As we get to the end of our time here, the blogs are being combined into one. That’s kind of how the days feel as well. One benefit of being here short term is that we will get time to reflect on what God was having us do in Japan. We started this process together by looking in our OMF books at some of the reflection questions.
I was thinking about the parable of the Sower and the four different kinds of soils. Lots have people have talked about how hard and long term ministry in Japan is. In our short time here we have seen a lot of positive things happen, and met people who are quite positive about the church and the gospel. But it is also clear that it is very difficult for the gospel to take deep roots here. Whether that be because of spiritual warfare (soil 1), shallowness of belief (soil 2), or the concerns of the surrounding people (soil 3), the need for prayer that God’s word would find good soil is great.
Afterwards we ran the English adventure again for older kids (with a few more games and challenges). Of the children that came, many of them were new to the church and they had a great time. The feedback we received at the end was very positive and the children’s workers hoped to implement some of the good things into their Sunday Schools and Christian schools. We introduced that by performing the same songs at Sunday school and the kids that had been a couple of times helped those who hadn’t.
On Saturday afternoon we were packed up and shipped out to our host families. Because the church had never had an overseas team before, many families were a bit unsure about what hosting team members would be like. We were hosted for one night as a bit of a trial. Thankfully everything seemed to go pretty well, and good conversations were had by all. I had a much needed afternoon nap, and Luke was able to interview Takeuchi Sensei for his church history assignment. We were well fed and, as Höhne Sensei says, we’ll be ready to compete in sumo by the end of the week.
After the Sunday morning kids program, we had a “marathon” of a church service. On top of regular activities of singing and reading the word of God, Rachel gave her testimony in Japanese, Höhne Sensei gave the sermon (Naomi translated), we had communion, and the elders and volunteers of the church were commissioned. I think I said previously but in Japan the year starts in April. People start their jobs/university degrees, and so it is a good time to introduce those who will be serving this year.
We then had lunch together and the good conversations continued. At Eifuku-Minami they have the time honoured tradition of embarrassing you in public if it is your birthday soon. Today they had the pleasure of embarrassing church member Keiko and our team member Naomi. Everybody from the Moore College team also shared something they have enjoyed about this trip. As a student minister this year at Sydney Japanese Evangelical Church (part of Narremburn Cammeray Anglican Church) I have appreciated seeing a church in Japan that is committed to the Bible and committed to welcoming people whether for the first time or back again.
The final big activity for us with the church was the Easter Party. Easter in Japan is famous because of the Disney Easter Parade, and so Luke had organised the party around this theme. We had no idea how it would be received, but we were able to be a bit silly in our parade style entrance and that set the mood for the rest of the night. We gave teams a situation, characters and a problem and told them to make up a Disney hero/heroine and a story of how the hero solved it as well as a song. The groups all acted them out and some were quite hilarious. Then Tom Ong gave a talk from Mark about who Jesus is and what he did.
Over dinner we discussed what is similar and different about Disney style stories and the Jesus story. The Japanese people also had a chance to find out a bit more about Australia, and to practice their English. Some of the team left to go upstairs to the night service where Thom gave his testimony and Höhne Sensei gave his talk again. After everything had finished we celebrated Naomi’s birthday and said our final farewells to the church, particularly to Obata Sensei and Takeuchi Sensei and Satoko san. In such a short time we have come to love these members of our extended family that most of us didn’t know before.
We still have a full day here tomorrow which will be taken up by being involved in some big parts of KGK life (O-week for students and commissioning for staff), so it is strange to say goodbye and not leave. But we are also well aware of how quickly time has gone and we will be out of here and back at College before we know it. So in our absence please pray.
- Good soil. Jesus says in good soil the word will produce a crop 30, 60 or even 100 times what was sown. Please pray that this would be a reality in Japan and that gospel ministry will bear much fruit.
- The start of the year. As many people make big life changes at the start of April, please pray that trusting Jesus and living for him above all else would be one of them. Please pray that many Japanese people would know that Easter is about Jesus not Disney.
- The youth/young adults in churches. Apparently university students have the most time out of any group in Japan. The temptation can be to fill that time with activities outside of church, even ministry outside of church (like KGK). Please pray that ministry would be done out of commitment to each other rather than individuals disconnected from church families.