When I was a kid, I was terrified of becoming a missionary. I shuddered at the thought of, and prayed fervently against, being sent by God to a place like Africa. Hot, humid, full of dirt and dust. No Nintendo. No T.V. Just miles of bushes, trees, and self-sacrifice. I was resolute that I would stay in America, where things were familiar and easy. As I grew, the future seemed set and my anxiety faded.
Then I was walking through my house one day. I was twenty-seven years old, married, and working with my mother. My sister had contacted me about a possible job teaching English in Japan. My wife and I talked about it for a while and decided that if God wants us to go, He'll make it happen. If He doesn't, He won't. So, we sent in our applications and within a week we were hired to teach in small cram school in a small town on the western coast. Liz and I talked about what we would do there. We were excited about getting involved with a church, ministering and witnessing the best that we could. Our jobs were simply a means of support.
I was thinking about all these things when I suddenly stopped cold (I can see the spot vividly in my mind) as a dreadful realization clenched my throat. I'm a missionary!
Needless to say, it hasn't been that bad. In fact, I have been struggling with whether I am a missionary or not - and will write at length about it someday. It's been much simpler than I thought it would be. We have every modern amenity, access to everything we had in America, jobs that pay well, and plenty of people around to hang out with.
Now here am I, four years, three jobs, and two cities later, teaching English and working with a close friend to support a local church by using what limited talents and skills I have. It's not much though. I don't have the Japanese language skill to help with ministering or evangelizing. I can't preach or sing. So, what's the point of me being here?
There's only one thing that I can do that might be of help - and that is writing this blog. I can stand in between the Japanese and American churches and share the insights of one with the other. This offers a unique perspective on both. Comparing the two, one can see just how much American culture the Church has truly absorbed, and just how Japanese the Japanese Church is. In the past few years, I have come to realize that some things I held to be universal to the Christian is really rather provincial, a quirk, an idiosyncrasy of Christian Americans. And it's on these topics that I'll be writing about.
But, I have one other reason for writing.
About one percent of the population of Japan, or 1,276,000 people, claim to be Christian. Remarkably, our neighbors to the West (China) boast between 40,000,000 to 100,000,000 Christians. There is almost no modern persecution in Japan, missionaries can come and go, there is no totalitarian government and yet there are at least four times as many Christians in China. Is that not staggering?
I'll write about why I think this is the case later on, but as to how that relates to me reasons for writing this blog , it is simply that we need more long-term missionaries here. It's that simple.
So, my reasons for blogging is so that the American Church can benefit from an outside perspective and, maybe, more people will come to Japan to stay, for that's the most effective way to do missions here. It not as straightforward as it would be in Mexico or Africa, where you can talk to a complete stranger and lead them to Christ. Here, it takes investment, tenacity, and such a level of sensitivity that I have yet to reach. It is hard, tiring, and (at least in this life) not very rewarding. Yet, it must be done. This is a country wherein I have experienced two or three train delays in the past two years alone due to someone committing suicide on the tracks. Young men sequester themselves in their houses out of fear and young women eschew romantic relationships because they're too difficult. This is a nation in deep, severe pain and it needs people to come and show them there's hope, there's light, and there's love.