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LoveSingapore
13 Jun, 2024

LoveJapan: It’s God’s kairos time for Japan

I was lost in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and ended up striking up a conversation in Takashimaya department store with the soft-spoken young man who had three colours in his hair. The conversation veered from directions to the supermarket to directions for life, culminating in my question and his response.

What Koto meant was a friend who would always be with him, a “permanent friend”, he explained, not knowing he was about to be introduced to Jesus, the true Eternal Friend.

Before we parted ways, Koto said he wanted to go to a church to find out more. He readily left me his telephone number and connected with me on social media.

On a different day in a different neighbourhood, 80 Japanese who were homeless or needy stood neatly in rows in a back alley and a public park of the entertainment and shopping district of Ikebukuro.

Each clutched an A4 sheet of paper with a Bible verse and a short devotional, listening intently to testimonies being shared that night. Each stood in an orderly line after the sharing to receive the food package prepared for them.

Every week about 80 homeless or needy Japanese turn up at Ikebukuro to collect food for the spirit and food for the body.

The initiative is now coordinated by two local men who were previously among the homeless and are now serving in a church.

One man stepped up for prayer; another woman went around handing out candy and praising God.

The weekly food distribution that started 12 years ago as an outreach to the homeless is now coordinated by two local men who were among the homeless and are now serving in a church.

This is a close-up of the harvest field in Japan. God is making new wine in old Japan.

Unity in prayer, unity in purpose

Japan’s kairos has come, say pastors and missionaries, referring to the ancient Greek word meaning an appointed time when God acts.

This was heard over and over from pastors, leaders and church workers from Singapore and Japan during the LoveJapan vision trip in May.

The trip was part of the LoveJapan movement launched by LoveSingapore in 2019 to unite churches to serve and love Japan through partnerships, evangelism and church planting.

About 150 pastors and leaders turned up to unite in prayer on the opening day of the LoveJapan vision trip in May.

The movement has set its sights on 20 cities in seven geographical regions through four strategic focus points: Reaching young adults and youths, signs and wonders in evangelism, church planting and disaster relief.

This year’s LoveJapan vision trip opened on May 7 with a united prayer meeting at Shinjuku Shalom Church in Tokyo.

About 150 pastors and leaders from 70 churches and organisations across both Singapore and Japan responded that morning to the call to love Japan, to consecrate themselves for the work, and to pray for an awakening in the Land of the Rising Sun.

They came from different nations, were of different ages and represented different denominations.

Many felt the excitement, some sensed anticipation, others called it fire – it was the Spirit of God that swept through the meeting that morning amidst a remarkable display of unity and collective love for Japan.

“Amazing. Only God could have done this,” said Pastor Jeff Chong, Chairman of LoveSingapore and Senior Pastor of Hope Church.

“Clearly God is doing a new thing in Japan.”

Unity is one of the indications that Japan’s kairos has come, said pastors and missionaries at the LoveJapan vision trip. In Kyushu, Singapore pastors connected with leaders in the region to pray and to strengthen friendships.

The unity witnessed that morning is one of the indications that it is God’s appointed time for Japan, said pastors and missionaries present. Multitudes are coming to work with missionaries and pastors in Japan, where Christians make up just 1% of the population.

“Everywhere (local pastors) go they are seeing people come to Japan,” said Pastor Eugene Seow of Living Sanctuary Brethren Church, who led the Kyushu region for LoveJapan.

The hearts of the Japanese are open, the people are spiritually hungry and the harvest field is ripe, pastors said.

No greater anticipation than now

Japan-based pastors, too, are catching the vision of God’s kairos for their ministry.

In Osaka, Pastor Toshiki Morikawa shared how he had started preaching in the street and “saw people getting instantly healed”.

In a church in Kyushu that had to split into two groups due to Covid restrictions, the attendance in one group grew within six months to 60, a large number by the standards of a Japanese church.

Brazilian missionary Fabio Tsukayama and his wife, Elizabeth, planted LifeShare Christian Center – the first church in Nagayo – last year. It quickly grew to about 30 people with a full worship band – a small beginning by Singapore standards but notable in Japan, where church attendance typically hover between 30 and 40, sometimes even after years.

“It was touching to see a pair of teenagers studying the Japanese tracts and books we gave them,” said Pastor Julia Sia of Renewal Christian Church, who led a team to Chubu during the vision trip.

Another sign that God is gathering momentum is the openness of the Japanese to discuss topics that go beyond the surface, missionaries in Japan shared during the vision trip.

The Japanese people are grappling with questions about the purpose and meaning of life as a weakening economy and major disasters in the land have shattered the financial and social security once taken for granted in the country.

“Christian volunteers have made a big impact on the lives of those hit by the tsunami,” said Louis Lau, a Singaporean who first went to Japan with his family in 1990 as a missionary. “They helped to clean up (the wreckage), feed the people and they stayed.”

There is also an unprecedented level uncertainty since Covid.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Pastor Scott Douma, who came to Japan as a missionary in 1981 and planted Every Nation Church Yokohama in 1986. “People are coming to church and opening up about deep things. In the past they would never talk about these things.

“For years, there was great anticipation that revival was coming but it never came.

“But something broke last year. I believe revival really is coming and the water is rising. In my 40-plus years in Japan, I’ve never had greater expectation than now.”

Seeing God move in the nation

All this evidence of God’s time for Japan has instilled an urgency in the Christian community to evangelise, equip leaders, foster church growth and plant churches in Japan.

“There is a real passion to see God move in the nation,” Pastor Jeremy Seaward, strategic coordinator for LoveJapan and Senior Pastor of Victory Family Centre noted.

Pastors from Singapore churches led teams into six strategic regions from north to south. The Tohoku team prayed over Sendai from the castle ruins that overlook the city.

“Many pastors in Japan were initially not sure why we were coming and what we were about, but now everyone’s excited to see God do something in Japan.”

“Having the Singapore churches here seeing the need and talking to churches and believers is huge.”

In the five to seven days of the vision trip, pastors from Singapore churches led different teams into six strategic regions from north to south – Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Kyushu – to walk and pray over the land.

They also connected with regional pastors and church workers on the ground, encouraged one another in prayer and fellowship, and identified church planting opportunities.

“Having the Singapore churches here seeing the need and talking to churches and believers of different backgrounds is huge,” said Ps Scott, who came as a short-term missionary but stayed on after seeing the yawning spiritual need in Japan.

Singapore can have significant impact because the Japanese respect Singaporeans, he added.

“It speaks volumes that fellow Asians believe in Christ.”

Unlike churches in Singapore, many in Japan are small, with limited resources.

Singapore pastors pray over Senior Pastor of Sapporo Evangelical Free Church Tsutomo Kaji who, in his 70s, planted three churches and is seeking a successor.

Many younger pastors in Japan are fresh out of Bible college with little hands-on pastoral experience.

The Japanese Church is also facing the challenge of ageing leadership, with no clear successors.

About 90% of the pastors in Japan are aged 50-80, with almost 50% in the 70-80 year old age range.

Church workers in Japan have emphasised the need to raise up a younger generation of leaders. Many churches are actively reaching out to students on university campuses.

Remembering the relationships

LoveJapan leaders expressed how critical it is to stay connected to the churches in Japan to keep a pulse on their needs and ensure effective collaboration.

On the vision trip, requests for equipping leaders and establishing evangelism partners, as well as for ongoing fellowship with local pastors struggling with loneliness and ministry fatigue, were heard clearly and often.

Japanese pastors value the friendship of Singapore pastors and the willingness to come alongside them to build God’s Kingdom in Japan.

“The local pastors need our friendship and our willingness to come alongside them,” Ps Eugene noted. “We need to pray for revival but not chase it or we may miss the plot and forget the relationships.”

Being on the ground has opened Singapore pastors’ eyes and hearts to Japan.

Many have expressed intentions to bring their burden for Japan to their respective churches to explore how they can continue to participate in loving Japan.

See more photos here. 

For more information on LoveJapan, please contact: [email protected]