Concerts for Oyumino Church and Their Church Plants: Honda Chapel, Toke, and Chiba
We landed at Narita just after nightfall on December 10 and found David Robbins, Yocchan’s dad and a long-time missionary to Japan, and Tom (a PCA missionary) waiting for us. We exchanged currency, Arden got rail passes, and I got a telephone for use in Japan. We took a train to Honda while David and Tom took the luggage to Honda Chapel in their vans. A long, round-about walk took us from the train station to the chapel. We were fed a lovely rice and curry meal and then got futons situated in the church (men) and in the education building (women) for the night.
The next morning we set up, rehearsed, and prayed using, as a point of departure, one of prayer sheets I had made with Psalms organized using the Lord’s prayer as an outline. Dan Iverson spoke with use just after breakfast and pastor Dedachi shared his story of coming to know the Lord with us. Pastor Dedachi had read a book by a Christian Japanese fiction writer and he wanted the kind of self-sacrificial love he saw in it; later, when a friend invited him to church, he gradually moved toward a commitment to his Savior. It was also good for the group to hear Dan explain using Tim Keller’s marriage analogy how it is for Japanese to hear the gospel: You meet a single lady who, you think, would probably be a good match for a friend of yours, Joe. So you say “Hey, this guy Joe is an amazing guy” and tell them about Joe. How would she respond if you then said “Would you like to marry Joe?” That is how it is to tell someone in Japan about Jesus and press them to “make a decision for Christ.” It does not make sense. Deep relationships and commitments do not usually spring up like that. Most Japanese people do not know about the one true and living God, their creator, and less about Jesus. They need an introduction and time to get to know him in order to make a real commitment to a relationship with him.
We performed a concert there at Honda Chapel in the afternoon. It went well. I am so proud of the group! I got to interact with a lady who was about to jet out of there. Leaning her head toward the door even as she bowed and thanked me. But then she shook my hand and started to talk and ended up stayed a long time. Engaged in conversation with a circle of people, she said “People here keep smiling.” (A neighbor had invited her to come.)
We also performed at a church in Toke. The church meets in a former barbecue place. We picked up food at a McDonalds (and Alex and I shared an amazing coffee drink along with our main dishes)—vey delicious food, and very unlike anything in America—and ate it at the church. We had a quick set up, the performance, and then time to mingle with the people in attendance. I talked with a young man named Subaru and encouraged him in the faith after hearing his story. Then I spoke with a man who works in a battery-making company. Dan helped briefly with some translating late in the conversation, and later his wife helped, but it was difficult to communicate.
In both concerts Dan Iverson facilitated and translated the testimonies from four of our members. Kristiana did wonderful job! She spoke of her desire for perfection, her feelings of worthlessness when she made mistakes, and how she had contemplated suicide at one time, but how her new dad exhibited God’s never-failing love, even when she rejected him as dad for a long time after he married her mom. Kristiana was 4 years of age at that time and only took his last name as her own in 2009. God’s acceptance is even stronger than her dad’s, persisting through all our sin and rebellion. Kristian’s free admission of sin and brokenness gave great power to her testimony to the Lord’s work in her.
We also traveled to Chiba and performed at a church there on December 12. Praise God for the wonderful testimonies from group members, for good performances, and for the growing willingness of the group to fan out and talk with people after the concerts!