Specialized Ministry — February 2008
LIVING FOR THE SON IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN
By Ajai Overcash, Misawa, Japan
(Ajai Overcash is married to Bishop Demps Overcash, the Far East Regional Director for the Church of God Ministry to the Military (MTTM). They also pastor Misawa Christian Center in Misawa, Japan.)
Growing up in a very strong Christian home, I never realized there was conflict or fighting in the world. It was not until I got older that I realized there were conflicts and unrest in various countries and in many homes. My parents were very loving and showed affection to each other and to their children. My mother always loved children, not only her own but countless others. Even now at the age of 89, she continues to serve after 60 years of teaching pre-school children. As you can see, love was instilled in my life at a very early age.
When I was five, I gave my life to the Lord. I knew that I wanted to live for Him and serve Him for the rest of my life. My parents were the greatest role models in my life. They daily trained me by their example. Another person who impacted my life was my grandpa, T.J. Looney. He was one of the pioneer ministers in the Church of God. He pastored many churches and preached the gospel until God called him home.
As the years progressed, I was especially drawn to the mission field and always enjoyed meeting missionaries. There was one particular missionary who came to my home church in Kannapolis and shared about the love of God and what He was doing in India. That was when I realized my God-given passion for ministering to lonely, hurting people in foreign lands. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew that He would give me the desire of my heart.
One day, the Lord brought the man of my dreams into my life: Demps Overcash. We married and began our life together. He was in the army and our first home was in Okinawa. We began to see and experience firsthand what those who serve in the military go through; especially in a foreign country. Being overseas sounds exciting! It is! We became very involved in the Church of God Center in Okinawa, a great Ministry to the Military church. We had many wonderful experiences! The people that came into our lives were very special to us and ultimately became “family.” There were also some lonely days when Demps had to be away from home for training or in a military school. Sometimes for military families there are long deployments and months spent apart because of wars and world-wide conflicts. It is in the midst of those difficult times that the Lord shows Himself to be faithful.
After serving six years in the military, Demps answered the call of God to pastor and be in full-time ministry. Our first pastorate was in Colorado Springs, Colorado. God continued to prove Himself faithful. In a few years, we moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, where Demps enrolled and graduated from Lee University.
Those years in Cleveland were bitter-sweet years. We had many joys but we also had great sorrow there. The Lord had blessed us with two wonderful boys, Dana and Brent. For reasons we may never know until we go to glory, the Lord called them home when they both were very young. The Lord was and continues to be our comfort.
Soon afterwards, we received a call from the Ministry to the Military office asking us to go to Misawa, Japan, to pastor and minister to military personnel and their families. We were praying for the Lord to direct us where He wanted us to go. We believe that God opened the door to Japan.
The Ministry to the Military is one of the most rewarding ministries. Usually, those who are in overseas churches have left their mother and father and other family members back home. The “church family” ties become very strong. When we arrived in Misawa, we were welcomed with open arms, and the love that our congregation showed us began a healing in our lonely, empty hearts. We went there to minister to them, but they were used mightily by the Lord to minister to us. The Lord truly showed us the meaning of Psalm 68:6a, “God places the lonely in families.”
After being in Japan for a short time, God gave us a precious gift. He was a three-year-old Japanese child who had been in an orphanage since birth. His name is Cameron Hiroto. He truly is a blessing sent to us from God. The Lord continues to use Cam to heal and restore our joy.
We were privileged to pastor in Misawa for four years; then felt the Lord was calling us back to the states. We moved back to America and pastored in Virginia. We enjoyed those years of ministry and had a wonderful congregation. After being there for almost twelve years, the MTTM office called us and asked us to pray about returning to Japan.
In February of 2000 we answered the call once again to come back to Misawa, Japan, to pastor Misawa Christian Center. One of the greatest blessings of MCC is not only ministering to the military members, but also being an international church. We have had people from various countries and cultures—people from the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, America, various Hispanic countries, European nations, and of course Japan—in our congregation. Each person is very special and unique and we are honored to serve here at MCC.
Six years ago we began a ministry called Heiwa English Language Ministry (Heiwa means peace in Japanese). We are teaching English to Japanese adults. Not only do we offer English conversation, we also teach the Bible and have weekly devotions with our class. They have been very receptive to the gospel. We’ve had two students give their heart to the Lord and we’re believing for all them to receive salvation.
One of the most difficult times in the MTTM churches is when some of our military members are called to deploy to various places of unrest around the world putting them in harm’s way. Even though families know this is probable from time to time, it is never easy. Most of the spouses and children that are left behind are still living in a foreign country. That’s when we as the family of God need to rally around them and try to help them during this very trying time. We, the body of Christ, need to always pray and lift up our military personnel who are stationed all around the world. Many of them grew up in Christian homes; homes that taught them to pray and have faith. Yet others have never known the Lord or what it means to have a praying family supporting them. We need to pray and intercede for God to minister to them and keep them safe from all hurt, harm and danger. We also need to pray for a world-wide revival for each of our military personnel, whether they are active duty, reserve, or civilians working for the Department of Defense.
An additional challenge of this ministry is when the single military members or families get orders to move to another base. This is especially hard when we lose valuable workers, teachers and ministers in the kingdom of God. We have to continually trust the Lord to bring in more laborers for the harvest field. We know that one day we will really be HOME, never to part or shed another tear!
Another part of our ministry is to other MTTM Centers in the Far East. We have the awesome privilege of going to various congregations to worship and see what the Lord is doing in other countries of Asia. We have churches in Okinawa, Korea, Guam, and the Philippines, as well as our Misawa Center in mainland Japan. God is ministering and saving lives in each Center. The Lord is using the MTTM all around the world to proclaim the gospel to those who daily defend our freedoms.
Looking back over my life, I can see the handprints of the Lord that lead me and guided me. When I said “yes” to Jesus as a child, He was calling me to a life of service to Him and to others. I didn’t realize that marrying a man who wore a military uniform would give me many life-changing experiences. Later in our lives, these experiences would ultimately prepare and teach us how to serve others who serve our great nation in the armed forces.
Now that I have lived in Japan for a total of fourteen years, I realize that God has a plan, a process and a purpose for all of our lives. When we are called according to His purpose, He strategically uses all our circumstances and situations for His glory and honor. He has called us to minister to hurting, lonely people here in Japan. We rejoice with each person who has been saved, healed and delivered by His power and His Word.
In every season of my life, God has used music to be a powerful source of inspiration and encouragement. He continually gives me a melody of hope and songs of deliverance.
Through it all, I have realized this truth: Jesus deserves more than my words and my songs. What He really wants is my love, my heart; He wants me. When I give Him my life completely, then He accepts my service to Him.
I have found that when I reach out to others, no matter what religious or cultural background, the greatest gifts that I could impart are those from my heart: gifts of love, compassion, understanding, empathy, tolerance and forgiveness. The most genuine gift is giving a portion of my own life to encourage and build up someone else.
God can turn every trial into a triumph if we will submit completely to His will. He can turn our mourning into dancing if we will daily let His joy be our strength. I am forever grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness and grace in my life. Serving and loving Him as I serve and love others is the most rewarding blessing I could ever receive.
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called . . .”(1 Timothy 6:12).
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you” (John 15:16, Amplified Bible).
I thank God for the MTTM team around the world. We have many “children” and “grandchildren.” We have been blessed to work with wonderful people from various nations and backgrounds. When we all work together in His kingdom, we will reap a mighty harvest of souls for His glory. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK!