Our first Sunday in Japan started for the boys with a brisk walk in the rain from Hamadayama Church to Eifuku-Minami Church. Despite getting a little lost along the way, we enjoyed seeing suburban Tokyo life as we walked through the back streets. We made it in time for our team prayer meeting and then joined the Sunday School teachers as we prayed together to prepare. One thing everybody here is keenly aware of is how important and how effective prayer is. So once again, please keep praying for us. It is heard by our Father and appreciated by his people.
Sunday School starts at 9:30. For most classes one student turned up, so with their regular teachers and us they got a very intensive lesson for the hour before church. But children seem to be used to intense learning experiences in Japan. We sung a theme song, and then shared some bible stories, and got to know each other before next week’s all in “fun week” which happens once a month.
The main church service begins an hour later. Families are together and it starts with the Sunday School theme song, followed by some more singing, prayers and Bible reading. Tom Ong shared his story of how he became a Christian in Singapore, and Makito translated. Later we moved upstairs where Naomi translated the sermon for us. It was on Matthew 21:1-11 and about how Jesus is not like other kings who are rich while their people are poor but became poor so that others could be rich. We need to work together as we imitate our Saviour.
After church we met the family who will host us for a night next weekend, and had lunch all together. It was good catching up with Chenny who finished college when this year’s fourth year students started (2014). After lunch there were some celebrations to welcome the team, and for those who couldn’t attend Luke and Naomi’s wedding to celebrate that too.
There was a bit of preparation time after lunch, before we left Höhne-Sensei in the capable hands of the church as we young ones went off to a youth camp in a near-by church. Around 80 students and 20 leaders came. The theme of the camp was about reaching out to the world, so we played a few games and taught a bit about Australia. Thom B gave a talk with some pictures about his church, St Barnabas’ in Fairfield, and how people from all nations come there to hear about Jesus in the Bible.
We had nabe for dinner and got to chat (with varying levels of success) to the year groups on our table. Many kids had come for years, and some leaders came back because of the effect that these camps had on their Christian life. Some of the kids talked about how difficult it can be Christians at school and to go on excursions where all their classmates go to the temple to pray and they will be alone if they don’t. But at the chapel one girl gave a testimony about how camps like this one helped here to meet up with a pastor to read the Bible and move from being 60% sure to 80% sure and now 99% sure but wants to be 200% sure.
We returned home thankful for opportunities for us and for the students to do things like this. But we also left silently because many of the neighbours around the church this camp was at do not like Christians and do not like having a church in their area. It was a sobering reminder of the suspicion that many Christians in Japan are treated with, and why living a godly life is so important to many of the Christians we meet. Christians here really are aware of their position as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), which is great, but also a lot of pressure to put on someone thinking about becoming a Christian. So please keep praying.
The work of Sunday Schools in Japan. The faithful leaders passing on the gospel to the next generation and the kids who hear it and believe it.
Christians in High Schools. There is not a lot of them (few at the same schools), and as with everywhere the pressure to fit in is high. Pray for the camps like the one we went to that they might be helpful for Christians to look back on as they look forward in serving.
Those suspicious of Christians. For soft hearts and opportunities for them to meet with Christians who know and love God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But also pray that Christians would experience grace in what they may see as their failures, and know that he who has BEGUN a good work in them will carry it on to completion.