Ministry to students in Japan can be compared to a farmer working his fields. Aaron, one of our missionaries in Japan, writes about his ministry in the “field” of university students.
In Japan, the university student ministry harvest “field” is really important. Up until then students are busy in school preparing for university entrance exams and then afterwards they enter the world of work, but during university they have time—more time to talk about their values, what they think is true, and to talk about faith. It is like an unplanted field: full of possibilities for the future and a perfect place to sow new seeds.
As a worker in this “field” I spend lots of time building relationships with students, attending activities, hanging out at universities, and having many conversations. I’m seeking to find a clear bit of ground or to clear some space for gospel seeds.
The student ministry “field” actually already has lots of things growing there. Students are distracted—they’re always on their phones trying to make good posts on Instagram, they are trying to look impressive to others. They get distracted by their part-time job, making money, and travel plans. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they get in the way of students thinking about the really important matters. I’ve shared the gospel four times with one student. His response was “Oh thanks for telling me. But I’m more focussed on getting a job.” I want him to realise that this—knowing Jesus died on the cross—is more important than any job. He just doesn’t see that yet.
I realise it’s a long journey to faith in Jesus in this student ministry “field,” with much prayer and engagement. It means a lot of inviting to English classes and having meals together. It means a great deal of time spent talking about interests, values, and worldviews; and many invitations to events where there are other Christians.
But there are also times when students open up. One day, in an online English class I’ve been running, just one girl showed up (usually there’s four or five)—so my wife joined the conversation. The Bible time in that class was on Jesus’ words “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 NIV). I asked her “What’s your idea of God?” She said God for her was her ancestors watching over her. She also said that because she’d been looking at different religions in a university class, “I’m interested in learning more about Christianity.” It was a patch of ground to explain Christianity and sow the gospel!
Mostly, however, there is little response. Another time the class was about health—exercise and diet. The Bible time was based on Isaiah 53:4–5 ending with “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (v. 5 NIV). I worked hard on the lesson and the Bible time, but there was zero response that day. Not even an English grammar or vocabulary question. The student ministry harvest “field” can be hard ground, covered over with dense undergrowth.
I know that if I continue building relationships, teaching, inviting to church, and explaining gospel truth—that seeds are being sown. Even if I don’t see fruit right away, my job is to sow and water. This helps me keep going because it may not be my job to harvest.
Has the “seed” of student ministry in Japan been planted in your heart? If it has, then come—walk the student ministry harvest “field.” Let’s find the clear patches of ground. Let’s try and clear a few ourselves. Let’s plant gospel seeds and water. And even if you haven’t been called to minister in this “field,” you can pray and trust God to cause the growth. Because students are the future—they are the next generation of church leaders and pastors. The student ministry harvest “field” in Japan needs workers.
By Aaron, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that the gospel seeds sown in the hearts of Japanese students will take root and grow.
- Pray for missionaries like Aaron, who serve in student ministry, that they will persevere even when they don’t see fruit.
- Pray for more workers to reach out to Japanese students.