Each time I visit the OMF Hokkaido Centre in Sapporo, I head to the library on the third floor and pick up a book to read. I particularly enjoy reading books and publications from the Church Planting section in the library (see photo below). You can also find out a lot about church planting in Japan just by reading missionary autobiographies, so I’m looking forward to reading books recently published by our retired coworkers.
OMF’s history in Japan
OMF’s church planting work in Japan started in late 1951. After Communists took over China in 1949, the CIM (China Inland Mission, later renamed OMF International) were forced to evacuate their missionaries. The mission directors met in April 1951 to pray and discern the Lord’s next steps. They decided that missionaries would be redeployed to countries in East Asia to continue the work of evangelism. However, “the meeting was most undecided with whether the mission was justified in seeking an entrance into Japan.”1
The directors took a tea break in the middle of that discussion, and soon after that received news that a cheque for $1,000 was available if it was used for mission work in Japan. Shortly after, a cheque for £500 was received for the same purpose. The directors saw this as a sign from God and thus decided to send missionaries to Japan.
A telegram about this decision reads: “Lengthen cords, strengthen stakes. While emphasising prayer for China conference unanimously convinced Mission should explore unmet need preparatory to entering new fields from Thailand to Japan. Haggai 2:5 (My Spirit remaineth among you: fear yet not.)”2
OMF planted their first churches in Hokkaido (the northern island of Japan), then in Aomori (northern Honshu), and later in other parts of Honshu. OMF chose to begin work in the northern regions of Japan because mission organizations were already at work in the larger cities further south, and there were few working in the north. In the early years, missionaries did tent evangelistic rallies, literature distribution, radio programs, and English classes. Evangelism methods have changed much since then, but OMF’s commitment to spreading God’s Word remains.
As I read these autobiographies of previous missionaries I am inspired, not only by their dedication to church planting work, but by their love for the Japanese people. Reading their stories not only tells me about the history of church planting in Japan, but it also points me to the Lord that empowers them to do it. I would encourage you to get a copy of any OMF Japan missionary’s autobiography to read about the Lord’s work in the churches here.
This year marks seventy years of OMF church planting in Japan, and we thank God for allowing us to partner him for this purpose. In God’s grace we look forward to many more churches planted for his glory.
By Daniel, an OMF missionary
1. Compiled by JECA, Testimonies of CIM (OMF) Missionaries in the Northern Japan, (OMF Japan, 1998), 1.