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A church for every kombini 

Helane Ramsay and her husband Adam have been serving in Japan with CMS since 2014. They are part of a church planting team in Chiba City. 

Japan needs Jesus 

On our days off we’ll occasionally take a drive, usually to the seaside. It’s refreshing to go through the country, but also discouraging. As we drive through village after village, there is always a shrine or temple, but rarely a church. We see beauty, vigour and tradition, but we don’t see much hope of people coming to know Jesus in these towns.   

My family and I are part of a project to plant a church in Chiba City, the capital of Chiba prefecture, neighbouring Tokyo. We are patiently, diligently turning soil, preparing, hoping and praying for gospel growth. We dream of a vibrant, growing church in our city. We want to see new believers keen to share their faith, uninhibited and enabled for the task. 

But beyond Chiba City there are many cities, towns and villages in our prefecture that remain in gospel-poverty. We let our minds run forward to a future where our church is strong enough to send evangelists, teams, and pastors into these provinces to start churches, so that more people have the chance to put their trust in Jesus.  

Chiba is one of 47 Prefectures in Japan. This pattern plays out over most of the country. 

In Japan, convenience stores are everywhere, they’re called kombiniWe dream of a day when there are as many churches as kombiniImagine if it was as easy for a Japanese person to access the gospel as it is to get a cheap meal and some cigarettes? To reach this goal we need thousands more workers to come to Japan. Is God calling you? 

Our story 

We were ordinary university students when we were convicted of the need for the gospel to go to the ends of the earth. We didn’t know how God would use us to reach the nations, but we knew we would need to start preparing. We got married, had kids, did a ministry traineeship, and went to Bible college. During this time God laid Japan on our hearts. 

We heard from missionaries about the great need for the gospel in Japan. To illustrate the need they used a jar of 100 jelly babies. Out of 100, not even one whole jelly baby knew the gospel! How would the rest of the jelly babies hear if nobody went and told them?(Romans 10:14) And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? We began to pray for Japan, and quietly began practicing writing and reading Japanese script. We went on to work with John Evans, a minister who was leaving to church plant in Chiba City.  

After graduating Bible college, we undertook CMS’s cross-cultural training. We were finally ready to leave! 

The learning didn’t end there. Language and cultural learning are ongoing. We are constantly discovering things we’ve missed as we try to reach our local friends. Our training, as well as large helpings of humble pie, have set us in good stead to become like the Japanese to reach the Japanese. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22) 

We may succeed at this church planting venture, or we may not. We trust God’s sovereignty in that. But it is a mammoth task to reach Japan, and we can’t do it ourselves. As the years pass by, we appreciate how much the simple things we do, like reading the Bible regularly with a local Christian friend, impact the future of the Japanese church. 

Could you serve in Japan? 

We’re begging you to join us. If you’re ordained and capable of leading a church plant, we want you to come and do that here. If you’re a mature Christian, capable of reading the Bible with others and lovingly guiding people to Jesus, come and do that here. If you’re a teacher who could educate missionary kids, come and do that here.  

 Japanese people aren’t hardhearted to the gospel, most will simply never get the chance to hear and believe it. You will give up much to come to Japan. It will be hard for loved ones to understand, they’ll question your motives, and possibly your sanity. You will feel foolish often. But you’ll be spurred on by the one who was derided as a fool for our sake. He promises that all who give up mother, brothers, sisters, houses, fields for his sake will gain them. You will gain Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ who will love you, honour the sacrifices you’ve made and do whatever they can to welcome you. 

And when we take those drives in the country, we will grin from ear to ear at every church building that we see that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.  


Do you have a passion for reaching the lost? Are you interested in working with students or church planting? There are many different opportunities to serve in Japan that you can learn about here.