Thursday, November 7, 2013


It's been a full fall so far. We've been enjoying settling into life together, and were blessed by a visit from Caitlin's parents at the beginning of October. It was fun to have guests to show around! 

We also spent a day exploring Nara, a historically significant city about a 30 minute train ride away. The original capital of Japan, Nara is home to many important shrines and temples. While it was fun to see the beautiful architecture, it was also sobering to see the crowds coming to pray and worship.

The many deer in Nara are considered temple guardians.

The first weekend in October was Jubilee Kids' Sports Day (Undoukai), a major event in the Japanese school year, even for preschoolers. Caitlin's charges went through six weeks of rehearsals for the Saturday morning of games, races, and dances. She's not sure how much they understood what was going on, but the parents thoroughly enjoyed seeing their children participate in this tradition.

Jubilee Kids International Preschool

Thomas started the fall term at KIUA and has been enjoying helping his students further their English abilities, especially with writing projects for each class.  Last week, he went away with the middle and high schoolers to a camp on the coast of Wakasa Bay for three days. The students went fishing, hiking and made chopsticks inlaid with abalone shells. Although a challenge to harness the students' energy for that length of time, it was fun for him to have a chance to relate with the students outside of class. 

What else has been going on?
  • Caitlin was able to complete the process of transferring her visa.
  • A mother of one of the students at Jubilee Kids accepted Christ!
  • We began attending a Wednesday night Bible study at our church. 
  • Thomas ran in a 8.8 kilometer race in Osaka last weekend (see photo)! 
Thomas did well in his race last weekend!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Pray that we will continue to grow together and be a blessing to each other and to those around us.
  • Pray for the 99% of the Japanese people who do not know God as their Lord and savior.
  • Praise God for new lives being given to him! Pray that the mother at Jubilee Kids who recently became a Christian will grow in her faith, and that the school can be a helpful support for her.
  • Pray for perseverance and progress in language study, as well as opportunities to have meaningful conversations with those around us.
  • Praise God for the opportunities we have to serve him at the schools we teach at. Pray that we will be able to show Christ's love to our students and present a positive attitude each day.
Caitlin and Thomas

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Greeting from Caitlin and Thomas Berney!

It has been quite the summer! Not only did we return to America and make wonderful memories with family friends, we also got married! It was a wonderful trip, and we are so thankful to everyone who made it possible.

We were married in Westminster, California on July 27 (see photo). We were blessed by all of the family and friends that came out to celebrate with us there, and those who joined us for a separate celebration in Oregon in August.

We got married!

We also had a lovely honeymoon driving up the west coast from Los Angeles to Portland. It was a great chance to relax and get to know each other on a new level and we got ready to start this new part of our lived together. We also enjoyed seeing this part of America up close!

At beautiful Crater Lake in Oregon.

We returned to Japan on August 21, and have been spending time getting Caitlin moved into our apartment and finding a rhythm for our life together. Caitlin started teaching the three and four year old class at Jubilee Kids International Preschool this past Monday, and Thomas will return to classes at KIU Academy this Monday. We're excited to be serving God at these schools and to see what this new season brings!

What else has been going on?

  • Caitlin has been in the process of having her visa status changed. There have been a few set backs, but we hope to have it all figured out in the next couple of weeks.
  • We started taking Japanese lessons at the city hall. We're nervous about the extra work involved in studying language again, but excited at the prospect of increasing our ability to communicate.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Praise God for our new life together! Pray that we will grow together and be a blessing to each other and to those around us.
  • Praise God for safe travels! Pray that Caitlin will adjust quickly to her new work environment and that fall classes at KIU will get off to a great start.
  • Pray that Caitlin's visa process will be wrapped up quickly
  • Praise God for the opportunity for language study! Pray that we will rise to the challenge and learn quickly.
Caitlin and Thomas

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


It's been a crazy two months! My sister arrived home from college mid-May (see photo) and we had a wonderful month as family. I spent most of June in Tokyo, finishing up my involvement in my various activities.  While it is exciting to move forward toward my wedding and new opportunities in Kyoto, it was emotional saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, and students. 

My sister, Anneke, and I traveled to Kyoto for a weekend to visit my fiancé and see where I will be living.

Two weeks ago, I took the bullet train to Kyoto to move the rest of my belongings (or at least the amount that will fit in our humble abode) into the apartment Thomas and I will be living in in the fall. It was exciting--and a little surreal--to set up house. 

I flew over to join my family in Michigan last weekend. On the way, I had an over-night stop in Portland and had a lovely visit with Thomas's family. I will be here until mid-July when I will head back to the West Coast--I can't believe the wedding is coming up in just a few weeks (July 27)!

What else has been going on?
  • Thomas has been adjusting to his new classes and the addition of being a home room teacher. In Japan, being in this position means being responsible for the students' achievement and behavior at school. This had been a lot of added pressure for Thomas as he seeks to establish relationships with the students and communicate with parents.
  • Family Life Group met for a special celebration on Mother's Day at a Christian camp ground a few hours from Tokyo. We were excited that most of the families were able to attend and the mothers had a time to be celebrated and enjoy time together.
  • On July 8, I was able to be part of hosting a screening of Exodus Cry's human trafficking documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls in my community. I worked along with a several other local women connected to Not For Sale Japan to hold this showing in a community center. I was also able to help to give a presentation on the situation in Japan after the film to an audience of about 30 guests. There was a great response to the screening and we had an exciting discussion time!

This month, please remember these prayer requests: 

  • Praise God for good closure in Tokyo and the excitement of new opportunities to serve Him in Kyoto! Pray that I will be able to trust his plan and adjust well to the changes that are coming.
  • Praise God for the ministry of Family Life Group, especially the Mother's Day celebration. Pray that this ministry will continue to bring spiritual support to those in it, and that all will grow closer together and to Christ.
  • Praise God for the success of our local Nefarious screening event! Pray that God will move the people who attended to use the information they learned to bring justice to this situation. 
  • Pray for safe travels for family and friends who will be joining us for our wedding at the end of this month, and for safe travels for us as we return to Japan in August.

Monday, May 6, 2013


The new school year has begun! The school year here starts in April, when several Family Life Group families had children enter middle school. They are feeling the stress related to that change. In Japan, middle school often marks the beginning of intense pressure to excel in academics and co-curricular actives, and to master the material necessary to pass the entrance exams into a prestigious high school.

Some of our Family Life Group kids!

Not For Sale Japan published our second newsletter! This is a publication in which we summarize our main activities, advertise our upcoming campaigns, and provide reviews of human trafficking informational material and news stories. I was able to write two short articles, including the cover article  promoting our screening campaign for the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. We hope that the information in our newsletter will facilitate the growth of the anti-human trafficking movement in Japan, where the general public remains unaware of the huge problem right in this country.

What else had been going on? I have been trying my hand at making obentos,  or Japanese boxed lunches (see photo). Although mine are not yet up to par with the creations of those real Japanese make everyday, they sure do taste good!

Some of the obentos I have been attempting.

Thomas and I were blessed to attend the wedding of an American friend, Trey, to Mitsuyo, a Japanese Christian. Because of the size of the church in Japan, many Christians here struggle to find a life partner, and the beginning of every new Christian home is a reason to celebrate! We also had fun having engagement photos (see photo) taken by one of Thomas' coworkers. There are now less than three months until our wedding!

We had lots of fun taking these pictures!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:

  • Praise God for a new start to the new school year! Pray for wisdom and strength for the new middle schoolers and their moms as they make the adjustment into the new school year.
  • Pray that God will continue to build up the anti-human trafficking movement in Japan, and that those who read our newsletter may be motivated to become a part of that movement. Pray also that the hope of the gospel may reach those who are currently being exploited.
  • Praise God for the marriage of Trey and Mitsuyo! Pray that God will guide them as they face the challenges of all newlywed couples, as well as the additional ones brought about by a cross-cultural marriage. 
  • Pray for peace and perseverance as Thomas and I finalize planning for our own wedding. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring is here!!

In Japan, spring is a time of new beginnings for everyone. Not only does the season bring new life as the weather warms and the cherry blossoms bloom, but since Japanese school year runs from April to March, students and teachers prepare for a new year. So students have been busily studying for entrance exams and shops have been full of mothers shopping for school supplies.

Thomas successfully finished his first year of teaching at Kyoto International University Academy and came up to visit for his spring break. We have had a lovely time going on hanami (cherry blossom viewing, see photo) and wedding preparation.

Enjoying grilled squid under the cherry blossom trees.

I was a part of a small local viewing Nefarious. Nefarious is a documentary which depicts slavery in the global sex industry. With the core group generated by this viewing, I and other Not For Sale members in my town, are now in the process of planning a larger, public viewing in June. Our hope is that we can raise awareness in our community about this very real atrocity taking place in our world and right here in Japan, and that through our witness and the message of the redeeming work of the gospel at the end of the film, we will be able to communicate the true solution to all situations of hopelessness.

What else has been going on?
  • At Family Life Group, we celebrated Easter with a pancake breakfast, worship service, egg decoration (see photo), and egg hunt. Many people were able to attend, and it was a wonderful time of celebrating our Savior's resurrection together. We were also blessed that Luke Nagai, the boy with leukemia, was able to come with his family. His body has begun to accept the medication, and doctors say he may be released as early as June.
  • At Kurume Bible Fellowship, the church I attend, two adults and a baby were baptized on Easter morning. 
  • Lewis and Josh, two of the children who attend the Christian Academy in Japan daycare where I work, are preparing to enter Japanese kindergarten next week. They are four and three years old, and do not speak Japanese, so they are a little nervous about their new schools.
  • I received a job offer from Jubilee Kids International Preschool, a Christian preschool structured for non-Christian Japanese students near Kyoto. Pending a successful visa application, I will be starting in September as the teacher for the three and four year old class.

The kids loved decorating Easter eggs!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
    • Pray for a good start to the school year for teachers and students. Please especially remember Thomas as he prepares to begin his second year of teaching, and Lewis and Josh as they transition into Japanese school.
    • Praise God for the opportunity to show Nefarious here in Higashikurume. Pray that our planning will proceed smoothly and that this will be a successful event.
    • Praise God for the healing being done in Luke's body! Pray that he will continue to heal, and that he will be able to leave the hospital permanently as soon as possible.
    • Praise God for the baptisms this Easter! Pray that He will strengthen these new Christians in their faith and use them to bring others to come to know Him.
    • Praise God for the exciting opportunity at Jubilee Kids! Pray that the visa application will go smoothly, that I can be a blessing to the school and the students, and that God will provide the funds necessary for long-term commitment to ministry in Japan.


    Monday, February 11, 2013


    January was made exciting by a massive snow storm. The morning of January 14 was gray, rainy, and freezing as I trudged to the train station. However, when I left the train less than an hour later, the rain had turned to snow--which was actually sticking (snow in Tokyo usually melts on contact). By the afternoon, my parents' work had dismissed everyone early. Unfortunately, the English school I work at was still in session. Although it took me three times as long as on a normal day to get there (trains running slow), I made it to work, and so did most of my students! But my parents still didn't have school the next day, trains continued to run sporadically, and many Tokyoites opted to remain indoors--all because of about three inches of snow.

    The day of the snow "storm" also happened to be Seijinshiki, the Shinto coming-of-age celebration. On the second Monday in January every year, all those Japanese who have turned 20 in the past year don traditional dress and attend a ceremony at a shrine to give thanks and mark their passage into adulthood. This meant that train stations and streets were filled with brightly clad young women and their family members anxiously attempting to  protect expensive hairdos and kimonos from the snow (see photo).

    AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

    What else has been going on?
    1. Not For Sale Japan (NFSJ) held our first screening of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, a film documenting, from a Christian perspective, the global sex industry and its link to human trafficking (see photo).  We had about 50 people attend the event. After the film, I was able to give the English portion of a presentation specifically on human trafficking in Japan. We are planning to show the film at various locations throughout the year.
    2. Noriko, a former member of Family Life Group who we have been praying for, attended one of our worship gatherings! She has been avoiding group members and refusing all  invitations to church, so it is very exciting to see her taking a step back towards Christ.
    3. The Nagai family, whose three-year-old son has leukemia, were all tested for bone marrow compatibility, and two of his sisters are matches! In addition, the doctors discovered that while he is not able to take the medication intravenously, he is able to take it muscularly. So, he is back on medication, and may not need to get a bone marrow transplant at all. 
    Mami-san and I greeting guests at NFSJ's Nefarious event.

    This month, please remember these prayer requests:
    1. Praise God for the success of NFSJ's first screening event! Pray that we will have many more opportunities for similar events, and through them we will spread awareness of the plight of slaves today and God's healing love.
    2. Praise God for his work in Noriko. Pray that she will continue to come to Family Life Group and that she will come to know Christ as her personal savior. 
    3. Pray for health during this flu season. Working with small children has its dangers--I'm currently fighting my third cold of the winter.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Happy New Year!

    A very Happy New Year to you all from Japan! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

    Our Christmas here was great. My sister, Anneke, was able to come home from Calvin College for 2 weeks, and my fiance, Thomas, was with us for 3 weeks. We had a lovely time relaxing and being together, and introducing Thomas to all the Essenburg Christmas traditions.

    We were also able to be a part of several Christmas outreach programs. My family and I baked cookies for two events aimed at introducing non-beleiving Japanese people to the true meaning of Christmas. Both were well attended!

    What else has been going on?

    1. At the Family Life Group Christmas party we shared games, crafts, and goodies, and sat together around the "fire place" (a DVD of a camp fire) to listen to the Christmas story.
    2. Not For Sale Japan is preparing for a showing of the human-trafficking documentary Nefarious later this month.

    This month, please remember these prayer requests:
    1. Praise God for the success of various outreach Christmas programs put on this year! Pray that the message of Christmas would stick with the non-beleivers who heard it this Christmas season, and that it would be a first step in discovering the gospel. 
    2. Pray for growth for Family Life Group this year. Several families that came regularly in past years have not been attending recently. Pray that these new Japanese Christians will make time in their lives for Christian community.
    3. Pray that the showing of Nefarious will be well attended and that those who see it will be motivated to take a stand against human trafficking.