Point 4. How did the returnee develop their faith? Baptism? – continued#2
During the second half of the meeting, there is a call from the people there to, “please come to a different room if you would like to learn the Bible.” A “word” from worker Whenever we get an opportunity, we tell about “Japanese who cannot say no,” to local Christians who are guiding Japanese. Those who are interested will move to that room. Christians whom they meet there invite seekers to worship at their church, or invite them for other meetings to lead them further. If the person has a high level of English proficiency, it is possible to move further, but if the English proficiency is not high enough, that person cannot have a good understanding even if the same actions are taken.
In the US, ministry to international students led by cross-denominational organizations is actively done as well. It is very common that those organizations build friendships and deliver the good news little by little while assisting international students with their reports in English, buying a car or helping them move, on college campus. They also make friends through a party or an event, and offer Bible study for those who have interest. Many churches hold a “Mother-Child gathering.” It is a place where children below preschool age and their mothers are gathered together to have children play together or to exchange information among mothers. Similar to the English lessons mentioned earlier, the Bible and gospel could be shared for in some cases but not others. With this gathering as a starting point, there are quite a lot of ladies who are led to baptism. Yet, if the person does not have much desire to seek for truth, and English proficiency is not so high, in many cases, they may end up just attending the activities. Still, I am thankful if those people are given a heart to want to go to church after their return to Japan, thus we refer them to a church with our wish that “they attend church as long as possible.” When these “seekers” say, “I was attending church outside Japan,” it is helpful if we can find out what kind of meetings he/she attended, what was the expectation of the people who attended the meeting, to what extent he/she heard・understood the A “word” from worker We frequently refer “seekers” who are led by local Christians to churches. In most cases they are led by local Christians rather than himself/herself asking for the information as he/she responds “yes,” when he/she is asked “would you like to go to church after you return to Japan?” by local Christians who are leading the returnee. These local Christians ask us for the information and we provide it. Since there are too many “seekers”who fall under this, we think deeply “how we can connect them to a church.” I think it is a waste that the soul filled with abundant love and service of Christ is completely lost in Japan. I am led to think what is necessary, is it “low-key” ministry.. Rather than delivering a message for ministry as a form of a“ministry meeting,” and inviting people for a commitment, meetings that lead people to come to church and provide them opportunities to have contacts with Christians are needed, such as a bazaar・concert・gospel café. What is surprising for me when I met Japanese who are saved overseas is that significant number of them had never met a Christian in Japan. I think it is meaningful to expand the opportunity to meet with Christians through such “low-key” meeting. Gospel/Bible and what is he/her looking for to attend church in Japan. It will be easier for them to attend if there is any meeting that is similar to what he/she has experienced overseas.
These are the 4 points that help you to find out the experience at church outside Japan and present status of returnees. In the following section, I would like to share my personal comments on returnees and church in Japan from a viewpoint of a person who is involved in Japanese ministry outside Japan.
Point 4. How did the returnee develop their faith? Baptism? – continued.
Churches in Europe and the US are individualistic and place importance on autonomy just like their culture. Service at church seems to be voluntarily in many cases. Therefore there are many Christians who do not serve in church, and it does not make them uncomfortable to be at the church. Even among Christians, there are different personalities and the stance that each church takes on where all these people should serve. When those returnees who have such experiences look at a Japanese church, they may be surprised to see that so many members of the church are involved in service. As Japan is the country where harmony has a high importance , it is often the case that the pastor or leader of the church asks members to be involved in necessary services and those who are asked accept it, and because of the relatively small scale of church, church activity is managed by many people involved at church. How about the case for those who have not reached the point of baptism? In the case of a Japanese church, in general, their activities are similar to that of churches in Japan, therefore it is not so difficult to verify the level of the returnee by finding out what type of meetings he/she attended to what degree, and how much he/she is spiritually led. In case of a local church, there are various meetings and activities for foreigners, so there are many different ways in involving church even if he/she says “I was attending church.”. Sometimes church offers English lessons for foreigners in the local area. For some cases they talk about the Bible prior to or following lessons, but depending on the policy of the church, there are churches that never bring in Christianity. At the churches that are seriously working on ministering to international students, dedicated staff takes care of the international students and holds meetings only for the international students. For example, some churches of Cambridge University in the UK host a meeting starting around 7:00 pm as a form of “coffee bar.” The Christian Union of the university is picking up steam, where the students of Cambridge University also take part in. If Japanese students show up there, there is a chance for the Japanese student to speak with those Cambridge students and become friends. Meeting in the form of “coffee bar,” is in line with the concept of friendship evangelism, it starts with becoming a friend, just like Jesus became our friend, and gradually talking about the good news to learn the Bible together. People can have a free conversation in the setting like a coffee shop during the first half of the meeting. Sometimes a skit that conveys the message of Christianity or music is played.
After going to the prayer retreat, I realized that I’ve been pretending that I was already being 100% spiritually filled (even though I knew that I was spiritually parched and thirsty…).
It’s been a very long time since I was able to let go of real life, pray in silence, focus on God, and be still in my spirit. In my daily life, family takes priority. At times when quick decisions must be made, I actually want to listen to the voice of God and spend quality time with Him. But at the same time, I get caught up in everything. So, it was a great blessing that, in the middle of silent prayer, God very clearly showed me that He was with me every step of the way. While keeping in mind that I was given all these relationships (family, relatives, parents of school children, people involved in childcare services, etc.) so that I might take the love of Chris to them, I was able to reflect on the fact that I may have actually been consumed by these relationships (by the world). I resolved that I want to meditate on Romans 12:1-2 and be still in the presence of God. That I want to live my days in thankfulness of the life given to me and with my heart directed toward God, even if only for a moment.