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Running a cafe in Japan: partnership in mission

About a year ago, out of the blue I received a phone call. Mark, a Sapporo-based missionary from a different organization, was asking for a meeting. I wasn’t excited about it, because I already had my plate full of things to do, but somehow it sparked my interest. So, I agreed to meet him and sometime later, went to his place of ministry. I was blown away!

About ten years ago, he had started an English school and opened a café for people to come in and chat. He also had a small church plant up and running with really committed churchgoers. And all that in a superb location—next to a walkway between a subway station and a university where thousands of students pass each day. What a gem, I immediately thought, if only OMF could have something like that, there would be tons of opportunities to reach people for the gospel.

So why did Mark want to meet with me? Because he needed a successor. He was only a year away from retirement. To that point, his search for someone to take over the ministry and lead the team had been in vain. Could OMF step in?

When I left him that day, I felt a whole range of emotions. On the one hand, I recognized this ministry’s immense potential for outreach. On the other hand, I knew that OMF was already committed to several other church plants and it would not be easy to find and train good leaders. Nevertheless, this ministry and the quest for a successor became heavy on my heart and I started praying about it, talking with people about it, and spreading the word around. However, no solution came to light. Again and again I had to tell Mark that OMF couldn’t continue that ministry.

When the final deadline passed, Mark had to announce to his team that they would shut down the ministry in a couple of months.

Frustrated that OMF could not step in and come alongside this other mission organization, I mentioned in passing to a senior missionary, “Keep praying about Mark’s need for a successor.”

Much to my surprise, she replied, “I think I need to go talk to Mark.”

Jokingly I said, “Yeah, we could designate you and your husband to run it.”

“No way!” she said.

Yet she met with Mark, then she approached her husband.

“I don’t think that would be possible, but let me pray about it,” he said.

However, God was on the move, gradually confirming his leading. A couple of weeks later, this couple, themselves only a few years away from retirement, called to tell me that God was leading them to take over this ministry.

During the handover ceremony on 31 March, we not only celebrated God’s goodness throughout the many years of this ministry, but also the continuation of the team. The ministry is now led by OMF missionaries and includes a missionary from a different organisation and a Japanese Christian as staff. In this partnership, we long to see God glorified!

The tagline of the ministry was, and still is, “life changing connections.” Indeed, it has not only changed the lives of many, many visitors to the place, but also the life of senior missionaries. Yet, in the end, it is not we, who make these changes, but God.

Would you pray with us that more people get to know God through this ministry? And also ask the Lord if he is leading you to become part of this ministry, or OMF Japan’s wider ministry!

By Samuel, an OMF missionary

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray for this ministry, that more people would get to know God through it.
  • Pray that God would provide other ministry partnerships that OMF can be a part of.

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