When we talk to people about doing mission work in Japan, it is often met with various kinds of surprise, and we can understand that reaction. Japan is, after all, very far away. It also has a completely different language, different culture, different food, and so on. There are surely simpler places to move our family. Many people wonder what would convince us of the need to go to a place so far from home.
The simple answer is: we believe in the mission and we love the people.
In Ephesians 1, Paul tells us of all the incredible blessings we have through Jesus Christ. He tells us we were chosen before the foundation of the world, adopted as sons, forgiven of our trespasses, and much else besides. The mission of the church is to invite the world into these blessings through Jesus. Through Jesus, those who put their faith in him are lavished in his riches, because Jesus came to share his riches with us (Eph. 1:7-8; 2 Cor. 8:9). In the U.S., even as we have our share of wickedness, we have nevertheless been spiritually rich in many ways. We have many people who fear God and want to follow Jesus. Japan has not been so fortunate. Much like we feel we should share our material blessings with others, we also believe we should share our spiritual blessings with others, if they will accept it. That is the church’s mission and our mission to Japan.
Of course, there are many places where that need is present, so again – why Japan? That’s where the second part of the answer comes in – we love the people. We could go on and on about all the people we have come to know and love. We were blessed in our time to see three people become Christians – Tomomi-san, Yukusue-san, and Nao-san. Sara and I had various involvements with all three of these people, watering what others had planted while God gave the increase. In particular with Nao-san, I (Leslie) had the privilege and joy of personally baptizing her, and Sara had a great influence in her decision to be baptized. To see these people come to know Jesus and become a child of God is one of the greatest blessings we have known. Yet, we have so many others whom we would like to see join in on these riches! Our good friends, the Kawakamis, have come to worship many times, and we have had many important spiritual discussions with them. We know they are interested, but there are obstacles as well. We think of our friend Tadahisa, whose mother is a Christian at Matsudo. We think of all the kids our children have made friends with, many whom have come to youth events and heard about Jesus. We think of Luna-chan in particular, who often came to our house because she was hungry or cold with her little brother, and we know she is not alone in the need of loving adults to influence her future for God’s glory. We think of these and so many others who we care deeply about, and we want to see them enjoy the spiritual blessings God gives in Jesus. We love these people, and that love is deeply motivating for us.
Of course, we can’t guarantee who and who will not receive the free gift God offers in Jesus. But we won’t know unless we go and share the good news that these riches are available. That is why we believe in the mission to Japan, and why we are prepared to return.
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