This past month, I had an opportunity to go with a couple of friends to Japan. We partnered with Mustard Seed to help lead worship for two different student events in two different locations in hopes of planting seeds of the Gospel. Little did we know the adventures we would have, experience the ways God was moving in Japan, and that we’d come away more grateful, intentional, and hopeful than when we left.
If you have been around Christ’s Church for any time, you have heard the statics regarding Christians in Japan. Less than 1% of Japan is Christian. Many of them have just never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, haven’t known the name of Jesus, and don’t know what the Bible is.
When we landed in Japan, our first experience outside of taking a train to our hotel was walking out into one of the busiest intersections in the world, known as the Shibuya Crossing, in Tokyo. It’s like Time Square on steroids. 1.5 million people cross this intersection every week.
Going back to our stats, that means that 15,000 of those would be Christian. To magnify that even more, 37 million people call Tokyo home – that’s only 370,000 that would call themselves Christians.
The odds of our team interacting with people who have never been introduced to Jesus was the highest it has ever been in my life.
I could spend the rest of this blog talking about the culture shock we experienced over our ten days there. Instead, I’d like to tell you a story about biking through rural Japan, unlikely accidents, and gardening.
It was the 2nd day of our 2nd event, our 8th day in Japan. We were in a little town called Takashima, just north of Kyoto. We had quite a bit of free time that day, and the event center we were staying at offered bike rentals. We wanted to get out, see the town, look for some food, and hit the golf range.
It was a beautiful ride with mountains surrounding the town and the smell of the rice fields on the left and right of us.
When we were returning to the event center, we made a turn and noticed a small patch of grass in the middle of this small alley. Baylor Brouwer, a creative team host at Christ’s Church, hit it hard. We couldn’t tell that it was a massive pothole. I rode around it, and as I did, Sam Fleming (on the creative team staff) hit it and flipped over his handlebars. Sam stands about 6’5, and if you know anything about Japanese bikes, they aren’t suited for guys who are 6’5. It was a sight to see, to say the least. As I tried hiding my laughter, we ensured he was okay.
Sam is fine, Baylor is fine.
Sam’s bike is fine. Baylor’s bike is not fine.
Baylor had popped his tire.
I joked later on that the Holy Spirit popped Baylor’s tire because what happened next was an unexpected opportunity.
We started slowly riding while Baylor walked his bike back, heading back a different way in a completely unfamiliar area of Takashima.
A lady went to pass us, and we waved. She stopped and began a conversation.
This Japanese lady, named Ai (pronounced ‘I’), spoke just enough English to find out we were Americans, we popped a tire, and we were playing music at an event for students.
She invited us to dinner. We say no.
She invited us to tea. We say no.
Baylor typed what we were doing into Google Translate, and she kindly invited herself to come to the event.
We say, “Yes, please come!”
We ended up cramming Baylor’s bike into the back of Ai’s car, and she led the way with Baylor in the front seat and Sam and I following behind on our bikes.
She came back at the start of the event, but she didn’t come alone. She invited friends who brought their kids, and then she invited more friends who also came.
She and her friends stayed through most of the evening but had to leave a little early. She waved to us as she made her way out. We ensured that she had the resources from the event and introduced her to people who could help her connect to Mustard Seed Kyoto.
We may never hear what will happen to Ai since we met. But we are incredibly grateful that we got to see and be a part of the gardening that the Lord is doing in the lives of the people in Japan. Mark talked about it recently in a passage found in 1 Corinthians 3:7-8,
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”
My prayer for Ai since that interaction has been simple: that the Lord would produce faith in her.
Ai and her friends may have heard the name of Jesus before she stepped into that last event session. I don’t know her story or faith, but I do know this: she heard the name of Jesus, and He has a purpose for His people.
The team at Mustard Seed and the other organizations we partnered with, the Church Planting Institute and HI.B.A, have a deep calling and a desire to share the Gospel with the people of Japan and trust that the Lord is calling them to Himself.
After you read this, would you pray for these three things?
- That more workers would be called to the mission in Japan.
- That the Japanese people would believe that Jesus is for them.
- That those who are Christian would grow in their relationship with the Lord.