This is a staggering statistic! However, the American Church has been given an incredible platform to interact with these people and reach hearts in Japan without ever leaving the United States.
Every year, international students and professionals from Japan come to the U.S. for a season. While they’re here, the American Church has opportunities to connect with them. Typically, Japanese students are more receptive of the gospel message while they’re in the U.S. than they normally are while living in Japan. At least that’s been the experience of the Japanese Returnee Ministry in Long Beach, CA.
Cecil and his wife Debbie O’Dell have been working with the Japanese Returnee Ministry in Long Beach since 2001. Since then, the California team has grown exponentially. On staff they now have: Junko Saito, Matt Higby, Shutaro Sugawara, Nao and Chiko Makino, Julio and Joanne Marin, and Ken and Sonoka Kuroda. They have all been blessed to see the faith of many Japanese emerge through barbeques, campouts, surfing, Gospel Choir, and college campus activities. On top of that, they get to help these new Japanese believers share their joy in Christ with family and friends when they return to their country.
The team is well aware that the reception of these new believers as they return can be challenging. For this reason, they utilize Christian Partners and other Encompass Global Workers in Japan to receive the Returnees and ensure they are cared for spiritually. Mr. Kuniaki Sano lives in Tokyo and uses his café to receive returnees, disciple them, and train them to do the same. New Encompass Global Workers Matt and Jen Daniels also receive returnees in Osaka. Together it is a team that works from shore to shore seeing God work in amazing ways.
Mai, a Japanese student who attended a highly religious university in Japan, had the opportunity to attend the California State University for a year as an exchange student. Though she was not fully convinced in the religious practices of the Japanese university, she had been praying since turning 13 years old.
The Japanese Returnee Ministry contacted her before she came to the U.S. and helped connect her to their many outreach platforms. She was highly interested in the Japanese Gospel Choir that met in Long Beach. Through the Choir and her interactions with the team, Mai read the Bible and heard about Jesus for the first time.
She read the Gospel of John repeatedly and realized that the person she had been praying to all this time was Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was at work in her heart and it did not take long for her to turn to Jesus. She told the Japanese Returnee Ministry team with boldness that she was now a Christian.
After being baptized and returning to Japan, Mai connected with the new Encompass Global Workers Matt and Jen Daniels. She also connected with other new Christian Returnees. She lives near the city of Osaka where she continues to study and share her passion for Jesus with friends and family.
Today, over 125 million people live in Japan, and it will continue to take both shores of the Pacific to see them reached. Let’s praise God for what He has done so far, and pray for the Japanese Returnee Team as they carry on this exciting mission.
Are there Japanese God has brought to your community? Have you considered inviting them to a barbeque or taking them on a short field trip? Why not ask our team for some practical advice in reaching them!
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More from the October 2016 issue of Within Reach