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October-November 2023

Forging Ahead


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God brings hopelessly dead things back to life...


New Life, Same Building

By Kate Speer


Miharashidai Chapel officially launched at Christmas 1998, led by my parents Donnie and Ruth McDonald. I was nine years old. We lived only a few streets from the church in a neighborhood with many young families. To our delight, a handful of our new friends began attending our services.

New church plants require creative methods, which I witnessed firsthand. To lead the singing and free her hands to do motions, my mom pre-recorded accompaniments to our Sunday School songs on her thrifted electric piano, even including pauses between the songs. God blessed her efforts, and Sunday School became the thriving backbone of the church. I have nothing but fond memories of all the meals, laughter, and music shared in that one-room storefront.

When my family relocated to the Tokyo area, the pastoral baton passed to Nathan Snow. He and his family faithfully served at the church until a Japanese pastor stepped in to lead. Under Sasaki Sensei’s leadership, the church experienced periods of both growth and turmoil. As attendance grew, so did discord, as is often the case. Members began to leave due to interpersonal conflict.
By the late 2010s, Miharashidai Chapel’s once energetic congregational music turned quiet as its young accompanist moved away to college. When COVID hit in 2020, attendance dwindled down to three people, and eventually, to just one. Sasaki Sensei felt led to move elsewhere, leaving Doug Bishop and his family to navigate a turbulent and lonely season. When the Bishops moved stateside for their scheduled furlough, the doors of the church finally closed.

Around this time, my husband and I heard the Bishops share their hearts, including a sentence God used to change the direction of our lives. Doug said, “We haven’t had any music in the church in over three years.” My musician’s heart was heavy. Daniel and I felt God leading us back to Hokkaido, a place in need of much encouragement.

Today, Miharashidai Chapel has an entire team assembled: Doug and Miriam Bishop, Daniel and me, and two interns, Taylor Pate and Hannah Goucher. We also have a “built-in” youth group comprised of our four children and the Bishop’s seven.

And we are no longer the Miharashidai Chapel. The church has been renamed New Life Church. With our God, the closed doors of a church (or the death of our Savior) do not mean the end. God does not simply take old things and make them new; He brings hopelessly dead things back to life.

We are praying this for the church, of course, but more for the people who will be led there. May God bring hope to many! Through Doug’s preaching of the Word. Through Daniel’s guitar playing. Through Miriam, Taylor, and Hannah’s work with the children. And through all 11 MKs and the incredible energy they bring. May He give New Life to all who hear as I sing and play my mom’s thrifted piano God used to bless many people almost 30 years ago.


About the Author: Kate and Daniel Speer are career missionaries to Japan. Learn more:


©2023 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists