Perseverance in Japan
Posted on: 13th February 2019
CMS missionary Michelle Jackson, serving with husband Brad in Japan, knows that while gospel opportunities abound, genuine belief in Jesus as Saviour is a difficult choice to make
One day Ueda-san was walking past the church as he had done many times. But this day was different. He stopped, he felt drawn to go inside and took a seat in the empty church. There he sat until our minster found him and they started talking about God. Fast forward, and the following year he was baptised. Ueda-san’s conversion was a miracle, a wonderful story of sudden transformation, but it stands in stark contrast to the story of most Christians in Japan. For most, the journey from unbelief to faith takes years and often decades.
Before coming to Japan I worried that there would be limited evangelistic opportunities with few people for me to meet with. My fears were unfounded. There have been a plethora of opportunities to share the gospel and open the Bible with unbelievers.
Over the past decade there have been about twenty women who have at different times been regular attendees of my evangelistic Bible study. Yama-san is typical of many. She attended Bible study for eight years before she moved overseas. She once said “If I wasn’t a wife, a mother or a daughter I would become a Christian.” Mizu-san came for three years before she took up full time employment. After many years Mrs Asa is still coming faithfully.
These women have all reached the point where they believe in God and the Bible as His true word; and they believe Jesus has died for their sins, but because Christianity is seen as foreign and in such sharp contrast to the Japanese culture they struggle to take that final step of surrender. Almost universally, their reluctance stems from the belief that their families will not accept their faith in Christ. They cannot imagine telling their relatives. Kaji-san has shared “If I told my parents I became a Christian I fear the shock may kill them.” They all fear a public confession of faith would be interpreted as betraying their family’s core values, their ancestors and betraying what it is to be Japanese. And so they keep coming to Bible study until they can’t; they keep learning, they keep agreeing with everything, thankful to God for all that He has done for them but unwilling to grab hold of Jesus with both hands.
We may see little gospel fruit in Japan, the work is slow, but that doesn’t mean God is not growing His kingdom. We persevere, trusting God is drawing people to himself, people like Wata-san.
She attended another church for eight years before coming to ours. She joined my women’s Bible study group and it became obvious that she understood the gospel in her head but didn’t feel it in her heart. After two years she left and started attending a different church. The following year I heard that one day while sitting in church the Holy Spirit suddenly convicted her of her sin. She burst out crying and gave her life to Jesus at that very moment. It was very encouraging when the following Christmas she returned to my women’s Bible study to share her testimony.
Why persevere? We persevere because God is building His kingdom in His time. Our prayers do not go unanswered and I believe God is at work in the hearts of all of those women.
Often a Japanese person knows nothing about Christianity and has a deeply embedded world view that is in total contrast to what the Bible teaches. It often feels like they aren’t just starting at zero, they are starting at negative one hundred! So if God in His sovereignty wants to work through me to bring someone from negative one hundred to negative five that is wonderful, and I trust that He will finish this good work.
A high school student recently asked me “Why is there only one God?” The question caught me by surprise. I wanted to answer “There is only one God because there is only one God.” His question came from the perspective he had been taught by his parents and grandparents since he was born. There are gods everywhere. There are ancestors, there are spirits, there are gods in the mountains, rivers, trees and flowers. Before he begins kendo each Sunday he prays to the god of kendo. For someone to move from his position to accepting the one Creator God as revealed in the Bible can only be through the miraculous work of God’s Spirit, and will often occur over a long period of time.
Peter explains the ministry of the apostles as “prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) Our task is the same: to take every opportunity to faithfully proclaim the gospel and pray, pray, pray.
We persevere because this is what God calls us to do. James 5:7 tells us “Be patient, then, brothers until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” Verses 10-11 point to the prophets who faced severe opposition for proclaiming the word of the Lord and didn’t get the see the fruit of their work. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” He continues in verses 13-18 showing how prayer is the essential companion of speaking in the name of the Lord, for “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (v16)
And this is why it is not just us who must persevere in reaching Japan, but you. You journey with us, interceding for these Japanese people without actually meeting them. Does it feel pointless and frustrating sometimes? Yes. However through the power of the gospel and our prayers God is moving people closer to himself. What a miracle! “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20) Worth any sacrifice.
Ministry progress can be slow and frustrating. When you read stories of encouragement from CMS missionaries, write and let them know that you are thanking God, and tell them what you are praying for them.