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“Are we willing to do anything so that others might come to faith?”
That’s a scary question!
Imagine how different your life might look if your answer was, “100% yes!” You might find yourself living in a least-reached country like Japan. You might find yourself organizing short-term mission trips to a remote island that only has 4,000 residents. You might find yourself leading an ambitious anime outreach project even though you know nothing about anime.
For Encompass global workers, Ralph and Joan, their answer has been, “100% yes!” and they have found themselves in all of those situations.
They’ve been sharing Jesus with people in Japan for 28 years now. They planted a church in Tokyo several years ago where they disciple Japanese people, facilitate outreach events, host Bible studies, and offer leadership training.
One Japanese pastor who came to one of their regional training seminars had been leading a church on a small island for 40 years. After connecting, he and Ralph decided to start taking teams of short-term missionaries to the island and hosting English immersion camps there. Local kids from the island who attend the camps play games, practice cooking western-style meals, and learn about Jesus.
After facilitating these trips for a number of years, they have seen a number of Japanese kids come to faith. And now some of their parents are even opening up to Christianity too. These camps have had such a positive impact on the community that it has opened doors. Ralph has actually become fishing buddies with the Minister of Education of the island!
Despite Ralph’s success with the camps, Japanese ministry can be discouraging, because Japanese people generally aren’t interested in religion. He shares that one lady was in a Bible study with Joan for 14 years before coming to faith. Inviting people to church doesn’t work, so he wants, instead, to go out and reach people where they are.
As Ralph was thinking about how to reach his Japanese neighbors, God prompted him to utilize anime. Even though Ralph knows nothing about it, he realized how popular anime—a form of animation—is in Japan. He had never heard of anyone using anime for outreach, so Ralph decided to follow the Lord’s leading.
Ralph says, “God said to do it, so I knew he would provide for it.”
God gave Ralph the vision, but creating an anime would be a lot of work. Each second of animation is composed of 12 individual drawings. When Ralph told his supervisor at Encompass about the vision, the response was that he needed to find a professional illustrator who was both Japanese and a Christian, and who was passionate about outreach. He told Ralph that it would be nearly impossible to find someone like that, but God had already connected him with a disciple who happened to be a professional animator and passionate about missions!
A missionary friend of Ralph’s was connected with Cru’s Singapore branch which had been working on the Jesus Film Project. They sat in on one of the Anime Outreach Project’s work meetings and really loved the idea, so they decided to collaborate with the Project, offering access to their production equipment, and even gave them a generous grant. Their grant has allowed Ralph to hire his professional animator friend full-time!
Ralph says, “In the west we tend to explain the gospel, but when we explain it to Japanese people, they say, ‘I don’t get it.’ We don’t need to explain it—we need to show it visually.” The vision for the project is to create short anime videos that show real-life stories of Japanese people who have come to faith in Christ. Then believers all over Japan will be able to use these videos as segues into evangelism and discipleship.
God has clearly paved the way for this project to develop, so we are excited to see how He uses the anime productions!