My adventure with Jesus and Japan started in April 2012, when I went to this country for a visa run. I had asked God to make that trip more than visa run, but what He has done was much more than I could ever think. I met Japanese Christians who were on fire for God and some very lost Japanese souls. First of all I fell in love with an elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. Isogai. They are believers, who received me at their house in Fukuoka.
It was the first time we met, but they loved me, fed me, helped with my visa project, showed me the city, and arranged a few meeting with their friends, acquaintances and relatives. In each of these meetings, Mrs. Isogai asked me to share how I have become Christian and why I went to Korea.
I couldn’t dream of a better opportunity to testify about our living, loving and powerful God, who has a very wonderful plan for each of His children. I also heard very powerful testimonies from Japanese believers. Today, I know that Mr. and Mrs. Isogai have God’s heart for people – to always edify the body and to bring lost to Christ.
Among people that I met during that trip was a young woman, Isogais’ relative. She lived in another city. Mrs. Isogai asked her to come to Fukuoka and translate for us. She did it for one purpose – that she could be touched by Jesus. When I came to Japan in 2013, I learned that this young woman was already a Christian!
I met also a middle-aged lady, Mrs. Isogai’s acquaintance. Not a believer. I will never forget her. She was telling me that many people, who lived in her huge apartment building died alone. There was no one with them at the death bed. They were alone and completely forgotten. This lady didn’t want to die this way. She really was terrified but it. She recognized also that Christians love each other and care for each other. She confessed it was the reason she decided to attend a bible study held at Mrs. Isogai’s house. I was touched. Japan is such a beautiful country. It is also reach and very well organized. It seems people there have everything but somebody to love them.
When I was leaving Fukuoka the Isogais said, “Come again any time and bring other missionaries!!!” They were encouraged and me too. When I had come back to Korea we started praying regularly for Japan and for possibility to go on a mission trip to this country.
Plans and Purposes
In March 2013, Pastor Steve DeVries and Pastor Vladimir Teplov met in Budapest. They agreed to go to Japan in the fall 2013. We were encouraged to continue in prayer. In October 2013, P. Teplov, P. Michael Toll and Sasha flew from Moscow to Vladivostok and then to Seoul. They didn’t have Japanese visas so they couldn’t go further but Korean team with P. Steve flew from Seoul to Fukuoka in Japan. We spent one night at the Isogais’ in Fukuoka and then drove to Nagasaki and Amakusa. We visited also Kakoshima.
This trip showed me that we can share the gospel with Japanese almost everywhere – on the streets, in coffee shops and around shopping centers. There was always somebody who wanted talk with us. The first person that I shared the Gospel with was a young woman working in a coffee shop.
I will never forget a woman that Soojin (Korean bible college student, who speaks Japanese) and I met on the street in a small town of Amakusa. We stopped her and shared about Jesus Christ. She was touched. She opened her heart, told us she is divorced and raising up two children. We assured her that Jesus’ love is different from human love, that Jesus will never forsake her. Miciko (this is her name) started crying. She believed in what she heard and she wanted Jesus Christ in her life. We bowed our heads in prayer. Miciko asked Jesus to come into her heart. I was amazed with God’s goodness! He found Miciko on the sidewalk, in a small town of Amakusa, Island belonging to Japan!
For the next encounter with Japan, I had to wait till February 2015. This time we spent all week in Fukuoka. Our base was at the Isogais’ house. In our team was three Americans, five Koreans and one Pole. Two Korean ladies, Helen and Soojin, translated for us.
We arrived in Fukuoka on Friday. On Saturday we did outreach in the area of Tenjin Metro Station. I was with Soojin and her husband, Petros. We had a friendly conversation with two young Japanese ladies in a coffee shop. Dan Dunbar met very open young man at the Starbucks. The next day was unforgettable. We spent almost all Sunday with Mr. and Mrs. Isogai at Crossroad Gospel Church. Japanese believers were touched by the song Forgiven, Forgotten and Gone Forever written by Pastor Carl Stevens and sang in Fukuoka by Dan Dunbar from Baltimore. Pastor Kanemoto, the pastor of the Crossroad church is a former rock musician. He asked Dan for the guitar chords to this song. He also translated the song into Japanese (when we came to Fukuoka last May, Pastor Kanemoto sang this song in Japanese!).
But the best was yet to come!
God led us to the Kyushu University, downtown campus. After having a lunch in a cafeteria, we started talking with students. We spent few hours there and I remember only one group of students that didn’t want to talk to Helen and me. It was incredible!
I can’t forget these dark, deep eyes of Japanese students and their hunger for meaningful conversation. They are not familiar with the name of Jesus Christ and with missionaries on their campuses. They were listening attentively. The same situation repeated following day at the new campus of Kyushu University. But the most amazing meeting we had in a park downtown Fukuoka. Pastor Steve wanted go to this park, but the day was cold and frankly I didn’t expect that somebody will be there.
The Woman at the Well
The park was pretty big. We walked and walked and there was nobody to talk to. But then, in the very end, in a corner of the park there were some people. We felt excitement. Few of us went to talk to them. I didn’t go at first, but when we were about to leave the park I didn’t have peace. I came closer to them. Dan Dunbar was still sitting on the bench. Others left, including Soojin, who was translating. Three Japanese were around us — an elderly lady, a middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman (we learned later that her name is Tanaka). We thought none of them spoke English. I just wanted give them our Japanese-English tracts.
When Tanaka saw the tract, she started speaking in English. Then Helen joined us. The Japanese man left. The older woman was not interested in the subject, but Tanaka told us that she believed in God who created the heaven and earth. She also heard about Jesus Christ from some missionary, who gave her a written prayer.
Tanaka had this prayer in her notebook. She prayed with it every day. It was actually the sinner’s prayer but when we asked Tanaka what will happen with her after she dies, she didn’t know. We explained to her the Gospel and she believed. Then we prayed together and Tanaka asked Jesus Christ to be her Savior. We all had great joy!I can’t forget these dark, deep eyes of Japanese students and their hunger for meaningful conversation. Click To Tweet
We also called our Japanese friend, Mrs. Isogai and she talked with Tanaka. Now everything was clear. Why did we come to this “empty” park? Jesus sent us there for this one precious woman. Helen called Tanaka “the woman at the well” for there was some stream at the place we met her. Late at night, we were talking with Helen. She wondered why people are listening to us. She was looking for some natural explanation. I told her that this is God. We asked Him for open hearts. We know that body in Baltimore is praying, that somebody in Moscow is praying, somebody in Poland and I believe in many other places. God is for Japanese people and He is moving in Japan.
During this trip we met also a Japanese pastor and Korean missionary who are running a coffeehouse with the purpose of sharing their faith with the customers. This Japanese pastor watched P. Steve talking with people on the street in front of his café. He told us that he has never seen a pastor, Japanese or Korean, talking to people on a street and sharing the gospel like we do.
We were encouraged and very thankful to Jesus for what He has done during this trip. Before we returned to Korea we had made a plan to come back to Fukuoka in May. The Isogais invited us again to stay at their house.
Trip No. 4
I had been waiting for this fourth trip to Japan with great expectation. When I had been praying, many Japanese faces were passing before my eyes – believers and unbelievers. The time finally came when our American-Korean-Polish-Thai team arrived in Fukuoka. It was last May, Pastor Teplov from Moscow connected with us on Skype that night. It was very encouraging for us. On Saturday our Japanese friends, the Isogais, drove us to Nagasaki. We did evangelism at the campus of Nagasaki University.
Pastor Steve met three students, a man and two women from Okinawa. They actually were studying and living in Fukuoka but came to Nagasaki that Saturday afternoon to visit a friend. The man never had heard the Gospel, but he was interested and very open. After almost two-hour conversation with P. Steve he prayed and asked Jesus Christ to come into his life. We came back to Fukuoka praising God!!!
Next day was Sunday. We spent most of the day in the Chikusinominami Baptist church pastored by P. Iwahashi. Pastor Steve was invited to preach in the morning and in the afternoon. Believers from Crossroad Gospel Baptist church which we visited last February joined us for the lunch and afternoon service. We had great fellowship and we sensed a hunger for God’s word in Japanese hearts.
On Monday we did door knocking with P. Iwahashi and his people near their church. I thought this was a historical moment – we were doing door knocking in Japan! I was in the team with Thomas Staalasen from Baltimore and one Japanese lady. She translated for us.
God gave us very good time with 24-year old man. He came out from his house and we had maybe half an hour conversation. He was open with us. He told us, that the most important thing in his life was his car (there was a nice Audi parked in front of his house). He had already some reflections about Christianity. He asked us about Christians who did evil things, which we know from the history and was satisfied with our answer. We encouraged him to seek the truth. I am praying that we could visit him during our next trip to Fukuoka. We also could talk with a young mother. All four teams that were doing door knocking came back with good report! But this was not the end of the day.
After the lunch, we did evangelism around the nearby shopping center. Dawn Doorenbos and I had a wonderful appointment in a coffee shop. We met an 83-year-old lady and a gentleman, maybe 55. They invited us to their table. Another gentleman, 82 years old, joined us after few minutes.
I could see brokenness in their eyes. The lady was a widow, and she didn’t have children. Her best friend’s son took her for coffee. I asked this gentleman about his family. He told us that he has three children but no wife. The old gentleman spoke about participating in World War II. We became friends instantly and they knew that we had something for them. We couldn’t tell them much because our translator left the coffee shop already. But we gave them our Japanese tracts and booklets and also information about Pastor Iwahashi’s church (which was only few minutes away). They received our materials with gladness and were very appreciative.
Our expectations were growing. What is God going to do tomorrow? Tuesday was rainy, so we decided to do outreach at the Tenjin Metro Station and shopping area. I remember one conversation with a young couple. The man was very hungry. He hung on each word, when I spoke about one living God, creator of heaven and earth, whose name is Jesus Christ, who loves him and wants to give him eternal life. I was very thankful to God that we had booklets in Japanese.
On Wednesday God gave us beautiful weather. We went to the new campus of Kyushu University. It is located outside of Fukuoka, near the seashore. When we arrived at this campus we were laughing that we can talk to students in Japanese, Korean, English, Chinese, and Thai.
A Prayer Answered
I didn’t say anything, but was wondering is here anyone who I can talk with in…Polish. The first person I talked to was a Muslim woman from Indonesia and she told me that her best friend working in one department with her is from Poland!
My new acquaintance was in hurry. I gave her email address and we said good bye to each other. Later our team had lunch in a student cafeteria. Among maybe 200 hundred people with black hair I saw one blonde. It was she, the woman from Poland, working on her Ph. D. here at the Kyushu Univeristy. Her name is Aleksandra. She is a deep person, looking for something meaningful and real, and she has been very much on my heart since the time we met.
Our team spent few hours at this campus and we all had very good time. My dear Korean friend Veronica doesn’t speak English well, but she wasn’t discouraged at all. She was stopping different students. If there was somebody interested in listening more about God, Veronica was calling Dawn Doorenbos to continue the conversation. Thomas Staalasen had meaningful conversationd with Chinese students. Tain Palanum met a Japanese man, Kesuke, who came later to our meeting in a café. Kesuke had never seen Bible in his life. It was his first encounter with this Book. He wants to meet with us, when we visit Japan next time. Our trip was slowly coming to the end. The last day before departure we were evangelizing again at the Kyushu University but at the campus downtown Fukuoka.
On Friday, May 15 we were leaving for Korea. P. Iwahashi, Mrs. Isogai and Mrs. Takaki drove us to the airport. It was difficult to part with them. Pastor Iwahashi invited us to stay in his house during our next trip to Japan. He and his people loved doing door knocking with us and want to do it again. They are also thinking about organizing a seminar with Pastor Steve DeVries.
P.S. During last trip my Korean friend, Veronica, started calling me “the coffee shop missionary”. I don’t mind, if only the gospel is preached!