The church in Japan is ageing—89% of Japanese pastors are over 50. The average age of church members at the church we work at is 64. In some ways this reflects the surrounding society, but how are we to pass the gospel on to the next generation?
We are called to teach each generation the wonderful salvation of the Lord. Many children in Japan have never thought about a creator God, have never heard a Bible story, and know nothing about Jesus.
When we moved to our present location seven years ago to be involved in a baby church plant, we prayed for an open door into the community here. As I read the local community newsletter, I saw that the local primary school was looking for volunteers in the school library. My husband loves books and arranging them (!) so it seemed a perfect fit. He started volunteering regularly and, though only recently have volunteers been allowed back into the school because of COVID, it has remained a great opportunity. He lends out the books and receives the returned ones from the children and always asks them about what they have read. In this way many children know his face!
Our church decided to run regular festivals and parties for families and children. We have done spring and harvest festivals, summer picnics, craft events for Mother’s and Father’s Day, and of course Christmas and Easter parties. We always give out fliers in front of the schools and my husband’s “trusted face” has been a great benefit. Now our son also goes to the school; he often stands beside his dad and invites his friends.
Over the years the numbers coming to our events has slowly grown and in 2021 we had 69 guests at our Christmas party! As well as games and crafts, they hear from the Bible about God and are invited to our Sunday kids’ group. We see many friends returning, as well as new faces each time. Occasionally children take up the offer to come on a Sunday, sometimes with their parents and sometimes by themselves. And for over a year now we have had the joy to welcome a few children who come regularly on Sundays. As they hear Bible stories for the first time and learn about God’s salvation they are considering if it’s true and what it means for them.
With some children we are able to share deeply about God’s salvation. For others we are planting a seed that there is a God who loves them. For some we are influencing their worldview so the concept of a creator God doesn’t seem so strange. And perhaps for others we are just leaving a favourable memory of church, which may mean they find it easier to visit a church as an adult.
How will God grow fruit from this ministry? In the years to come what will he do with those seeds planted in different children’s hearts? We don’t know. We may never know.
But one thing is certain.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV)
By Sian, an OMF missionary