No doubt those of you who are familiar with international missions realize that Japan is a difficult field, one which requires prayer support more than anything else. Japan is known to many as the “Missionary Graveyard” for good reason. The statistics from the link above indicate that missionary numbers are down %34 over 20 years. This could be because of those retiring from the field, a lack of new missionary sending, or because it is generally thought that the average stay in Japan for new missionaries is about 2 years. These numbers appear to be dismal from our human prospective, however an interesting pattern is demonstrated in missions history with the continent of Africa. In the 1800s Africa was known as the “Missionary Graveyard”. Here is some history:
We all know the rest of the story of what happened in Africa! I think to John 12:24 which states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into to the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” This is missions in so many ways. Through those sacrifices in Africa the gospel seed had been planted. Likewise, the heart-felt work of those in Japan will not go unnoticed by God. I believe that the ground worked by those of the past will come to new harvest in Japan such as not has been seen before. Whether it be a growth increase of 3% instead of 1.2% or a national revival, anything is possible. With all the complexities of modern Christianity we tend to look at missions by the numbers from a business prospective much like the charts from the first link, as well as using terms like investment, strategy, financial obligation, etc. If modern ministers are looking to implement strategies in Japan for effective growth they as well as those who send them will likely be disappointed. We must remember that God works on his terms not ours! What about you, are you disappointed in your local areas spiritual status or your personal spiritual growth? Remember Luke 9:23 as Jesus speaks to those desiring to be disciples, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” We ought to die to self daily to see that bigger picture, and to remember the example of those earlier missionaries to Africa.