We had just moved into our small town (pop. 27,000) in northern Japan. I needed ways to meet people, so I wandered around the community centre praying and looking for ideas. I saw a lonely flier stuck on the noticeboards—“Looking for members for a local band!” Could it be me they were looking for?
A few days later I met the band leader at a rehearsal studio. He was a professional graphic artist. But also a skilled musician and fan of folk, country, and classic rock music. From memory he sang me The Eagles’ “Take It Easy” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”.
“Play me a song,” he said.
So I picked up my guitar and sang Tim Hughes’ song “Happy Day”, a song rejoicing over Jesus’ resurrection.
“Wow, I love it! Please, join our band!”
And so began my journey of playing in a local band in rural Japan. We play an eclectic mix of American country music I’d never heard before, John Denver, and Elton John. I never really thought of myself as a singer, but I assured myself that somehow being a native English speaker covered over all musical sins.
A few weeks later, after several rehearsals, performances were lined up. In rural areas like ours, venues are always happy to have a band come and perform, and so I found myself performing at the local concert hall, at restaurants, on the local radio, and at a kindergarten. Every chance I had, I would perform “Happy Day”, and talk about the joy Christians have in knowing Jesus rose from the dead, giving us hope beyond the grave.
This was the first experience any of the band members had had of Christian music, or extended time with a foreigner or Christian. Naturally this led to questions about the meaning of the lyrics, or about YouTube music videos of Christian songs I shared to help us practice.
“Is that what church looks like?”
“Do you sing every week?”
“How many songs do you know?”
“Does everyone know the songs?”
Later I asked—”Shall we do a language exchange? I help your English, you help my Japanese?”
And so began another phase—weekly English and Japanese classes with the band. I made use of bilingual children’s Christian books as well as the Bible to help us with reading practice. This led to the formation of a separate women’s English and Bible group run by another missionary (starting with the wife of the band leader). Which would lead to one-to-one Bible reading with another lady who was particularly struck by the stories she read about Jesus. Only God knows where this will go next.
Using Your Gifts
What are you passionate about?
I’ve always had a passion for music, but I had never imagined the journey that would result from following this passion. The key is not merely following my passion—anyone can do that—but being intentional in using it as a springboard for gospel sowing. This is one of OMF Japan’s values: sharing Christ in word and deed—proclaiming the gospel, and bearing witness with our whole lives.
Would you pray that God might use your gifts and passions for his glory?
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that God would use your passions and gifts for his glory.
- Pray for the people in this story, that God would impact their lives and build his church.
- Pray for more people to serve God in Japan with their passions and gifts.