Time has flown and I will soon be going with OMF to Japan for one year, under a program called ServeAsia. Serve Asia is a short-term missions discipleship programme that seeks to journey with participants towards growth in Christ-likeness and involvement in God’s Kingdom work in East Asia.
As Christians, we are all called to partner in God’s mission and make disciples in all the world, so the question for me was where and in what capacity. I have always been drawn to Japan and Japanese-related things, but it was never mission-motivated. A few years ago, I attended a talk which talked about Christianity in Japan and what God was doing through the tsunami and earthquake. There are very few Christians in Japan. Only 1% of Japanese are Christians, with the average church size of less than 30, and a church of about 100 people considered a mega church. Additionally, the nature of evangelism in Japan often requires that a strong trust relationship be built before the Japanese seriously considers and makes a genuine response to the gospel. Furthermore, many of the traditional and cultural practices are rooted in non-Christian religious beliefs. Being a Christian requires a refusal to observe many of these practices, and is seen as breaking the group harmony that the Japanese value so much. Thus even after hearing the gospel, many Japanese are unwilling to step forward to publically declare their commitment to Christ. Due to these issues and many more, making disciples in Japan is very long and hard work, often taking years before seeing even 1 true follower of Christ. With such a small Christian and Christian worker population, many Japanese have yet to hear the gospel, and more Christian workers are needed to bring the gospel to them! However, in His sovereignty, God was using the tsunami and earthquake to slowly open the hearts of the non-Christians to His gospel, and awakening Japanese churches to the need to evangelize. God is softening this hard ground for the gospel seeds to be sown. God used this talk and the previous two short mission trips to put in me a burden to bring Christ to the Japanese.
Additionally, on hindsight, I see God’s hand in preparing me to work with the Japanese through my study of Japanese and English Linguistics in university, although my initial reasons for doing so were not at all gospel-related. Japanese open up much easier to people who can speak Japanese, and English teaching is a common and effective means to initiate contact and build relationships with them. Furthermore, God further equipped me through allowing me to serve in church, with Singapore Youth for Christ and the university campus bible study group, Regenerate. Thus I decided to offer whatever skills and desires God has given me to serve Him in Japan.
The next question then, is in what capacity – through a secular job, or as a missionary. I have never experienced long-term missions before, and really have no idea of the demands and nature of long-term missions specific to the context of Japan. This brings me to my goals or objectives for going for 1 year to Japan.
1) My chief goal is to glorify God by proclaiming Christ faithfully and making disciples in Japan. This is not just making converts, but spiritually mature Japanese followers of Christ who can then lead others to know and love Christ as well.
2) More practically, I hope to better understand the needs and demands of ministry in Japan.
3) I also hope to ascertain whether God’s plan is for me to continue to minister to the Japanese after my term ends, and if so, whether it is through the capacity of a missionary, or a secular job.
I will be serving with a university students’ ministry known as fmZERO, located in Sapporo, Hokkaido. As mentioned earlier, relationships are very important in the context of missions in Japan. As such, the initial stages of the ministry involves finding creative means to initiate contact and build relationships with the university students, through monthly and small group events, and establishing a strong campus presence. Most excitingly, we will then meet up with interested individuals to study the Bible together!
Additionally, fmZERO believes in strong partnerships with local Christians and Churches and connecting non-Christians and new Christians to local Christians and gospel churches who can then carry on the work and be the community which can help new Christians be rooted and built up in Christ. We also strongly believe in mobilising the Christians and local churches to be more active in evangelism as well.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
Requests As I prepare to leave for Japan on 17 October, here are some thanksgivings and prayer requests.
1) I really really thank God for a very supportive church, and for bringing alongside so many willing partners in the gospel eager to journey with me and support me financially and in prayer. Praise God for providing slightly more than a quarter of my required financial support so that I can now obtain financial clearance to leave for Japan. Pray that God will help me to continue to trust and depend on Him to provide the rest of the financial support required. But I know for sure that God is faithful and will provide!
2) Thank God for also providing my 1 year visa into Japan! Visa application for Japan requires a document known as the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which could have taken up to 3 months to arrive. But despite some difficulties, thank God for a very quick arrival of the COE and consequently visa, thus allowing me to depart as scheduled.
3) Though I know I should not be, I cannot help but feel anxious as I leave the family, friends, and environment that I am comfortable with, and enter a completely new environment. Pray for a safe flight and smooth adjustments to the Japanese culture, language and independent living. Pray that God will help me to depend on Him in full trust and submission, remembering that He goes before me and He is beside me.
4) This is my first time meeting the fmZERO team face to face and working with them. Pray for the humility, unity and love of Christ to be shown within the fmZERO team, and for God’s kingdom purposes, rather than personal agendas, to be the guide and priority in all our decisions and actions.
5) Pray for opportunities to build deeper friendships with the Japanese university students in Sapporo. Pray for discernment to know when to say what, when to bring in my personal testimony/ journey with God, biblical principles, and ultimately bringing in the gospel. Pray also for wisdom to know how to bridge it most relevantly to the listener, and for open hearts to the gospel.
6) Pray that God will continuously turn all our (the fmZERO team) eyes to focus on Him. Even as disappointments and trials may come, may God help us to remember Jesus’ work on the cross, hold on to the certain hope of being with God in heaven, while depending on God’s strength and grace to faithfully continue doing His work of making disciples in Japan.
7) May the Holy Spirit empower me to live a distinctive life as God’s child in Japan, following Jesus’ example and serving God and others in humility. May God be glorified in my suffering, His strength made perfect in my weaknesses, and may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:
first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
“The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17
Even as the term “missionaries” is often used to refer to cross-cultural mission workers, we are all, in some sense, missionaries. May God help us all to continue to live distinctive lives as children of God, growing in holiness and proclaiming the gospel clearly and faithfully wherever God has placed us.