It is a great encouragement for JCFN to be able to see how returnees walk after returning to Japan, and in particular, see how they answer God’s calling with their strength.
The following is a testimony from a returnee family planting churches in Toyama.
“Planting Churches in Rural Cities is Super Fun!”
Trinity Church Toyama pastor
I got married in March 2015 and started a church plant in Toyama prefecture in April. In spring 2019, we will be having our 4th anniversary.
Currently, in our church there are people from Nigeria, Kenya, Canada, the USA, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, England, Barbados, Australia, Indonesia, and of course Japan.
Every Sunday service in Toyama, we get a taste of “that glorious day.”
Back in 2008, when I was studying abroad in Canada, I had met pastors who were planting churches in Canada, Seattle, Portland, and in the general northwest. I was struck by their zeal and was given the desire to plant churches. The 10 years since then passed in an instant. I’ve learned many things, and am still learning many more. To be blunt, it’s been failure after failure for me. However, every time, God spoke His Word to me and helped me stand back up.
It was halfway through my third year of church planting, and I was listening for God’s plan in Toyama.
I lived a student’s life in Kyoto, Canada, and Nagoya after leaving my home in Hokkaido.
Strangely enough, all the churches I’ve served in everywhere were English and Japanese bilingual churches. So I learned all the good and difficult points of doing church services in two languages. In bilingual services, translation is absolutely essential and the sermon takes twice as long. And for Japanese worship songs, Romaji subtitles, Japanese and English lyrics have to be prepared on Powerpoint.
I had strongly desired to hold simple church services meant for Japanese people once I started the church plant.
And I wanted to share the gospel with all the people in Toyama prefecture.
But my personal wishes were a bit different from what God planned. After about 6 months, God sent English-speaking students and teachers from the USA, Canada, Australia, England, and the Philippines. This was because there were no English church services at all in Toyama at the time. They were searching for a place to worship.
Because my wife and I had lived abroad, we were able to speak everyday English. And they all became very good friends. But we still continued holding Japanese-only services for a few more months. However, even if they didn’t understand Japanese, these young teachers continued coming to church.
Then one day when I was praying, God Himself gave me a chance to give up something I’ve holding onto and not letting go inside of me.
“This church doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to You” I prayed.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. Psalm 127:1-2
My wife was given the same thought. She took upon herself the service of interpreting so that everybody coming to church can worship from their hearts. And so, our bilingual services started in 2016. Once again, even being in Toyama, I witnessed how God watches over everybody that seeks Him.
It’s because we ourselves had been foreigners in churches abroad that we understood what they were going through.
Later, many Japanese people came to church through them. There are even seekers participating in Bible studies right now. We also started English ministries and English Bible studies.
Currently in Toyama prefecture, you can count all the foreign missionaries serving there on your fingers, but I know for sure that God has sent many people already. Japan is a country where the gospel hasn’t been preached yet. And Hokuriku region is one of the harder places yet for evangelizing. But the Lord has a great plan for Hokuriku region.
Let us be a church that exhorts the people here with the gospel, let us be a church that evangelizes.