In the face of heartbreaking images of damage and destruction in northern Japan, one ministry leader sees an unprecedented opening to reach the Japanese people with the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ. “God is using this tragedy to put Japan back on the map for Western
Christians,” says Rick Chuman, executive director of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). “Some have thought we’ve put 150 years of effort into reaching Japan and it’s time to move on,” he notes. “So it’s exciting to see it’s back on the radar for Western Christians who now want to pray for Japan.”
Chuman hopes for a very different kind of tsunami to hit Japan. “Now there’s another kind of tsunami – and hopefully it’s the Holy Spirit descending on that country and doing something with the returnees and the in-country missionaries.”
While many Asian countries have large, vibrant Christian populations, in Japan only about 1.5 percent identify themselves as Christian. Some consider the Japanese to be the largest unreached people group in the world.
One obstacle to reaching the Japanese with the gospel is the syncretistic approach they take to religion. Many consider themselves Shinto and Buddhist. “Usually they are married Shinto and buried Buddhist,” Chuman notes. “For us to come in and say Jesus is the only way is hard for them to swallow.”
Some want to add Jesus to a long list of other gods. “Culturally they have 1000 little gods. They assume they can buy into one more God and lump it all together. When they hear he is the one true God they say, ‘That’s kind of a Western religion. It works for you Americans.’”
Mark Ellis is a senior correspondent for ASSIST News Service and the founder of
www.Godreports.com. He is available to speak to groups about the plight of the church in restricted countries, to share stories and testimonies from the mission field, and to preach the gospel.