I am a mid-term missionary (two-year associate) currently working at Iris Café, a Christian coffee shop. Whenever I share with someone about what I do as a missionary in Japan, people ask:
“Why are you, a missionary, making coffee and baking cakes in a coffee shop?”
However, the coffee shop ministry is actually one of Tsugaru Gospel Church’s outreach programs in Itayanagi, Aomori—in northern Japan.
In Japan, it is generally unheard of to have someone walk into a church and say, “I want to know Jesus.”
There seems to be an invisible barrier between Japanese people and the Christian church. Hence, the coffee shop serves as a comfortable and non-intimidating space to connect people with Tsugaru Church.
At the café I partner with a Christian lady, Ms. N. She gave up her better-paying job to work in the coffee shop because she believes that non-Christians in the town can be reached through this ministry.
The majority of our customers are local. Our regular visitors are usually housewives or senior ladies who are looking for people to talk to—with the staff at coffee shop or with their friends over a nice afternoon tea. My work as a missionary at the coffee shop gives me the opportunity to talk and listen to people over a cup of coffee and gradually they become more willing to share their lives with us.
Occasionally these conversations become spiritual. For example, in one conversation we talked about churches in Japan and the idea of life after death. Some I’ve met are curious about Christianity, but they do not think of themselves as Christians yet. They are usually hesitant if we immediately invite them to go to church; but are more willing to sit, read the Bible, and pray with us at the coffee shop.
We know our Lord is one who cares about his people’s hearts and will draw them near to him, hence we want to show Christ’s love and share biblical truths through the coffee shop. We want to bring people closer to the Lord and to give them an opportunity to get to know other Christians and the church in a non-intimidating manner.
When I work in the coffee shop, I feel that I am working with God. In the past 15 years since the coffee shop started, people have come to faith in Christ through this ministry. At the moment we have a lady who does Bible study with us once a week and two other ladies often come to the coffee shop, asking us to pray for them.
As it is written in the book of Isaiah:
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert. (Is. 43:19 NASB)
I believe that our Lord is working each day in this small town to bring people to him through this coffee shop ministry. We pray that through this ministry, more Japanese will come to know and put their faith in Christ.
By Elisa, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that churches would come up with creative ways to reach their local communities.
- That missionaries would be sensitive to new ways of operating that God has prepared for us to follow.
- For the coffee shop in this small town, that God would bring many more to Christ through this ministry.