My intention in going to Osaka was to see how they do ministry there and if I could see myself doing ministry in that culture and environment. I got my answer and so much more.
Many churches in Japan, including J-House, target college students and so they were the focus of the missionary team I joined. They do this not only because young adults are more open to Christianity than other groups but they also have the most time on their hands. Grade school students are super busy with clubs or sports on top of their study and adults work long hours and have families to raise. The college students are willing to make time to meet with us. The catch to this is that if they do end up joining the church, they are doing so in a transitional time in their lives. Once they graduate, they often find jobs in other areas and end up leaving J-House. Hopefully they join some other healthy church; that would be the best case scenario for those who relocate.
The team, known as Jesus Soldiers, currently includes five international missionaries. Some are on one to two year long-term assignments while others plan to stay permanently. They, along with my friend Justin (Pastor of Evangelism), visit 3 universities each week. Their approach is different for each one. At Kangaku University, they have the freedom to do whatever they want so they run a small English speaking club called My English Lunch Time (MELT). At Kandai University, they join in on an already established English speaking club. At Kansai Gaidai, a foreign language school, all they can do is try to develop relationships with students during their lunch break. In each case, they try to talk with students and see who is interested in Christianity and checking out J-House. The good thing is that the students are always willing to practice their English with foreigners. On the other hand, in Japan, once you mention the word church, their expression can change from interested to put off.
Come to Evangelize
The Jesus Soldiers I followed were very good at what they do. They can all speak Japanese in addition to English and their native tongue (if it’s not English). They all traveled far to be in Osaka and have given up many months to do this. They clearly came to evangelize. They take every opportunity to speak with whoever is willing. This is not street preaching. Deoni, for example, a man in his 30’s from Indonesia, will thoughtfully engage in conversation with students who happen to be sitting behind him in the cafeteria. I watched with intrigue as he went from talking about Indian food to inviting them to church, all while hurdling over the language barrier.
We’re All on Mission
Can I see myself doing ministry in Japan? Sure… but I’d have to be willing to learn the language, work really hard, travel far to each university and back 3 times a week and organize other events and outings to engage with students throughout the month. Just tagging along with Jesus Soldiers can be exhausting.
Jesus Soldiers know they have to create their own opportunities to evangelize. They work hard for a few meaningful conversations each day. It was not long before I thought to myself, what have I been doing all this time? At home, I can think of so many people I could talk to about my faith and it wouldn’t take a train ride, a long hike and trying to blend in at a school I’m not enrolled in. I certainly wouldn’t need to learn a new language! I don’t have to create opportunities here. I just need the courage of a Jesus Soldier. I need to realize that, as a Christian, I am like a foreigner in my own land. I am on mission just as much as a missionary in Osaka.
So yes, I can see myself living in Japan and doing ministry there (and I’m motivated to do so). I can also see myself doing much more ministry right here at home.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” -Romans 10:14-15