Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pray for Japan

What's your most important thing? For one of our students it's his Bible. In a country where Christians number less than 1% of the population, this is SUPER cool to hear. Unfortunately, I was not the one to hear the student talk about his Bible, but I was able to rejoice with his teacher Carolyn. We don't know who of our students is Christian or even interested in Christianity. It's easy to assume that none of them are, but this is just me being pessimistic and not believing that God can do big things. Recently I watched a video made by some friends and fellow missionaries from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). They are the LCMS equivalent of the ELCA's J3 program. They are called VYM(ers)--Voluntary Youth Missionaries. I got to know them during my 6 month orientation. Their video reminded me that God is bigger than I give God credit for and is capable of and already busy doing work that I think is impossible. As I was reminded to pray more fervantly for Japan and for the people I see everyday, I wanted to invite you to do the same. Please watch the video and pray! Here are some specific ways you can pray for the people of Luther Gakuin.
Luther:
--Students and Teachers: That they would be changed by the teachings they hear every morning in chapel. For the Christian teachers to live infectious lives worthy of the Gospel and for them to dream and pray big things for this school.
--Missionaries: Please pray that we do not lose sight of why we are here, but instead that we take delight in not only sharing our faith through our interactions with others, but that we pray without ceasing.

The video also encouraged me to rejoice in what I've already seen God doing in Japan. As I complete my first full year in Japan here's a look back on what I've seen of God in this country:
1. The history of Christianity in Japan started LONG before I got here, even before my beloved country (the United States) was settled by Europeans. I'm joining a league of missionaries stretching back to the 1500's.
2. The church that began in the 1500's survived years of persecution, exclusion and war. There are relics of the hidden church in some Buddhist temples in Japan (since this is where persecuted Christians were hidden). There are even some people who still practice Christian worship the way people did when the church was hidden. With as much religious hostility as there is in the world, it always brings tears to my eyes to think that when Christians were being executed in Japan, it was Buddhist monks who protected them. If that isn't God at work, I don't know what is.
3. Today there are many churches in Japan. In my town of Kumamoto there are 5 Lutheran churches alone. It is easy to think that the Church is failing in Japan because only 1% of its people are Christian, but in fact the Church is strong in ministry though it lacks in numbers. I once heard a pastor here say that most of the social services done in Japan are conducted by the Church. Christians in Japan are very active and everyone knows it. The JELC/JELA (Japan Evangelical Lutherans) have two social services centers here in Kumamoto alone. These centers care for people at every stage of life from newborn to elders needing hospice care.
4. Youth ministry is small, but also very strong. Every year a small group of (what we in the States would consider) young adults goes on a mission trip. One of the young ladies who went to India this year on mission was baptized this April and I was there to see her join the community of Christian believers.

These are just a few ways God is and has been working through the Church in Japan. Yet, God was being revealed in Japan long before the first missionaries came, even before there was a Church. So, let us all continue to pray for this country. First giving thanks for what God has done and is still doing. Then asking God to continue to move in this country, to continue to strengthen the Church and answer the call of all who search for God. Please, pray for the missionaries, pray for the church, and pray for the people of Japan.
In the joy of service--Jen