We attended KKMC’s Missions 101 and 102 seminars in 2018 and this sparked a strong yearning in us to follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus, not just to be good disciples of Christ but to be “the feet of those who bring Good News”. We recognised that responding to Jesus’ call would mean a challenging and difficult journey ahead, but we wanted to obey and serve Him in the mission field.
Our introduction to Japan
Japan is often regarded among the world’s most technologically-advanced nations where most of its citizens are literate and enjoy high standards of living.
However, Japan is also known to be a ‘hard land’ in terms of evangelism and is the most un-evangelised country amongst developed nations. A 2019 survey by the Overseas Mission Fellowship (OMF), shows that the headcount of evangelical Christians is at 0.3% of its total population, making the Japanese the second largest unreached people group in the world.
Japan, or the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, is close to our hearts, simply because we have been frequent travellers to this land for the past 15 years. Our early visits had focused on researching Japanese innovations in design and technology, as this was related to our work in architecture and interior design.
Our first mission trip to Japan was with the English Presbytery Japan Mission (EPJM) team to the Tohoku region in the winter of 2018. It was an amazing eye-opening mission trip with many heart-rending moments.
We visited Miyako, a town in Tohoku’s Iwate Prefecture. It was badly affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake which triggered the powerful tsunami waves, reaching heights of up to 40.5 meters. People here had lost their families and homes, and were in distress.
Despite this, many elderly persons, though weak and frail, turned up at our outreach events, greeting us with warm smiles. It touched our hearts when we realised that they made the effort to come on a snowy winter day. This could only be the prompting from the Holy Spirit, enabling them to step out of their warm homes to the outreach events prepared for them by Christians, where they could experience and receive God’s love for them!
The spark ignited by the Holy Spirit continues to illumine our hearts, minds and souls – guiding us in seeking to share about Christ in Japan. We have been exposed to the hardships faced by various pastors and members of Japanese churches. Pastor Iwatsuka of Miyako Community Church shared that many Mission workers and Pastors are not fully financially supported by the local Churches. As a result, they have to take up extra jobs to meet their financial needs. Being a minority in Japanese society where conformity is important, some Japanese Christians have also experienced isolation from their communities and families.
We were moved when we saw two Japanese teenage girls attending Sunday worship service in their school uniforms. They were dressed in this manner to allay their parents’ objections to their Christian faith. This example reflects the spiritual hunger many Japanese experience in this land. Through our first-hand experience, we developed a deeper understanding of God’s heart for missions. The insight and personal experiences gained from our encounters with the Japanese have radically changed our views on missions. We recognise the need to be equipped for ministry and to cultivate a passion for missional work in the way God desires.
A bold witness
We completed our theological training in Intercultural Studies and Church Ministry at the Singapore Bible College in the year 2020, and were further convicted of God’s calling for us to be bold witnesses for Christ in our community in preparation for the mission field in Japan.
In the midst of the pandemic, we waited on God for an open door to serve Him in Japan. During this time, we are grateful that He provided an opportunity to serve the resident Japanese community in Singapore through a ministry called Language & Culture Exchange, Singapore (LCES). This ministry uses the platform of conversations to facilitate the teaching of the English language. A Japanese student is paired with a Christian volunteer for both to become conversational partners. The hope is that the partnership will grow into an authentic friendship and pave the way for the sharing of the Good News.
As volunteers at LCES, we were partnering and befriending Japanese ladies for more than a year and we observed a recurring issue of financial insecurity amongst our new friends. In an effort to address this fear, we designed and offered a Financial Literacy Course (FLC) to be taught online and in English. The FLC teaches basic financial literacy based on the biblical perspectives of wealth and financial investment through a study of the book of Genesis. Our prayer was that through this avenue, we could share that our security comes from being rooted in Christ.
In late October 2021, we launched the course with 9 pre-believing Japanese and 9 LCES volunteers. We conducted two-hour sessions on Thursdays and repeated the content on Saturdays, weekly for 12 weeks, in order to accommodate the busy schedules of all our 18 participants. Through the introduction to and learning of the narratives presented in the book of Genesis, students were exposed to a biblical understanding in managing their God-entrusted resources and finances and most importantly, to encounter God’s love and grace through the lessons.
We cannot but marvel in awe at God’s miraculous grace that the FLC concluded in January 2022 with full attendance in both weekly classes for the entire three-month course. Two chat groups were set-up for the Thursday and Saturday classes respectively, to allow for the FLC fellowship to continue. Through this, we are able to partner and journey with our friends by providing financial counselling and explaining related biblical truths.
Our Japanese students and friends have been actively sharing with us their personal concerns, especially about their life choices and career paths. We are thankful and glad that we have developed deeper relationships in-person. We trust that these are opportunities provided by the Holy Spirit for us to witness to our Japanese friends about the love of Christ and nudge them towards a life founded on biblical truths. As we encourage our pre-believing friends to seek spiritual freedom in Christ, we believe that in God’s perfect timing, they will open their hearts to Him. All glory to God!
We are humbled by the 2-year-long season of ‘active waiting’ that was surely orchestrated by God as His way of refining and equipping us for the Japan Mission Field. Being sent to the Japan mission field by KKMC, in partnership with OMF, is an answered prayer. Our hearts’ desire is to participate in God’s great mission plan: To bring the Gospel to the Japanese people.
We are honoured and privileged to be called by God in His mission and we pray for His Holy name to be proclaimed in every corner in the “Land of the Rising Sun”! Amen.
Ann Gan and Mae Lau
(Photos courtesy of Ann Gan and Mae Lau.)
Editor’s note: Ann Gan and Mae Lau were commissioned as missionaries by Kampong Kapor Methodist Church on Sunday, 24 July 2022.