When returning from church planting work in Japan, we were told that work with Japanese overseas would be ‘different’. ‘You’ll have to be flexible’ they said. ‘Open to being involved in different ministries all across the city’.
Well, we are coming to the end of our first year of outreach among Japanese short-stay residents in Melbourne, Australia. And we have certainly found flexibility to be the key.
While we do still have some ‘local’ church ministry at Melbourne Japanese Church, we have discovered opportunities spread out across the city as well, including English outreaches, student work and also the opportunity of showing hospitality and inviting guests into our own home.
A large inner city church has a weekly English outreach to working holiday visitors and students, receiving up to 100 guests in an evening. Often more than 10 of these are Japanese. We discovered that often Japanese visitors spend an entire year in the country, without once setting foot in an Australian’s home. So from these regular guests, we have invited many to our house for a welcome home-cooked meal.
We discovered that often Japanese visitors spend an entire year in the country, without once setting foot in an Australian’s home.
Curry Nights and BBQs
From individual contacts group events soon became possible, where we’d have, for example a curry night, or summer BBQ, and along with the games, eating and fellowship, would include a talk from the Bible. Going forwards it looks like we might be able to organise regular conversation and fellowship nights, among our Australian volunteers and Japanese guests.
Opportunities have opened up for student work as well. Hundreds of exchange students come from Japan each year, mostly to study English. Up to now the local campus Christian workers have known that the Japanese students were there, but had never been able to make meaningful contact with them. This year by God’s grace, we have been able to see at least 10 Japanese students attend church or Christian Union events regularly, and two have completed or are in the process of doing a Christianity Explored course.
Two Changes from Japan
It is still very early days, but I would say that there are two things that are clearly different from our time in Japan. The first is that, Japanese people are definitely more open spiritually in Australia than when in Japan. We could almost never casually invite a Japanese friend to church in Japan, except perhaps for a Christmas service. But we have found it relatively easy to do so here in Australia. Often the young people are at a very open, enquiring time of their lives. God can do a work in their hearts!
The other dynamic is the assistance we receive from volunteers. Overseas our supporters could pray for us. But here in Melbourne, they can pray, and also work together with us. We are blessed to be surrounded by keen Christians with a burden for Japanese people equal to our own, and more than willing to join in the ministry together.
So we have discovered this ministry is not as clearly defined as the work we did in Japan. But it is definitely worthwhile!
Greg & Shireen Seymour
Melbourne, August 2018
Will you pray?
- Pray for OMF workers serving East Asians away from home: sharing the gospel, discipling them, and preparing them to return home. With so many opportunities, pray for wisdom to know where best to invest their time.
- Pray for these workers and their partnership with churches, individual Christians and other like-minded organizations would grow and bear fruit.
- Pray for the Seymours as they develop their ministry and relationships with their partners in the gospel. Pray for wisdom, effectiveness and fruitfulness.