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From the Editor
“Dear Readers, it is the beautiful season of the year in Japan with a bunch of cherry blossoms (Sakura). Lately it has started raining but it is still nice to see fallen flowers. God sees us beautiful and precious. May the Lord bless you. Our colleagues, Peter and Edi Wilson have left for their furlough in March. Here it is what Peter Wilson says his ministry last years.”
For annual conference in May as we gather together for meetings and sharing, pray God would lead us in all the sessions and bless all our missionaries.
Pray that the Membership Department would be prepared and led by His provision and strong intercession.
Pray for Nick Mason and Carla who will have one year furlough in Canada and Brazil, respectively.
Contextualization, written by Peter Wilson
It has often been said that a trust relationship is one of the first requirements for being able to share the gospel meaningfully with a Japanese person. They will not listen to someone they do not trust. So, one of the first things a missionary must do is win the trust of the people they want to witness to. This is, of course, a slow process and results (if a Japanese person actually becoming a Christian should be described as a ‘result’) can take years. So, what can be done to win trust?
I believe that one very basic, but very important, way is to be involved in the local community as much as possible. What things do the local community do together? Wherever you live, once a year, always on a Sunday morning, there will be a time of cutting down weeds. For an hour or two the roads will be full of local people working together. The weeding day can become a cause of tension for Christians wanting to go to church while also feeling the obligation to be a part of their community and likely to feel uncomfortable whatever they choose to do. What was our solution for the church service in this Japanese context? On that one day in the year we shortened the service and started it an hour later. That way people could finish weeding and then go to church. If the weeding was postponed a week because of rain, then we would do the same on the following Sunday.
How many people have become Christians because we have been involved in the local weeding? Probably none at all, but I feel we have given a good impression to the neighbourhood, not ignoring them and not removing ourselves from them. Twice I have been the representative of our group of houses for a year in the local committee; another year I became vice-chairman. Towards the end of that year my fellow vice-chairman came with a friend to the church carol service, something I don’t expect she would have done without getting to know me in two committee meetings every month before then.
In the area where we now live there is a weekly Japanese class. I thought it would be good for me to to go to that, so I went along and discovered that it is run primarily for the benefit of war orphans. These are Japanese children who got left in the care of Chinese parents when their own parents had to flee from China at the end of the Second World War. In the 1980s these war orphans, now in their forties, were allowed to return to Japan with their families. A lot had difficulties learning Japanese and fitting into the culture. Several live in the flats near us. Christmas came a few months after I started going to the class, and Edi and I were asked to take charge of the Christmas party because, “You’re a missionary and you can tell us what Christmas really means.” We were permitted to be open in talking about Jesus’ birth and the meaning of some of the Christmas symbols.
Eleven months later the chairman of the neighbourhood association asked me to lead the annual children’s Christmas party for the area, as he had heard about what we’d done the previous year. We weren’t permitted quite so much freedom that time but still we were able to explain about Jesus’ birth.
Has anyone moved closer to becoming a Christian through all this? Not that we can tell, but we have been able to proclaim something of the truth of the gospel in places where it would otherwise not be heard and, I believe, helped to remove some of the sense of foreignness that many Japanese feel towards the gospel.
This is similar to Christian weddings, which have become the most popular style of wedding ceremony over the last thirty years, to the extent that many Japanese say they are Shinto when they’re born and their parents take them to a Shinto shrine, Christian when they marry, and Buddhist when they die, as almost all funerals are Buddhist.
Through Christian weddings I am able to pray for a new couple near the start of their married life, to preach a short message to a different audience each time, and to make the Christian faith feel a little less faraway to the people who attend. Stories of someone becoming a Christian because of attending a Christian wedding are almost completely unknown, but who knows what the effects are in contributing to the breaking down of some of the barriers in people’s minds towards what they see as the foreign and irrelevant religion called Christianity?
In a country like Japan where only a few people have come to the Lord, and where they come to him very slowly, we aim to do all we can to draw close to the people, identify with them and build a relationship of trust between us, as this is essential for the gospel to be listened to as and when we have the chance to proclaim it.
From the Editor
“Dear Readers, we do apologies for being ‘off the air’ for a few months with a few hiccups, but now we’re happy to say that we are up and running again! Here in Japan we are coming into winter, and soon it will be Christmas again! We would like you to keep praying and supporting us. God Bless you as you read this edition
News and Prayer Points
Membership Department has been approved by WEC Japan and WEC International as well. Then, from now on, all missionaries would have one heart for raising Japanese believers to listen to God’s call and to be God’s labor. Jangbaeg, Peter, Eunjeong and Emily would work well together for all setting up and doing all process step by step.
Japan Congress Evangelism (JCE 6) in Kobe, by Matthew
The September event, held every seven years, drew 2,000 participants from all over Japan to Kobe. At the conference, some present trends and realities emerged. For one, statistics: the overall number of Protestant Christians in Japan still stands at 0.4%, or about 500,000 people, who attend 8,000 churches. (Of this 500,000, only half attend weekly worship.) Rural areas especially remain barren: 1,800 towns lack churches entirely, and many more have few. While Christianity has made progress, the sobering reality is that, in missions-speak, these numbers make Japan the largest unreached nation on earth
Looking around the conference, the number of elderly ministers and laypeople reflects the church’s lack of youth. While exceptions exist, the typical Japanese church is ageing, small (average 30 members), and struggling to reproduce
Amid the struggles, good news exists. The city of Osaka has large, thriving, Japanese-led churches. Osaka lay-Christians, helped perhaps by the more out-going culture, seem to be actively evangelizing and using their gifts. Nagoya contains solid ministries as well, and though I didn’t hear reports on Tokyo churches, one assumes they are doing well. For those wondering about the effect of the Northeast Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, a study revealed that it has resulted in about 40 new churches and “preaching points”, 300 converts, and 250 seekers. This is not as dramatic a breakthrough as hoped, but is encouraging nonetheless
Three factors emerged for renewal of the church in Japan. One, greater unity among the large number of denominational bodies and missions agencies. Two, laypeople need to be mobilized to use their gifts for service and evangelism. Such work tends to be left to (or monopolized by) the pastor, which keeps churches small and outreach at a minimum. Finally, more churches need planting if Christianity in Japan is ever to reach a large scale breakthrough for the gospel. While from a human standpoint these things need to be done, we must also remember the words of the psalmist, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
WEC Japan Membership Department, by Jangbaeg Lim
WEC International has a long history of worldwide mission especially working in the least-reached areas through evangelism and church planting. God has, and still continues to wonderfully use WEC International in many countries to reach people with the gospel of Christ.
One WEC ministry is mobilization for missions. This is one of our core aims characterized by training and recruiting people for mission. Mobilization is a very Biblical concept of long-term mission work. We see in the Bible that Jesus trained His disciples in order to fulfill the task He had given them. In spite of their many mistakes, Jesus continued to teach and train them in preparation for the time He would return to His Father. His disciples would be ready to fulfill their Lord’s commission to preach the Good News to the whole world instead of Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Although we don’t fully know the final days of the many of the disciples’ earthly life except for John, we do find them in many pagan countries boldly proclaiming the Gospel, even to the extent that they would be found amongst the many martyred in the annals of history.
In the book of Acts we find that Paul’s priority was to preach the Gospel in unreached areas, and to train leaders within the churches to effectively enable them to minister and manage the churches. Timothy is one good example of this in the Bible.
WEC’s emphasis is on mobilizing and recruiting new workers, and so the establishment of a mobilization ministry within WEC Japan, with vision and challenge, will provide us with clear goals for our ministry in evangelism and church planting. As missionaries, it is also an opportunity to reaffirm God’s calling to our ministry and life in Japan, enable us to run our race with faith, overcoming many obstacles with fresh vision and hope. Mobilization will take WEC Japan to new and higher levels of ministry beyond our 60-year history of missionary work in Japan.
We need your cooperation and support in order for us to effectively achieve our goal and vision. Through your prayers and support we will be able to renew our present ministries, and to provide new opportunities of ministry for our Japanese brothers and sisters to serve Christ.
WEC Japan Membership Department is a new concept of WEC International’s ministry as a sending base with field ministry, and as such, it will eventually function the same as other WEC sending base ministries in areas of mobilization, training, member care, official work, international networking as a WEC entity.