry blossoms we saw in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Along with his visit to us here in the greater Yokohama area, the three of us also took a weekend trip out west to Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Caitlyn and I will be serving long-term in Japan. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. We had to quickly get on a shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka right after classes ended Thursday to make a 4:00 p.m. meeting with the West Japan Conference president in Osaka, located in central Japan. After that meeting, we grabbed some dinner and made our way to the shinkansen to catch a ride all the way to Yamaguchi.
Among the prefecture of about two million people are two very small SDA churches, one in the city of Hofu and another in Shunan, both on the southern side of the prefecture. Our weekend visit was to Shunan, where the Tokuyama SDA Church is located. We spent Friday with the head church elder and his wife, who graciously showed us around the Yamaguchi City area after another church member drove us through beautiful valleys and towns between Yamaguchi City and Shunan. On Sabbath, C preached at the Tokuyama SDA Church, and we enjoyed meeting the church members and getting to know them a little bit. We also spent some time that morning prayer walking in the city. After a busy Sabbath, we headed back to Yokohama early Sunday afternoon.

The trip went very well, and we believe God led and blessed us during our time in Yamaguchi. Time will tell exactly what God has in store out in that area. We hope and pray that we can both be an encouragement and support to the existing churches in Yamaguchi and help start new church plants and worship groups in many different locations.
Seen here are more sakura trees in Yamaguchi Prefecture with mountains off in the distance.
Recent Highlights
Here are some highlights from the last couple of months:
  • Michael told children’s story one Sabbath at the local SDA conference church in Yokohama – in Japanese! Hiroko, our future platinum-missionary worker, helped translate the script beforehand. With a lot of practice, the story seems to have gone well and been a blessing to both kids and adults.
  • We are halfway through the Beginner 5 class now. In consultation with our field director, we have decided to stay in language school through October 25 of this year, allowing us to take all five intermediate classes the school offers. After that, we will move to Yamaguchi prefecture.
  • Caitlyn did go and make homemade udon noodles with the couple from the church we wrote about in our previous newsletter. She had a wonderful time!
We are slowly starting to make other connections here in the Yokohama area with both Adventists and non-Adventists, and we hope and pray that we can be a positive influence here before moving away.
A huge torii gate outside of a Shinto worship area flanked by sakura trees.
Praises & Prayer Requests
  • We are grateful for a successful trip to Yamaguchi and a good, productive time with our field director.
  • Please continue to pray for our language learning. It is tough, and we are tired, but God is giving us perseverance. We have a one-week break at the end of April. Then, we have another five-month stretch with no breaks. We are specifically praying for more ways to learn and practice outside of class.
  • We continue to make local friends, and we ask for prayers for ways to be a witness to them.
We would love to hear back from you. You can email us at adventure@shoesatthedoor.net. We are happy to pray for any prayer requests you might have, so please feel free to send them our way.

Thank you so much for your support!
Michael & Caitlyn Babienco
Career Missionaries
Adventist Frontier Missions