So, before you think that I’ve just been on a Tokyo-induced spending spee today, let me inform you that S.H.O.P. stands for Shinjuku House Of Prayer.
And let me tell you that there’s a great story behind this one.
After my prayer tour yesterday, you may have picked up that I felt inspired to pray, but also a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people who don’t know Jesus. Not in a bad way, in a ‘I really want to go join in prayer with some other Christians’ way. You know?
When you want to pray with someone.
Because there’s power in praying with others in church family.
Now, I know I’m going to church on Sunday, but when I prayed about this yesterday, I really felt God say that He wanted me to go to church in Shinjuku… Today.
Now, I didn’t even know of any churches in Shinjuku at this point, so I do a quick google search, and come up with nothing. There are a couple of churches mentioned, but none have a website, let alone a Saturday service.
So I go back to God.
And He says, ‘It’s a House of Prayer.’
Now, the only House of Prayer I’ve ever heard about existing in Tokyo was through a friend of a friend, and I heard it went on a break last year to seek vision, and had never got to 24-7 opening, so I really thought I was on the wrong track.
But, I doubtfully typed ‘Shinjuku House of Prayer’ into Japanese google… and found a Japanese website that told me there was a fully fledged prayer room in existence, based out of Shinjuku Shalom Church. Most of the website, including the directions to the church were in PDF format so untranslatable except by my own reading ability, but I could at least understand that it was 7 minutes from Shinjuku Station, and had an evening service… Today! 6 till 8!
So, at lunchtime today I set off to Shinjuku. Armed with my knowledge that somewhere, a tiny church building existed, roughly 7 minutes from the station.
I said to God, ‘If you want me to go, you’ll have to get me there!’
To put this into context, this is the view when you exit Shinjuku Station (and there are two exits!)
Yep, looks really reassuring doesn’t it? And quiet, real quiet? 😉
Now, I set off in a direction. I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right one, but it felt right.
And then I am stopped by two very elderly Japanese men.
They want to ask me all about where I am from (because, you know, ginger hair and white skin is cool here!), however, they don’t speak English… At all. I can at least understand and answer the question ‘Where are you from?’ in Japanese… Also turns out I can explain that I’m a student doing Masters research in a roundabout kind of way. And I can also understand them grinning and saying, ‘You have a beautiful smile’ over and over again.
We are soon joined by a slightly younger (but still pretty old!) Japanese guy who also speaks no English. I understand him asking why I am in Shinjuku, and then proposing we all go for dinner… Which was definitely NOT happening.
So, I politely told them I was going to church. They asked ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘To pray to Jesus.’ And made some very speedy farewells. Slightly awkward, but strangely encouraging that you can communicate more than you think when you really have too!!
So, after this slight delay, I continue my wanderings in what I feel is the right direction. And long story shortened, find the church within 25 minutes of leaving the station. Now, this is a miracle. Because here’s the church entrance:
It’s on a side street in an alley full of noodle bars (so I also got to eat great udon for dinner!) The members of the congregation that I spoke to downstairs said that even Japanese people who live in Shinjuku struggle to find their church, let alone first time. They thought this was amazing! So did I!
So when I go downstairs I am greeted by a lovely Associate Pastor and a handful of people who speak little to no English. I say I speak a little Japanese, and they run and get a lady out of the prayer room, who speaks about as much English as I do Japanese, but we get to the fact that I have to come to pray with them and then come to the church service. It’s about 4pm at this point. She tells me the prayer room is open all the time and they are delighted I have come. They even sang the chorus to ‘How Great is Our God’ in English for me!’
Now, this in itself is so inspiring. In the UK, we struggle to sustain 24-7 prayer for a week in lots of places, but here, in this relatively tiny church, they have 24-7-365 prayer and worship. Now, I’ve been at IHOP and seen the amount of people and time it takes to sustain that movement, but this is what S.H.O.P. have:
I was both humbled and privileged to spend a couple of hours praying with them, and I’m going to go and do some slots in the prayer room these next two weeks. It was powerful. And praying in tongues is wonderfully bilingual!
And then at 6pm the service started. One lady in the church spoke English and offered to translate the sermon for me by sitting next to me and going through my bilingual Bible verse at a time, but the rest of the service was in Japanese. I could understand and sing along with most of the worship because they had hiragana or romaji words on the screen, and I got the gist of the communion message! 😉
However, what struck me and encouraged me most was this fellowship’s joy and love of the Lord. I was hugged by every member of the congregation. We all took our shoes off and danced next to each other in the worship. They shared communion with me. They gave me their mobile numbers in case I got lost in these next weeks or if I wanted to find out more about what was on. Their passion and enthusiasm for Jesus bubbled out of them, and they encouraged my heart. Because Jesus is very much alive in that little prayer room and very much alive in Japan.
So thank you Jesus for telling me to go, and making me bold enough to take what seemed like a impossible trip.
I have another great story too. Yesterday, as I blogged, I was incredibly burdened when I spent some time in Ikebukuro. And I was really like, ‘Oh Lord, I wish I could meet Christians here!’ And today, the missionary I’m spending the day with tomorrow emailed and asked if I would mind if we didn’t go to the house church she had mentioned, but instead went to a church that worked with the homeless in… Ikebukuro. At the exact spot I was praying yesterday!!
So that’s what tomorrow brings. We’re there morning and afternoon and then at an outreach for the hikikomori later. I’m excited!! And I’m learning a lot. And this is only day 3.
Please keep me in your prayers. But more than that, please remember the work I mention by name and pray for these faithful servants in a land that is often so dark and hardened to the Gospel. Because prayer is the most powerful weapon we have, I really believe that.
Love you all so much.