So today the heat in Tokyo hit a whole new level… Right into the mid 30 degree mark.
I seriously can’t remember ever being this hot before ever in my life. Ever.
The huge amount of concrete and people makes it a bit of an adjustment to the spacious, cool dimensions of Inverness! 😉
However, today I have more importantly been seriously blessed, seriously inspired, and seriously pushed out of my comfort zone.
I left my house at 9am and as I sit to write it’s just after 8pm and I’m literally through the door. It’s been a full and busy time. And amazing.
I have spent today with an inspirational OMF missionary called Hwee Joo. She is a social worker from Singapore who has given her life to serving this beautiful people on the mission field. And time with her has massively encouraged my heart, and excited my vision. Actually, we were both encouraged by each other in an equal amount I think.
Anyway, I met Hwee Joo at Ikebukuro station and we quickly made our way to the Holiness Church. This church is a bit more traditional than the one I found yesterday. It has it’s roots in Methodism, and part of me definitely did feel like I was singing the hymns of my childhood… Just, you know, in Japanese! Anyway, this congregation were mostly older people, about 30 of them, but they are known for their amazing outreach to the homeless. They make incredible meals, preach great messages and then give wonderful food packages to those in need.
They have the most precious heart.
It’s estimated that there are over 200 rough sleepers in Ikebukuro alone on a daily basis. In Japan, there is no council housing or welfare network like we have in the UK, so rough sleepers tend to stay rough sleeping for a long time. It’s hard to break a cycle of poverty without a break somewhere in the chain.
And this little church have a heart for these individuals.
So, myself and Hwee Joo arrive at this church. Neither of us have ever been before. I don’t speak very much Japanese. But when Hwee Joo introduces us, they are so excited and insist that we both give a short message of encouragement in the main service. Oh, and I can also give a testimony message at the homeless outreach in the afternoon too. Of course I can. I am so thankful for Hwee Joo’s translation!!
The hymns today were old school. And there were no hiragana get outs, I was reading kanji all the way. Which was good reading practice… Even if I did get my readings wrong on a few occasions!! (Sing quietly Peta…) Our testimonies went down well, and the message was great (again, the whole service was in Japanese so I had the translation whispered in my ear). The message was on prayer, and how the speaker’s Mother had been healed from pretty much being declared dead. Her body was cold and the doctors said there was no hope. But then the family prayed and she was resurrected. She became a Christian there and then, and lived for 4 more years before finally going onto glory in peace. Wow! Love messages like that!
Anyway, here’s a look at the church:
After the service, there is a meal each week for everyone in attendance. And I mean a full, you-have-never-seen-so-much-food-in-your-life meal. About half the church have been met through the homeless outreach, and this group is a wonderful example of community in action. 11 rough sleepers have come to faith in the last year, and one is getting baptised next week. Hardly anyone here spoke English, but I managed to talk to a number of them over lunch. As they are all my elders, I also got to bow a lot. A lot. I think bowing is becoming a definite habit now!! But, again it was encouraging to be ale to listen and understand a bit more, and also say a few sentences here and there. Definitely out of my comfort zone!!
Which was good preparation! Because then we went out on the streets to invite people to come to the homeless outreach! Hahaha… Me, with flyers, inviting Japanese people to come to church… When I can’t speak Japanese very articulately!! So funny. I thought it was worth a shot anyway! 🙂
Fast forward an hour and I am sharing testimony in the outreach. And then more time to talk over green tea, coffee and rice crackers. I know the church said they were encouraged by my testimony, but I was so encouraged by their response.
One elderly man said in his broken English, ‘Please come to Japan as a missionary’.
The pastor of the church came up to me said, ‘Please come to Japan for our young people’.
That just made me well up to be honest, because this church just longs to see it’s community transformed by Jesus, but they are so small and the need is so big. Pray that God would send workers. And thank Him for the ones who are already here. Because the people are saying, ‘Please come.’
The pastor of this church also couldn’t get his head around my name at all and kept thinking I was called ‘pizza’… Which made me laugh a lot!!
Following this, the afternoon had a slightly different focus as we set off to an outreach that works with the hikikomori. This isn’t a Christian run outreach, the lady who coordinates it is a social worker in Tokyo, but we did have freedom to talk about our faith, and the Christians who volunteer can share freely. For those of you who asked, the hikikomori are young Japanese who are totally socially withdrawn and isolated. Often they have gone for months or years without seeing anyone. This cafe is an attempt to change that and provide a safe environment for them to meet others.
I had the most encouraging time here. One young man attempted to speak English to me. It was fragmented, but very funny. Especially when I told him I was 28 and he exclaimed, ’17!!! You look 17!!!’ He’s dropped out of university but is volunteering at this cafe to help give him focus. I then spent a long time talking to a 27 year old guy who is transgender. He spoke amazingly good English, and was very open about some of the things he finds difficult. What struck me was that this young man would probably only ever meet the Christians at this outreach. He finds communication very difficult and has struggled to feel like he belongs anywhere. It’s amazing that he would come and spend a couple of hours chatting to an English Christian! Please pray for these two young men and the relationships they have with local missionaries.
Finally, me and Hwee Joo went for dinner to talk and pray more about Japan and the work here. Honestly, I am just moved and humbled and inspired.
I could write so much more, but truthfully, I’m so tired right now that I need to get some sleep. A whole day with that much Japanese has scrambled my brain. I have the day off tomorrow, so will be visiting a local onsen and doing things that normal holiday makers do before meetings on Tuesday 😉
I love Japan. I really love Jesus.