March 2017: Monthly Newsletter "Thinking About Japan Missions"
These days it's starting to feel like spring! How are you enjoying the season? This month, Pastor Hidenori Takahashi, a member of JCFN board, is sharing some thoughts on the movie "Silence" , which just came out in both Japan and the United States. Also, Allison Smith, who was involved in the RJC track at Equipper Conference, shares her testimony from the RJC (Reaching Japanese for Christ) Conference that took place in February.
We hope that God will use these to help you think about missions in Japan.
Salvation greater than the salvation of the soul Hidenori Takahashi, Pastor of Tachikawa Evangelical Free Church, JCFN Board member
Shusaku Endo's world famous novel “Silence” was made into a movie and is a big topic of conversation these days. This novel depicts a terrible reality of the beginning of the Edo period. Rulers in Japan are killing those Japanese believers who are harboring Portuguese priests one after another. In the end, the main character sees three Japanese believers being tortured right in front of him by being hung in a hole upside down, and he is told that their torture will continue until he renounces his faith. Furthermore he is accused , “You think that you yourself are more important than them. Or at least, you think that salvation of your soul is more important. If you renounce your faith , these people will be raised from the hole. They will be saved from their suffering.” After hearing this accusation he comes to another decision. He thinks to himself, “The greatest act of love?” and decides to step on the fumie (an image of Jesus, which Christians were forced to step on as a way of renouncing their faith).
In Japan these days, sometimes Christians who are born into families who practice ancestor worship are blamed by their families, who say things like, “Because of your faith, you don't even care that you're causing problems for everyone.” One could say that the same method of eliminating Christians during the Edo period still exists today.
From the teachings of the time of “Silence” the focus of “salvation of the soul” was the idea of personal salvation, but the idea of blame, of sacrificing someone else for your own salvation, will not set you free. If the mission of a Christian is defined as filling the world with the love and peace of God and fighting against Satan's efforts against this, it could have come to another result. The priests who stepped on the fumie were made into subordinates of the shogunate, and they would propagate the polar opposite of what they had been preaching, and would become part of the efforts to exterminate Christians. By giving in to Satan just one bit, people became his subordinates.
Therefore, Jesus is very strict, and says that “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven...Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:33, 37). In other words, sometimes God will not allow us to deny Him in front of others, even if it is to save our parents or children. However, in breaking a false peace of one person being sacrificed for the family, as individuals express their own true love of family, they will have God's true peace (“shalom”) as their goal.
However, in Japanese society, there is a saying: “Treasure harmony, and make a song without shaking,” which illustrates the pressure to conform which is at work in Japanese society. You might feel that there is an invisible “fumie” in front of you all the time. For myself, ever since I was young, I was always worried about what people thought of me. At the same time, I held myself in contempt. Therefore, when I was a student, as I read Silence, maybe because I felt a deep conflict in my heart, all I was able to think was, “If I have to live in such a difficult world, life is just so hard...” However, soon after, as I spent about a year as an exchange student in America, I was set free from my fear and believed in the gospel. God showed me that He is not a god of silence, but a living God of action.
Jesus predicted that His disciples would be arrested because of their faith. He said, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Many people cannot step forward in faith because they feel uneasy, but I believe that when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will give me the wisdom and power that I need.
However, we must break down our false peace and fill the world with true peace. The goal of salvation, more than the salvation of each of our individual souls, is to fill the world with God's peace, or “shalom.” When the disciple Peter was met with suffering, even when chaos was right before his eyes, he confessed, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
RJC Conference Report/Testimony Allison Smith
Over the past couple of years, God has given me a heart for the Japanese people. He has given me a desire to see their hopelessness and brokenness be filled by Christ and for His name to be proclaimed by them. Through trips to Japan, being involved in a Japanese ministry, attending a local Japanese church, and at Equipper Conference, I have seen and heard testimony of how God is working in the lives of many Japanese people, and I have been so encouraged by this. God has not forgotten the Japanese people and He is moving among them! In February, I attended the RJC International Conference for the first time. While I only attended one day, I was blessed and challenged by what was presented at the conference.
The RJC Conference provided a place where people who are involved in Japanese ministry to come together and share with one another, as well as for us to be challenged and encouraged by what others shared. It was beautiful to see people from Japan, America, and any other place where people came from represented come together with a common love for a people group that God so desperately loves. It was a blessing to worship together in Japanese, pray together for the ministries and people serving the Japanese in different regions, sing Gospel music with Ray Sydney, share about existing ministries to Japanese people, meet new people, hear from people serving in ministry through sessions and seminars, and encourage one another.
Looking back on the conference, there was a lot of information presented and many things to take away from it. In one seminar Yuichi Kawano Sensei taught on the three parables found in Luke 15. He shared how the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son show a restoration of life, purpose, and relationship. In the plenary session that night, Kawano Sensei elaborated on the Parable of the Lost Coin and shared how the coin has inherent value and a specific purpose, just like we do. However, many Japanese people (and people everywhere) try to find their worth in what they do or who they try and make themselves to be. They do not know their true value given to them by God. Kawano Sensei’s presentation of this parable brought a new depth to it and also related it to the Japanese culture.
The second seminar I attended focused on language learning. Rie Manabe-Kim presented practical steps to take when trying to learn a language. Through this seminar and other conversations, I was reminded of the importance of learning Japanese in order to communicate effectively and given some new tools to do so. This is an area that I struggle with greatly. The language learning process with Japanese has been very slow for me and I often find it easier to talk in English and feel unmotivated by the large task learning Japanese is. However, the seminar showed how language learning can be broken down into manageable pieces by focusing on learning just a little everyday day and using it over and over again. While this is something I have yet to try, it seems less overwhelming than trying to learn everything at once.
In addition to seminars and plenary sessions, there were round table discussions, which provided a wider range of topics to be presented on in a short amount of time. Noriko Kussman reminded us of the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel with Japanese people. Karen Ellrick shared about worship in a Japanese context. As someone who grew up in the church, music worship has always been a part of my life. However, for many Japanese people, this is not the case. Before this, I did not realize that some Japanese people may be confused by why we sing in church and the importance of remembering this as I engage in Japanese ministry. The last discussion I went to was with Anne Crescini who talked about “Oozing Jesus” in our everyday living among Japanese people. This was the most impactful and challenging for me during this conference. How do I live my life in such a way that it is evident Jesus lives in me? This question is difficult to answer, let alone to live out. Anne shared from her personal experiences and things that she has learned to help answer this question. This way of life, where Christ is evident, is not a passive one, but one characterized by prayer and the knowledge of Scripture. We must be ready to give an account of what Christ has done in my life, love people as He did, serve, and know the culture we are sharing Christ with. These were just some of the things that were shared and challenged me to live in such a way that it is evident that Jesus lives in me.
While I can only tell of the seminars and round-table discussions that I went to, there were many more people presenting and sharing from their experiences that blessed the attendees of the RJC conference. My experience only touches a small portion of all that was shared at the conference from the many people who have experience and wisdom in sharing Christ with Japanese people! There is much that I still have to learn and put into practice from the RJC Conference as I move forward and continue investing in Japanese community and ministry. As long as God continues to call me to Japan there will always be something more to learn and experience in the context of Japanese culture and how I can show the Japanese the love of Christ. RJC was just one piece in this journey that God is leading me on and I hope that what was shared can be used by me and those who attended for the honor and glory of God and for making His name known among the Japanese people.
It's a Girl!! The Okada family has gotten a new member.
We are pleased to announce the arrival of Saki Okada on Friday 17 February 2017, measuring 3,556g and 50.7cm. Both the mother and the baby are doing great. Please pray for a blessing and also for adjustment to their new life stage.
Fall Special Fundraiser North America Office Financial Report
Thank you for your participation for North America office Fall Special Fundraiser.
North America Office Final Report 19,620 dollars 130.80％ of the targeting amount ($15,000) was achieved.
Thank you so much for your contributions! Praise the Lord!
Returnee Workbook for business people and family
Join in Annual JCFN Supporting Member
The term of this membership is from July to June no matter which month you submitted the application. If you are willing to support JCFN ministry with annual support offering of $30 (3,000 yen), you are it! Please take this opportunity to join in the annual supporting member!!
Re-entry Seminar Video (Intro + 4 sessions) is now available on-line (Japanese only). Please use it for re-entry preparation. Clicking the image above, you can watch the introduction. All videos are available at JCFN website.
Second Level Mentor-ship Conference
Theme:"Walking Together as Imitators of God and Children of Light"
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8)
Date：June 2nd - 4th, 2017 Place：Calvin Center 13550, Woolsey Road Hampton, GA 30228 Speaker：Rev. Ken Milhous