Brief wrap-up

Mission in Japan was such an amazing experience. There are so very few Christians there (about 1 in 5000 where we were) that even the little we did was a huge help to the Japanese church. What did we do? We visited many preschools, ran a lot of English classes and helped the missionaries as they planted two new churches.

It taught me a few things: the huge cultural differences did not matter to the Gospel, these people are sinners and need to be told about Jesus and shown God’s love. But the cultural differences also showed how mission must be made culturally appropriate, both in Japan and home in Australia. Most people in Australia are unwilling and opposed to talking about God and the gospel. Japan was very different in that so many people were willing to listen and ask questions about Jesus and the Bible, for to them it is almost entirely new. But despite how much interest they show and how much they learn, the Japanese people are sadly reluctant to confess Jesus and commit their lives to him. In Australian culture verses like Romans 10:9 are not too significant, for almost everyone who believes the gospel will confess Jesus. But in Japan they will not. We met a few who even after more than ten years contact with the church and learning and believing far more than many Australian Christians, will still not commit to and confess Jesus. Whether they feel pressured from their families or work or just don’t want to, I don’t know. But it is sad and something that definitely needs a lot of prayer.

Pizza!

We had a pizza party last Saturday, inviting a lot of people we’ve met over the past few weeks. I guess the evening brought together a lot of the feelings and thoughts I’ve been having over mission. Sorry if those thoughts are a little disorganised!

I don’t have any Japanese language skills. I can greet people at all times during the day, thank people and apologise… though even with these I’m likely to get them mistaken with each other! So I knew before coming that my opportunities to directly evangelise people would be very limited, and that’s okay, those opportunities are more than enough with everything else there is to do!

And there really has been, and will still be, a lot to do. If I can guess what God is teaching me now I think a lot of it is how to serve. I know I definitely do not have the gift of service, but I’m realising that just means I need to work harder than most. I usually don’t mind helping and serving others, it just doesn’t occur to me that there’s stuff to be done. Well I’m glad that there’s been so much to do here cause there hasn’t been much chance to slack off – there’s so much to do and that’s why we’re here! Working long busy days has been good, it’s a very welcome change in productivity, one I’ve been wanting for a long while.

However, even when God has given me potential opportunities for evangelism, it seems I rarely take them. At our pizza party I spent most of the evening operating the huge 300° ovens (Fahrenheit okay… but it still sounds impressive yes? We seriously needed six layers of towels to get anything out of it.) I’d already burnt myself once and there was no reason for others to get hurt too. I was definitely being a big help, we needed to cook a lot of food very quickly. But… there were people there who had some decent English, and I could have spoken to them more than I did (what was almost nothing). Should I have? I don’t know. When we had a kind of icebreaker game I did make my answers gospel-focused, but that was very short and impersonal. It concerned me more when those who can speak Japanese said they didn’t have gospel-focused conversations either. Maybe I should have been more forward too.

But I also don’t believe I really have gifts of evangelism either. I don’t really enjoy it nor am I good at it. I think my strengths, and interests and passions, are more with teaching and discipleship. I haven’t really had much experience with it yet, but I love both teaching God’s word and working with people. I had hoped there would be opportunities for this in Japan, but there hasn’t been any so far. The church here does not seem to have late-teens/early-twenties guys. There are a few girls of that age, but it would be even less appropriate here in Japan than in Australia for a guy to lead a girl in discipleship like that. So I’ll probably have to wait to return to Australia to do that, which again is fine, but when I wonder what God’s plans are here, a little perplexing.

Mission has given me lots of opportunities for service, which has been great. But I think it’s really highlighting the need for wisdom in finding a good balance between service and evangelism and fellowship and teaching and everything else (rest too.) They’re all essential for a healthy church, and though God gives us gifts and strengths in certain areas of that, I believe we still all need to be working at them all. But what is that balance? I don’t know if mission has given me any of that wisdom yet.