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Meeting physical and spiritual needs

CMS missionaries Nathan and Maki Clapham have been working with students and their local church in Japan since 2013. Maki is also involved in a local ministry to homeless people in Tokyo. 

Homelessness might not be something that comes to your mind when you think about Japan. Yet, there are those who have fallen through the system and ended up living on the streets. Let me share with you some of the stories of the people who I have come to know. 

The faces of homelessness 

S* is a smallframed man with big eyes. He used to work as an x-ray technician, but he lost his job. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his family. Many homeless people have abusive families or have experienced relationship problems 

In order to receive government support, he is required to give the government his family contacts to show that he has no family able to support him. But he would rather live on the street than have to endure this shame.  

Through the homeless ministry, he became a Christian and was baptised. He attends church on Sundays and helps the homeless ministry while still living on the street. 

M* is a gentle and kind homeless man. He faithfully helps the homeless ministry each week and is respected by the other homeless.  

He works as a day labourer if there is any work available. He receives government support, but most of the money is spent on temporary accommodation, about $27 a day.  

There is no kitchen or bathroom in his tiny bedroom, so he needs to buy food each day. It doesn’t leave him quite enough money to last a month. Commercial rental properties offer much better dealsthe rent is cheaper and includes kitchen and bathroom. But tenants are required to have a stable income to apply.  

United in ministry 

Christians from different churches and denominations help run the ministry to the homeless. Some live far away but support the ministry financially or by sending donations of clothing and essentials. Some helpers gather a day before to prepare bags of food to give out while others help with running the weekly service and the actual distribution. Despite our different backgrounds we are joined by our love for God and his love for people. 

At the bank of the Arakawa River in Tokyo, we hold a church service, starting with hymns and prayer, then the minister gives message from the Bible. After the service, we give thanks and hand out bags of food and lunch. Before COVID we used to provide hot food, but given the number of Coronavirus cases in Japan, we are taking extra precautions, wearing masks, physically distancing and serving packaged lunches. Sometimes we include masks, soap, towels, toothbrushes in the bags as well. At changes in seasons, we also supply donated clothing.  

Each person who comes to the homeless ministry has faced different situations and problems in their lives. We cannot fix all their problems. But we can provide them with food for that day and share the message that Jesus loves them and died for them 

Motivated by God’s love 

Why do we do it? Because we know that, like us, the people we serve are made by God, and God cares for them. By the standards of the world, and particularly Japanese culture, they are unworthy people, scorned and ignored. They are used to being treated that way. Some feel ashamed to go to church.  

But God does not value us because we have good jobs or homes or abilities. He loves us because he made us, and he wants us all to turn to him. Please pray for those who come to the homeless ministry to know there is God who loves them and put their trust in Jesus.   


Pray that homeless men and women in Japan will come to know the love of Jesus and put their trust in him.    

*Names have been removed for privacy reasons.