One of the first tasks I faced after I became the OMF regional leader for Hokkaido in Japan was attending the 50th year celebration of a church in Hokkaido. I knew that I would be asked for a short greeting, so I went to the archives and dug out the files and reports of previous missionaries there.
The reports were not encouraging. The first missionaries reported how hard it was to connect with people. And when they made contact and people showed an interest in the gospel—or even became Christians and were baptized—they would often move away shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the missionaries persevered and a church was founded, averaging about nine members. About 20 years after the start, the church was handed over to a Japanese pastor and Japanese leadership. This handover marked the start of the new church and was our reason for celebration that day.
As I sat in that, still small, church I realised that God is building the church, not we missionaries. During the celebration, all the people attending were asked to stand up, briefly introduce themselves, and tell us their connection with the church. To my astonishment, every second person mentioned OMF. We heard about their grandmothers who were baptised by an OMF missionary, their parents who became Christians because of OMF and took them to church, or that they themselves came to faith through OMF missionaries telling children stories in a park. And every time someone mentioned OMF, the speaker would turn to me and bow to express their appreciation for the work of OMF decades ago. Oh, how I wished that all the previous missionaries could have been there to bathe in the praise for the hardships they’d endured.
That was when I realized that my job as a regional OMF leader was a support role. Yes, it does include components of being strategic, visionary, and bold. However, most of it is supporting missionaries and enabling them to do the hard work in God’s harvest. I won’t be mentioned in the church’s chronicles, but the missionaries I support who work there will.
I also realized that missionary work in Japan is not glorious. It involves hard work, frustrations, and disappointments—our efforts will never yield all the visible results we long for. Are we missionaries planting churches? Yes, we are. Yet it is God who is building the church in his way and his time. Our hardships might turn into several generations of faithful Christians—after we are gone. We will leave the mission field sooner or later, hoping to leave a local church behind where people gather and worship the Lord. Therefore, let’s give these churches all the support we can, in prayer and love, so that his kingdom can be built up among these people.
By Samuel, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that God would build his church in Japan.
- Pray that he would use his servants, missionaries, to build his church.
- Pray for mission leaders, that they would understand their role in supporting missionaries and supporting the Japanese church.