In the time between college and beginning a career, Elijah Caldwell knew God was calling him to go on a mission trip to Japan. When he finally he found himself in Japan, he was blessed by the opportunity to listen and observe.
When we are called to missions and answer that call, we soon find we are not alone. For me, this hit when I met with my team and also in the OMF training. Meeting those who not only have the calling to missions, but also a heart for Japan was one of the most heartening things!
We served together as a team from June 10th to 22nd. A last-minute member joined our team for the last two days. Each time someone was added to the team we all were overjoyed and learned a lot.
OMF sent us as a prayer team to Hokkaido a northern island in Japan. The capital city Sapporo is where the OMF Hokkaido headquarters is located. It was a great place for us to start our journey. Because it is central, we were able to use it as a hub to drive to areas all over Hokkaido. Fun fact, the average yearly snow accumulation is about 16 ft (485 cm)!
Sapporo was an amazing city, not only is it the capital of Hokkaido, but it is home to about 2 million people. Many haven’t even heard of Jesus before. As a team we visited a church overlooking the city. We prayed over the city and for all those who have not yet heard about the wonderful grace of God.
One thing that was prominent all over Hokkaido (and all of Japan) are the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Both stick out from the modern city landscape due to the particular style of architecture. Despite identifying as Buddhist or Shinto many Japanese don’t truly know what they believe.
Many Japanese identify with both the Buddhist and Shinto religions which are closely intertwined with the culture of Japan. I found this to be like how many in the west identify as Christian but have little understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Rather, religion is followed because it is a part of the culture and that’s how things have always been done.
While in Sapporo we got the chance to see the Sapporo Shrine festival. It was split up into sections with the concessions’ area (seen in pic #4) and the parade section. Each neighborhood had their own shrine preceded by a procession of people dressed up in traditional festival cloths. We got to pray over the area and the people participating in the festival.
*Outside of Sapporo, Hokkaido is full of farms, forests, and mountains. Many smaller cities and towns dot the land. With most of Hokkaido’s population found in the city of Sapporo, the rest of the region is very rural. The pictured mountain is a volcano called Mt. Yotei. It’s considered the Mt. Fuji of the north!
As we traveled east, south, north, and west around Hokkaido we met with 8 pastors and missionaries, talking and praying with them. As we were traveling around, I was struck with how beautiful of a creation God has created in the church of Japan.
Almost every church we visited is actively meeting with other churches in the area. Pastors have monthly prayer meetings and congregations come together to worship even across different denominations.
The last day we were blessed to be part of a day of prayer. Many of the OMF missionaries from all over Hokkaido meet together, praying for the church, OMF, and for God’s will to be done in the ministry. The church is small but beautiful and God is surely working and building up His church for the revitalization of Hokkaido.
How This Trip Impacted Me
As I was on the prayer journey, I was able to experience something I had only heard about before. Now I can talk confidently about Japan and urge those around me back in the States to be praying.
Japan is no longer a country that is far away, and Christianity in Japan is not just something I have only read about. It is now a country that is right in front of me and as a result I can talk about having experienced it.
Now I am urging those around me to be praying for our brothers and sisters in Hokkaido, the ministry going on there, and for those who are unreached. I also got to see the incredible way God has set up a mission’s organization. From the people who are led to be ministering on the field to those who are supporting them and sending others to the field.
Lastly, it is a blessing to hear about the joyful things God is doing in the midst of hardship. I was encouraged to see the faith of those who take joy in talking about the good God is doing.
The churches are in need of strength. The growth can be slow and frustrating.
Pastors are in need of rest physically and spiritually as they are continuously working.
For church outreaches to the local community, that they will reach the hearts of those who do not know Jesus.
Pray for the missionaries as living in another country is taxing and can be full of loneliness, anxiety, or frustration.
Pray for more to follow the call to serve in Japan, for the country is ripe for revival. For wisdom and strength as they faithfully work for God’s glory.
For the people of Hokkaido, as they are in need of revitalization, both spiritually but also physically, as many small towns and farm areas are economically depressed.
For the native Ainu people who are preserving the native culture of Hokkaido that their culture will not die out, but that God will speak into it.
Finally, for the Ainu, Japanese, and foreigners living in Hokkaido, that they will find it is God who is the one to grab hold of and fills them up, and that all other things they are holding onto pales in comparison.
“Therefore, my dear siblings, stand firm. Let nothing move you, always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58