The eager men and women gather in a circle in a train station, ready to listen to one of the helpers sharing the Bible story. They are homeless and have just received a bag of food—a steamed meat bun or a bento box, bread, and drink—along with the Bible story on a piece of paper.
A group of us has been ministering to homeless people in the vicinity of Ikebukuro Station, the third busiest train station in the world. Every Thursday night we meet three groups of homeless people, about 35 altogether. It is fulfilling to see each individual listening with respect to gospel stories, bowing their heads in prayer, and some professing faith in God.
Mr Nakamura is one faithful helper who was once a homeless person. He has been recently baptised at the Nakayoshi Church in Tokyo. Kei, a former engineer who was made homeless due to the nuclear leakage at his hometown in Fukushima, helps to lead the homeless ministry with his skills of coordination and a caring heart.
This ministry started in 2012 with one short-term worker. Now we have 10 or more helpers, including some who have become Christians through this ministry. In the beginning, only food was distributed to help meet their physical needs. Then we identified ourselves as Christians and started to distribute Bible stories with the food bag. It has been rewarding to see them stretch their hands out to receive the Word of God as they receive the food.
Besides food, we distribute seasonal clothing as well as McDonald’s gift cards during the cold winter. They enjoyed being invited occasionally to Saizeria, an Italian-styled family restaurant for a meal, and to special events at a Christian cafe (Sonrise café) when teams from abroad are here to minister.
The beauty of this ministry is that these people are being reached as a community. It’s been a deliberate choice—knowing the importance of the Japanese cultural context of harmony and group-orientation. Although they are a marginalized segment of society, they are a community and look out for each other. They function, in true Japanese fashion, as a group.
Besides our ministry at the train station, they have been introduced to two churches that welcome homeless people. These churches provide opportunities for further Bible study as well as worship services. It is exciting to see those who have become Christians make an effort to reach out to others and invite them to evangelistic events. The homeless reaching the homeless for Christ.
By Louis, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Praise God for the growing numbers of helpers and churches involved in this ministry.
- Thank God for using this ministry to save some of these homeless people.
- Pray that many more would receive the Bread of Life and feed on Him by faith.