Our God, Eager to Save

Posted January 10, 2010

Tomohisa had reached a coveted status in Japan’s vertically-ordered society: medical doctor. Along with the status came wealth, which he used to buy the affection of women…and lots of booze. His selfishness blinded... [Read More]

The Humbled Tsunami

Posted December 2, 2011

When the warning sirens went off, residents in a south Sendai neighborhood fled to the local school. Together with panicked children still in class they climbed to the rooftop. Some 600 altogether... [Read More]

Japanese Get "Bach" Hope

Posted September 21, 2011

Who would have thought Bach would be involved in 21st century mission work in Japan? I have frequently read with interest of the strong connection between classical music (particularly J.S. Bach) and Japanese interest... [Read More]

Tsunami Ground Zero

Posted April 7, 2011

I still haven't returned from tsunami ground zero. That is to say, although I've been back several days already, the reality of the scene is still with me. The incredible amounts of mud in once beautiful homes... [Read More]

"Nice Try, Kevin" File

Posted February 9, 2011

This one goes into the "Nice try, Kevin" file. I just thought it was a nice-looking bunch of flowers in the storefront and, on the spur of the moment, decided Kaori deserved to enjoy them. Chrysanthemums, however, are... [Read More]

The Gulliver Complex

Posted November 9, 2007

I'm a giant again. Well, not really. But it sure feels like it again since returning from the States. The first sign was bumping my head in the shuttle bus from the airport. By habit, I normally duck my head through any... [Read More]

Foreigners Don't Get the Point

Posted January 31, 2010

I'm standing in line at a drugstore with other shoppers. The woman in front of me has just pulled out a business card file. Hurriedly she flips through at least a hundred or more cards searching for the right one. It's a... [Read More]

More Powerful than Bombs

Posted July 5, 2008

Fuchida grew up loving his native Japan and hating the United States, which treated Asian immigrants harshly in the first half of the twentieth century. Fuchida attended a military academy, joined Japan's... [Read More]


Posted September 14, 2010

I'd been putting it off. Although I knew it was important, taking inventory of our earthquake and disaster gear just wasn't getting done. Japan rests along the "ring of fire" in the Pacific ocean, a stretch of area that is... [Read More]

150 Years Later

Posted March 17, 2009

This spring marks the 150th anniversary of Protestant Christianity in Japan. The first protestant missionaries set foot in the port of Yokohama back in 1859. Now they were real church planters -- overcoming all... [Read More]

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I for Japan. Japan for the World. The World for Christ. And All for the Glory of God.

— Kanzo Uchimura, Japanese Evangelist

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Rambling Notes from Japan

Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.

The Rescue of Love (A Good Friday Meditation)

The pair of Japanese hostages are forever linked in our minds. We saw them in orange jumpsuits kneeling together in the Syrian desert sand. Behind them loomed a masked militant demanding a ransom in exchange for their lives. Tense days followed. Desperate negotiations and pleas for mercy. And then came the dreaded news of their horrific murders at the hands of their captors. Japan and the world were shocked and outraged.

But you might have missed the rest of their linked story. Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa were bound together far before their joint captivity. Yet the paths that led them to each other could not have been more different. One made a life in the midst of trouble. The other had a troubled life.

In Kenji, we see a glimpse of Christ’s love. Kenji was a Christian. (This in itself is remarkable considering the small number of Japanese believers.) As a journalist, he traveled to war-torn places to highlight the plight of persecuted groups and displaced refugees. He championed the cause of the weak and helpless, people in crisis and conflict who needed rescue from their circumstances. Kenji’s pastor stated that his Christian convictions influenced this selfless work.

Haruna was a very different man. If Kenji was a picture of Christ, Haruna was an apt picture of the world, mankind deformed by sin. Haruna was wounded deeply by life in ways that twisted his personality. A string of setbacks, including bankruptcy and the death of his wife, had damaged his psyche. He supposed himself to be a reincarnated Manchu princess. He became obsessed with right-wing nationalism and weaponry. His unstable behaviors ranged from suicide attempts to high-adrenalin risks. He had entered Syria for the self-motivated purpose of using the instability of the region to sell security services. Haruna clearly needed a rescue from himself.

Haruna’s rescue began when he met Kenji. In Kenji, Haruna found a friend who overlooked his faults and peculiarities, and cared for him even to the point of jeopardizing his own life.

When Haruna was first captured by the Free Syrian Army in March of 2014, Kenji was called by his contacts to help question this Japanese prisoner. Instead, Kenji was able to negotiate his release. The two returned to Japan together. In October 2014, Haruna returned to Syria and stumbled into trouble again. This time he was nabbed by ISIS. Kenji went after his hapless friend in a quest that resulted in his own capture. The rest of their fateful story together played out in media reports worldwide.

If Kenji is a picture of Christ, and Haruna a picture of the world, it’s not hard to see the gospel parallels in this story. Kenji determined to bring his wayward friend home. Christ came to seek and save his wayward people, and bring them safely home. Kenji looked past his twisted friend’s oddities. Christ’s divine love looked past the marred image of God to see the intrinsic worth of the soul. Kenji set aside his personal interests and risked his life to free his friend held hostage by militants. Christ set aside his deity and paid the ultimate price at Calvary to redeem mankind held hostage by Satan and sin.

If Haruna’s life had been spared by the sacrifice of Kenji, the redemptive illustration might have been complete. We wanted a different outcome for both of them. But what transpired in their final days of captivity together we may never know. Perhaps Kenji’s tender faith softened his heartless captors to consider the ways of Christ. Perhaps Kenji’s selfless testimony humbled Haruna to spiritual conviction. Perhaps the two safely returned to their true homeland of eternity in heaven together after all.

Heaven will tell their full story. This side of heaven, we can let their story inspire our own. We can drink in deeply that selfless, pursuing divine love that gives itself for selfish, wayward man. The cross shouts to us that we are loved more than we can know or understand. We can let that love motivate us into selfless ambition for our fellow man. Our own divine rescue of love constrains us.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11

And Heaven and Nature Sing!

The gospel music boom in Japan just keeps on growing and growing. We've tried to redeem this cultural phenomenon for outreach. This past week, 300 hundred filled the stage of Aoyama University near us for a Christmas Gospel Concert. Twelve of our choir members are in this massive group, 98% of whom are not Christian.

Many interested in singing gospel music come to understand Christianity through our gospel workshops at church on Sunday afternoons. These always include a Bible time, in addition to the rehearsal and singing techniques taught. This outreach definitely hits the cognitive and affective dimensions of man: while they learn with their head about the true Gospel message, their heart is being powerfully stirred as they sing.

But you have to listen to understand. So listen to the group in this video above sing, "He has done marvelous things! Praise the Lord!"

From Gangs to God

I was moved by this article of a former member of a Japanese mafia gang, Tatsuya Shindo. From a history of drug abuse, crime, and prison time, God saved him. He's attended seminary and now begun a church here in the Tokyo area, called Friend of Sinners Christ Church. Church attendees include former gang members or the parents of current prisoners. He still sports the tattoos and cut pinky as a sign of his organized crime days, but God has redeemed him to work among Japan's worst dropouts. What a what of change God can do in the human heart.

New Life in Christ

I'm always moved beyond words when someone makes a decision for Christ. This past Sunday when a young woman and a small child placed their faith in Christ as their Savior, I again had the privilege of experiencing the Gospel anew. This is a big step for a Japanese seeker. It's said that the average Japanese takes seven years from their first encounter with Christianity, to their decision of faith. Our Heavenly Father waits patiently, planning the celebration party to welcome them home.

Lately the lyrics of a catchy song by a Christian Japanese musician have renewed me in the transforming depth of the Gospel. In her album "New Day" Asiah sings: "It's a new start, it's new life, it's a new heart, it's a new world, it's a new melody, it's a new day. I have been set free..."

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for beginning this change in the life of another Japanese.

Black Gospel and What?

Black gospel and traditional Japanese drums, that's what! This past Saturday I attended the joint choir Gospel Concert that included many of our church workshop members. It takes a bit of creativity to pull off a mix of gospel music and Japanese drums, but it turned out very well. Typically drums will perform at Japanese festivals, which include religious aspects that are not altogether sanctified. But here we have redeemed them for the gospel. Literally. Take a look at this video link to get an idea.

Gospel Boom Keeps Booming

I continue to amazed by the gospel music boom in Japan. Today again we received two emails from unchurched individuals that want to start singing in our gospel workshop on Sunday afternoons. A common theme seems to be that several are struggling with depression. This is a reminder to me of the role our church needs to play as an oasis in this urban desert of Tokyo. I've loaded a video here Gospel Music Video to give you an idea of what gospel at our church looks like. Remember these are unchurched Japanese. And, yes, they are singing in English!

Love Sonata from Korea

Quick! What do you get when you mix a sports arena, 20,000 Japanese and Koreans, gospel and cultural music, and God's good news? Asians reaching Japanese for Christ! That's a powerful key to this country's revival. Several Korean churches in cooperation with the Japanese church are working together to conduct major evangelistic crusades in 5 large cities in Japan called "Love Sonata 2007." Last week was the crusade in Tokyo. Altogether with friends, 19 people attended from our church including 7 unbelievers who heard a powerful Gospel message.

As I attended I realized I was witnessing the future of missions. The Western church and its missionaries, while still having a critical role here, are no longer the only players in the mission movement. Actually, long-term Western missionaries are in the decline in the East. The Asian church is beginning to mature and reach itself. There was no Billy Graham in this crusade. In fact, noticeably absent were any white faces on the center platform of the packed arena. Interpretation was done from Korean into Japanese!

I was both inspired and humbled, renewed and challenged in my own role as a messenger of the Gospel here in this country. It is great to see God at work in raising up new leaders in the mission movement.

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We serve with WorldVenture, an evangelical faith mission. Our sending/home church is Cornerstone Church of Lansing, Illinois.
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