Japanese pastors share: what’s it like serving with OMF workers?

We hear from two Japanese pastors about their churches, the benefits and challenges of serving alongside OMF workers and how we can pray for them:

Can you tell us about your church?

Pastor Yamahiro
Our church is in Nayoro, a city in Northern Hokkaido with a population of 28,000. The church was started in 2014 and is located away from the city centre but near Nayoro University. About 18 people gather for worship, ranging from middle school students to people in their 90s, but most are in their 50s to 60s. Earlier this year, we started a church plant in the village of Nishiokkope, about 45 minutes outside the city, and are engaging with the local community. We hope to have local residents attending there soon and for more people to come to both churches through our new outreach initiatives.

Pastor Micah
Our church has a membership of about 30 people; we have two congregations in two locations. Both church locations were started by OMF missionaries, one in the early 1960s and the other in the 1990s, and then we joined together and became one individual independent church around 2000. I’ve been a pastor here in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan for almost 10 years. I’m 36 years old. In our church association, I am by far the youngest pastor. We currently have three OMF couples serving with us, two long-term and one for six months.

Why did you become a pastor?

Pastor Yamahiro
I began reading the Bible and developed faith through my father’s Christian funeral. I was baptised at a church in Obihiro. Later, I was called to be a pastor at a church plant.

What are the benefits of having cross-cultural workers in your church?

Pastor Micah
You can easily become stuck in a very traditional way of church life in rural Japan. Some of the congregation, especially seniors, have never left the prefecture. So some of the biggest blessings and benefits that I’ve received through OMF missionaries is keeping me open-minded about things and being exposed to new ideas. Through OMF workers coming, the church members are blessed and have their horizons widened as they worship with and serve alongside people from other countries and cultures.  I don’t have any pastors my age that I can share with or connect with in a close way. In Asian culture, you respect your seniors and that means you can be distanced from them even though you meet with them regularly. It would be nice to have someone of a similar age, or a little closer to relate to. Thankfully God has been given me some great missionaries through OMF to share with and to connect with regularly.

Pastor Yamahiro
It brings me joy to be able to work together to build up the church. From the perspective of fellow church members, their example as believers is a positive model for us all. I have also learned from their enthusiasm for evangelism through constant prayer and ideas to share the gospel.

And the challenges?

Pastor Micah
Everybody comes with different experiences, different ideas, and different approaches to ministry. I always want to encourage them to be part of that ministry and do what God has called them to do.

Often missionaries bring methods and ideas that are very non-Japanese. It is hard for Japanese Christians to understand why these things may be helpful or see the benefit to them. Likewise, methods for outreach and evangelism need discernment to be useful and effective.

Pastor Yamahiro
I know that coming to Japan and experiencing the differences in culture and lifestyle has been challenging for the missionaries. But I have learned to trust in God through seeing their example of walking with God and looking up to him.

How do you deal with these challenges?

Pastor Micah
It’s often a lot of prayer and just talking about what we’ve experienced, what we’ve heard and trying to discern what might work.

How can we pray for you and your church?

Pastor Yamahiro
Pray for each member to learn to love and serve the church as their own, and for the work of the new church plant to be protected. May the gospel spread to the community around the church plant.

Pastor Micah
It can be a struggle to live as a Christian in the workplace and at home, living among non-Christians and in a culture that is very strongly rooted in its beliefs. Pray that the Lord will give church members encouragement, protection, spiritual rest and guidance as they live as a Christian among non-Christians.
Pray for guidance for me as a pastor, wisdom and discernment. Not just as a pastor, but also as a husband and a father to my two children, that I can be a role model for them of someone who is loving God in serving his Church and caring for my family.

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