In 2011, when Pat and I were due to retire after 33 years of service with OMF in Japan, the pastor of the Vancouver Japanese Gospel Church, which had supported us while we were in Japan, invited us to come on staff and help with a busy and growing church. We accepted the position as part-time Associate Pastors and have been working with them these last seven years.
Many Japanese young people come to the church while in Canada on student, working holiday, and tourist visas, staying for periods ranging from a few months to several years. Contact is made mostly through social media advertising and young people inviting friends to meet other Japanese to enjoy friendship together. A variety of outreach events like volleyball and basket-ball games, hikes, sleep-overs, camps, meals together etc. keep the doors open to new-comers.
Apart from helping with the preaching needs, and the usual involvement in church ministries like Sunday School teaching, etc., we do an English Conversation class on Sundays after lunch and prior to the Youth and Young Adults Service at 3.00pm. This is followed by a supper once a month, a talent show or some other special event to increase the opportunity for fellowship.
Numbers at the English class vary considerably, because if the weather is nice, they likely go out with friends. However, they always enjoy coming to our home for games and making wraps together which we do once during each eight week course. At our home party we may show a short video on the Bible theme we have followed in the English classes. This sparks further interest and opportunity for discussion.
The Japanese Pastor or his wife offer basic Bible studies to those who are interested, and these often lead to decisions and baptism. The challenge comes when students go back to Japan!
We chat to those returning and seek to help prepare them for some of the challenges they will face. Our church also seeks to connect returning students with churches back in Japan. Our pastor and his wife are from a denomination in Japan that sent them here as missionaries and so they have a wide network of pastors they know. Japan Christian Fellowship Network, Reaching Japanese for Christ and OMF Japan can also help in finding churches for people. At least once a year Reunions are organized in Japan for those who have attended the Church while in Vancouver. This also enables Returnees who are walking with Lord to be an encouragement to those who may have fallen by the wayside. In fact, it is very often Christians who have returned to Japan themselves who are the best ones to connect with current returnees because they have a common bond and are keen to help them get settled.
A few of those who have come to the Lord in Vancouver have gone on to attend Bible colleges.
Two years ago a young lady came on a working holiday visa. Although she had ‘decided’ not to become a Christian because of previous experiences, God moved in her heart and she was baptized at VJGC before returning to Japan. Now she plans to attend a Bible College in Vancouver.
As with many Japanese, she is shy and does not easily approach new-comers but her time at VJGC has helped her to become more outgoing.
In spite of Japan being an open country for missionaries to serve in, less than 1% of the population are in church on any given Sunday. Most people feel they have no connection with Christianity.
Tony & Pat Schmidt
OMF DRM Canada
Will you pray for partnership in ministry?
- Give thanks for the partnership between churches and workers with different gifts. Pray for Tony & Pat as they serve with this church and welcome Japanese students.
- Pray for continuing developing good connections for returning students to help them continue following Jesus when they go back to Japan.
- Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth laborers to help the small Church in Japan.