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Start by offering gifts they value

Many of my Japanese friends are comfortably middle-class and not interested foreign religions. They don’t seem to need anything. What can I offer them?

Besides teaching English, I’ve found that sharing foreign food and providing new cultural experiences are things they find valuable. And Christmas is always a great time to combine the three: English, food, and a different culture.

I often throw a Christmas potluck for my English students. I provide the main dishes—roast chicken, turkey, or ham—and sides they won’t easily find, like pecan pie and green bean casserole.

After feasting, we do a gift exchange, games, or performances. My students were sporting enough to do a nativity play one year and caroling another year—all in the name of experiencing foreign culture! I often end with a 5-minute speech, one of the few times I present the gospel overtly without first being asked questions about it.

During the height of Covid, we couldn’t meet in person. I had an online party instead, with help from a relative in Singapore, whose friends there wanted an outreach opportunity. Together, we planned games, singing, and even mailed Singaporean snacks to my students! Later, some students continued to interact with their new Singaporean friends. For example, my student Mrs. A actually visited Singapore and wanted to meet my relatives.

Mrs. A isn’t a Christian despite attending church for 30+ years. She’s familiar with Christianity but has never taken a visible step forward. It’s hard to see the impact of all this outreach in her life. But I believe none of it is in vain.

Offering cultural experiences, especially foreign friendships, builds bridges. My students get to meet all kinds of Christians. When they see the beautifully diverse body of Christ, I believe they are more likely to see a place in it for themselves.

My Japanese students and other friends may not be interested in the gift of the gospel yet. But there are other gifts I can offer which they find valuable.

What kind of gift might you like to give?

By Nate, an OMF Friend

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