Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Impact of Limited Space in Tokyo


If you have ever looked up the statistics on the world's largest cities, then you would understand that Tokyo is the largest as well as most populated city in the world by far with close to 38 million people. In land area comparison, Tokyo is about the size of Puerto Rico or the U.S. state of Connecticut. With this huge population comes the issue of finding property for the purpose of meeting with groups of people. Often times housing for living purposes or business purposes though expensive can be used for meeting places. Naturally, the further one moves away from the city the cheaper properties become. Sometimes it is possible to find cheap places to rent or even abandoned places to buy, however these properties have their issues as well. With cheap places comes a lack of space, far distance from public transportation for access, and lack of parking for vehicles. Often times to even have one parking spot is very fortunate. With abandoned places comes extensive regulations for remodeling, various taxes, as well as further regulations for what the property can be used for. All of these various issues become such a nightmare that often times abandoned properties are left alone indefinitely. However, with God's help these obstacles can be overcome.

When it comes to church many times people will meet in their homes, away from the city, or buy an expensive property and building to meet in if allowed by regulations. The Japanese church that we were working with paid one million US dollars to buy a parking lot area (for a patch of dirt about 30 small car spaces), and another million to build a building. Often times Japanese will not allow for foreigners to own property let alone use it for a church, which is where some challenges come in. In Tokyo most community center areas have a lot of space, but will not allow for any religious use for any reason (unless for culturally specific Japanese religious type practices). Because Japan has many cults, they are very skeptical when it comes to anything that they consider an outside religion. In Japanese thinking there is no difference between a cult or a religion that is not “native” to Japan. Even though Christianity has been in Japan over 200 years (some evidences show that it even arrived before Buddhism) it is still considered foreign. Often times, only through established relations with people can trust be gained to rent a property. Many times in Tokyo start-up ministries will come and go taking a high risk approach of renting an expensive building and trying to fill it up with people only to have to abandon the project when people do not come or will become successful enough to continue. In a country with close to 1.2% “Christian” (including all that are considered Christian by broad defintion) population the risk is high since it takes a lot of time for Japanese to consider God. However it is not impossible. With such a low percentage of Christians most of the ministry work here consists of planting and watering spiritual seeds. A lot of “harvest” occurs with Japanese after many years of ministry or with foreigners who are not part of the native culture.

These are some of the perspectives that we have gained from living here for years, and is one of the reasons why we have opted to take the approach of building a core group of believers first before acquiring or renting a property strictly for church use. It may or may not work out as Japan has traditionally been a hardened nation to the gospel. However, God is good and is always working even when we cannot see it. Fortunately, we live in an area where we can meet people in person in public places or over the internet to establish relations with. Please pray for this nation as many like-minded missionaries attempt to reach the people here!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

2023 Year in Review


Well, it is that time again to reflect upon the last year to see what has happened. It is good to reflect upon the past year to remember our strengths and weaknesses, what we have learned, and what experiences we have had so that we may learn going forward.

Verse for the Year – To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” - Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

2022 was an intense year for many as the infamous Covid pandemic was wrapping up. At the beginning of the year we returned to Georgia (USA) only to immediately catch Covid for the first time. Our whole family became sick and quickly recovered with the exception of myself who had a strong sickness for a week and a slow recovery for about a month after with gradual lung healing. It was certainly memorable and we were blessed to have the Omicron variant which was said to be weaker than others. We finished up our time in America and returned to Japan in early March. At that time Japan was very strict about entry and it took us 4 hours to get through all of the entry requirements. Fortunately we ordered a van to pick us up and take us to our apartment ahead of time as no public transportation was allowed due to Covid restrictions. Quickly in the next month we moved to secure a new rental home, moving to another city in West Tokyo about 30 minutes away for the purpose of starting a new ministry. During this time we were able to lead one Japanese woman to the Lord of whom we had prior connections with, who is still attending church to this day in our previous city.

After much prayer the previous term we decided upon this new location and moved to settle there to begin a new term and ministry knowing that Japanese people take a long time to form connections. Though my Japanese is still at an intermediate level we believed it was time to get started making connections gradually while still learning. To this day I still study daily and am in the process of gradually increasing my Japanese skills. This will mark year 7 of studying Japanese from 0 and is a good reminder that Asian languages take a lot of hard work to learn! Moving to a new area has taken some time to adjust as well as meet new people. We prayed and are continuing to pray to meet people that we can connect with to lead to the Lord and help grow. We are doing a church plant from 0. We are grateful that one Japanese family has decided to move out and be a part of the new work. It has been a slow start, however we have seen one new man get saved and are working on helping him to grow in his new faith.

Ministry in Japan is very slow, so during this time I started to invest an hour a day doing online ministries including Japanese Twitter targeting suicidal people and world-wide soul-winning live online which has led to 111 new salvation confessions, 87 affirmations of salvation, and 54 people who were very close to salvation. It has been amazing to see God work on so many souls across the globe including Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, a Wiccan, and New Age people. It has been very eye-opening. Also eye-opening was driving in Japan for the first time, which was a huge change from before. During our first term we walked, biked, bused, and used the train to get from place to place. It has also been good to get back on track with putting out gospel tracts around Tokyo. For this year we were able to get 31,540 Japanese gospel tracts out to various houses and apartment complexes. Not to mention various tracts in other languages as well. We pray that many seeds would be planted, watered, and harvested. This year was also one in which I started to teach English again to some Japanese students using the Bible. We pray that they would be open to the gospel as they learn.

Japan has slowly transitioned out of Covid regulations into a less restricted society. However, to this day people wear masks everywhere and buildings require masks to enter, so it has been slow coming. There have been new Covid outbreaks impacting most of the population as well, so the Japanese have been cautious. This has certainly impacted our ability to evangelize since many are afraid of foreigners for this reason. We pray that Japanese people would open up more so that we can share the gospel with them. Thank you for your prayers this last year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Japanese Danchi System


A key component to the Japanese city, the Danchi system, exists a network of government housing complexes built to keep up with the demands of a once-growing urban population. After World War Two during Japan's rebuilding process a shift took place to move away from the traditional small multi-generational home living setup to a large apartment complex living situation focused around the “nuclear family” household. These new housing units became the envy of the nation when they debuted since they came complete with a television, refrigerator, and washing machine! With a greatly reduced government subsidized rent these apartment complexes became very popular in the 1950s through 1970s. Even today many new Danchis are built across Japan's major cities.

However, the Danchi system also has an unfortunate dark side to it as demonstrated in-detail by this New York Times article. Since the 1990s Japan has been experiencing an economic decline which has in turn developed into a population decline with a disproportionately high percentage of elderly. Before this system was in place many Japanese people lived in multi-generational houses where they took care of their aging parents. After the Danchi system went into place, the shift to the nuclear family encouraged Japanese people to live apart from their parents. Living in separate places, many of these now elderly people are left isolated, alone in these Danchi apartments. Each summer and winter many die alone and are not discovered until much later making a lot of Danchis a potentially dreary place to live. On a more positive note in recent times many of the low-paid Japanese together with immigrant families have been moving into the Danchi system housing across Japan.

Why talk about the Danchi system? If you visit any major Japanese city you will immediately notice many Danchis in the horizon. They are truly a key component of the Japanese city. Since returning to Japan I have decided to focus on getting gospel literature into these Danchis for a few good reasons. First, they are large and easy to mass-distribute literature to without harassment. Second, they have many retired people who often have a lot of free time to consider things as opposed to the generally hyper-active time-strapped culture at large. Third, many of the poorest of Japanese people live in the Danchis, which means they are more likely to consider the gospel than others in a proud tier-based society. Please pray for salvation for the many different peoples living in Japan's Danchi System!

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Evangelism after Abe's Assassination


Recently, many became aware of a tragic event that took place in Japan as former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, while performing a speech, was assassinated by a man with a home made gun. The event was akin to a “JFK” moment in traumatic scale for Japan as Abe was one of the longest serving as well as cherished (and hated) leaders in Japan's recent history. What was the motive behind the killing? The assassin's mother apparently was placed into dire economic straights after going into debt for being compelled to donate a vast some of money to the Korean Unification Church, known as 'Moonies'. How is Abe connected? He as well as his political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, have been on the receiving end of large donations from this famous Korean cult.

Japan, known as a homogeneous honor-shame culture, responded to this discovery by blaming Koreans, foreigners, and eventually any foreign church of any kind. In Japan rather than take individual responsibility, pressure from the group is often placed on those outside of Japan for ultimate responsibility. A similar transformation has become regular routine in the USA as well in that when a mass shooting occurs it is often blamed on whatever group the shooter was associated with rather than the shooter themselves. In a honor-shame based society sin is understood by the embarrassment that it causes to those in authority, as opposed to a law-type system in which guilt and innocence are determined by a justice system that is supposed to punish evil. In this case heavy shame was placed upon the Unification church as well as the LDP party members who received money from them. Eventually distrust and shame was transferred to foreigners as well as churches. Another example would be early on in the Covid outbreak; it was seen as a foreign caused issue which led to foreign blame as well as shutting down the country up until very recently. ( Even though massive Covid outbreaks have happened in the last year with almost no foreigner entry. )

How does this apply to evangelism? When the media frenzy is stirred in a group-oriented homogeneous culture like Japan there is little room for critical thinking. Most Japanese became highly cautious about foreigners. In my personal case two people that I was getting to know here suddenly started to become unfriendly and unresponsive immediately following the Abe assassination. (Although not all Japanese respond this way) An already cautious people became more cautious. In a nation with a history of opening and closing down over its long history this is nothing new for the character of Japan. Time is the factor that usually heals these issues. However, in modern times with rapid flows of information and travel it seems that this current cycle will move quicker as doors will soon re-open to foreign tourist travel akin to the other G7 nations. How else does this apply to evangelism? In the honor-shame culture Japanese have a hard time seeing themselves as individuals responsible for their sin but rather see themselves as part of a greater group that they cannot distance themselves from. Even if they see the truth of individual sin as well as the need for salvation they often do not have the courage to 'leave the group' physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally to risk offending others as well as their ancestors. At some point each person just like their ancestors in the past have to make a decision to accept or suppress the truth. As I work here longer I can clearly see that God truly does deal with nations and it would seem that in group cultures often times the individual has more often than not cast their lot in with the nation whatever the outcome may be. Please pray for unreached Japanese who suppress the truth and imagine vain things!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Buying and Driving a Car in Japan


After a month of paperwork, insurance registration, and various government clearances it was finally time to step into our first Japanese car in Japan. We purchased an eight year old mini-minivan with roughly 23,000 miles on it for 1,000,000 yen ($7500 USD at the time). It does not sound like much usage, however here people do not really drive too far in the city and are more interested in having a “new car” than wearing out their current one. Every two years a car has a required test to make sure that everything is in working order, which can cost $600-$900 or more (plus repairs to be deemed road ready). As a car gets older this test changes to yearly. Most Japanese people prefer having a new car than dealing with problems with a car test. Japanese people typically have overly high standards for their cars. Also each year an annual car tax must be paid, so expenses can really add up when owning a car. ( List of typicalexpenses. ) When buying a car a test drive is not allowed so it is of the utmost importance to rely upon the relationship built with the dealer as well as the very stringent standards for buying and selling of cars here. People often build trust with a certain dealer and only go to them whenever they need a car. This level of trust would be unheard of in America!

My family and I had lived in Japan for close to seven years now always using public transportation as well as bicycles to get around, so this was a very new experience. Our children are getting older now and it will be too expensive to pay for us all to use public transportation, so we decided that it was time to buy a car. Stepping into the car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car as well as driving on the “opposite” side of the road certainly takes some getting used to. The first few trips were quite anxious to say the least. Some lights here are Red with Green arrows at the same time directing traffic forward!

Japanese cars are typically very small with low ground level clearance as opposed to the average American vehicle. They are known for their economic advantages at the cost of safety. Most cars seen in Japan are not available in America due to certain size regulations, impact standards, and other complexities. In Japan roads are very narrow, speed limits are significantly slower, and people are very cautious as well as safe drivers in general. For these reason it would seem that Japanese cars can get away with having smaller sizes with less “armor” for accidents. Much of our time is spent waiting on traffic lights and driving very slowly. This road setup makes the country appear larger than it actually is! Some roads are very narrow, requiring great patience and good manners to navigate when encountering others. Japan has very few parking spots so it is not uncommon to have to pay to park. Free parking spots are certainly cherished and well guarded so as to be not taken advantage of! Gas is about $4.70 a gallon currently. With good gas mileage it is quite reasonable, especially with gas rates in the USA costing as much as $7.00 per gallon in some areas. 

Thus far it has been a good experience learning to drive here. Getting used to turning around in tight areas, narrow roads, parking fees, and tolls fees for highway use takes some time, but for the most part it is similar to driving in highly urbanized American settings in some ways. Having a car has allowed us greater access to get gospel tracts out to areas where we could not reach by train, bus, or bike including small towns. Please pray for us as we attempt to use our car wisely to share the gospel with Japanese people! 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Moving in Japan

Living on a densely populated island slightly smaller than the American state of Montana certainly has its challenges when it comes to living space. Fortunately Japanese society is diligently organized in such a way as to have a unique process when it comes to moving. As many Japanese people do not own a car, nor the time to move their possessions to a new location, a moving service is of the utmost importance.

For many working as salary-men the company will determine when it is time to move as well as where they must move if they want to keep their job. Japanese business culture is one of unquestioning dedication, so much like American military, they will move without question to their new location. Many companies will not give them much time to move, or require it to be on their own time, which leaves them in a hard place. The solution is hiring a moving service. Services such as Moving 123 will come to your house, label everything, pack everything, move everything, and unpack everything in your new location for a negotiable price. The service can cost anywhere from US $1500 to $5000+ depending on the terms of the contract. Generally, from my experience, Americans tend only to hire a moving service if they are going across country and even then will often pack and unpack everything themselves. However, in Japan it is almost expected that you hire a service to do everything for you. Services are preferred because Japanese housing is challenging to move objects in and out in a certain amount of time. With a specialized system in place it is seen as more efficient to hire a service.

What did we do? After living in Japan for a combined 12+ years we have accumulated a lot of stuff, even after living minimalistically by throwing things out constantly. We looked at a few different services and could not justify the high moving costs given that the end of March is the busiest time of the year for moving. We were able to find an independent contractor through a friend to do it for a fraction of the price with us doing most of the work. It took about a week to pack up 50 boxes, and two days of driving back and forth to unload everything. It then took another week to unpack and organize everything. Quite a project! I could only image what it would be like if we had to maintain salary-man hours, so I could understand why they would want to pay more to deal with the entire hassle of moving!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Safety Country


Known by many as an overly cautious country, Japan has a sizable bureaucratic culture ready to closely observe the every need of its readily compliant citizenry. For many foreigners this system may seem highly unusual. For example to receive a chart in the mail detailing the types of human excrement that exist, what each type means, and how one can have proper bowel movements may seem as an example of extreme government oversight, however for Japanese these seeming encroachments upon life are heartily welcomed. The Japanese as a people have no guiding objective morality system or much emphasis placed on critical thinking processes, but rather tend to rely upon an overly burdensome system of bureaucracy with many loop holes and subjective interpretations based upon local groups for guidance. These often confusing webs of bureaucracy interwoven into society seem to exist to help create a sense of peace and safety through human control.

For instance, recently when we arrived into the country via airplane (with only 27 other passengers) we were carefully guided on a long journey through the opposite ends of the airport to complete various tasks set in place by the Japanese government to ensure that the Covid-19 virus would be contained. Before arriving in country we were required to take official Covid tests within 72 hours. Through multiple check points over the course of four hours we completed paperwork, presented our passports, and presented our negative Covid tests over and over while being greeted with friendly Japanese faces. As we walked from station to station across various parts of the airport covering at least a mile on foot we eventually took new Covid tests, signed any remaining rights away, installed a phone-tracking app (as well as required to rent a phone if you didn't have a smart phone), and waited at the end to get our test results which turned out negative. Throughout this process we came in contact with at least twenty to thirty Japanese people as well as various other passengers who may or may not have been infected with Covid during this process. On the surface this type of bureaucracy seems illogical to outside observers as there were multiple points of exposure that would appear to be counter-productive in containing a virus, however in the Japanese mindset this type of setup was the best way to ensure safety of the population from potential contamination! The Japanese people have come to expect this as normal and willingly submit themselves to all kinds of bureaucracy as a normal part of life believing that it is for the greater good.

In a country with a vast majority of people (199/200) with no knowledge of God, government defacto becomes God to them – complete with all of its imperfections, inefficiencies, controls, and precautions. Still even in a country with all needs considered and lives planned there is a great emptiness. Mankind cannot find peace apart from God.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

2021: Year in Review


It is that time to review the year once again! No matter where you lived 2021 will be remembered as a challenging year. April 2022 will mark our fifth year as a family in Japan. What was 2021 like for us?

For us 2021 was a tiring year as we had planned to go back to the US for furlough in 2020, but were unable to due to the issues in travel associated with COVID. We instead decided to push ourselves and stay another year in Japan believing that we could do more ministry rather than going back to the USA, staying indoors, as well as not visiting many churches due to Covid cancellations. We stayed in Japan continuing to invest in people, teach English using the Bible, and doing our daily evangelism not knowing exactly what the future would hold. During this time we invested in a lot of online ministry including social media and our website Many thousands read our website as well as gospel tracts.

2021 was also a year for tragedy as a few people died. Dennis, whom I had led to the Lord and started to disciple passed away due to complications. ( ) Our friend Bill, a veteran missionary, also passed away from Covid. Also, Katie's grandfather passed away from old age while we were in the USA. Fortunately we were able to see him before he passed and attend his funeral. A few people that we knew from the USA and Japan also passed away during this season. However, it was also a time for joy as our son Albert was born! It was an answered prayer that he got to meet his great grandfather for whom he was named and bring him much joy before Grandpa Albert passed. If we had came in as we had planned earlier our Albert would not have been born yet and this couldn't have happened. We praise God for his perfect timing!

I tried to attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was moved to 2021, but had a lot of difficulties due to the strictness of the event. Our special ordered Japanese tracts didn't come until after the Olympics finished, so we were only able to get out a few hundred gospel tracts at the opening ceremony. There were more police than people at the event, which included protests to shut it down due to Covid! The event was not as productive as we had hoped it would be.

From August 2021 onward we returned to the USA for furlough, transitioned back to American life, visited many churches, and reconnected with many people. We were able to experiences the changes happening in the USA while engaging people in evangelism. (Especially Hispanic people in every city we went to in the USA with Spanish gospel tracts.) We were able to update our information, prayer card, and rest considerably. 2021 was a difficult year for many, but also a year of blessings. We look forward to returning to Japan in March Lord willing to continue on to our second term as a family. This will be an exciting time as we hope to move to a new area and start the process of church planting. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The 10-40 Window


Now that we have been back in the United States for three months we have had opportunity to visit with many churches to speak about Japan. One thing that I am somewhat surprised about is that there are still people that do not know exactly what the “10-40 Window” is. With that in mind I have decided to write a blog post on the 10-40 Window.

What is the 10-40 Window? Quite bluntly, from an American Christian prospective it is the area of the world that has the greatest population (4 billion) with the most needs, least Christian population, highest Christian persecution, and most neglected for missionary activity. From 10 degrees latitude to 40 degrees latitude, from Morocco in the West to Japan in the East, the 10-40 Window can be located on a map. It comprises of the Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist dominated countries. From this link , under the 'map view' option, we can see exactly the reality of each country in the 10-40 Window.

How did this happen? Somewhere along the line in the past after the great flood someone's ancestor rejected God, choosing rather to worship created beings, and passing that knowledge down to further generations. Along the way knowledge of God was lost. In some cases idolatry has gone on for hundreds if not thousands of years, further strengthening the demonic power in these areas to this day.

Why are there so few missionaries in this region? Most of these countries are considered, “closed-countries” in which any kind of outside influence is either strictly prohibited or met with extreme punishment including death. Other countries are so far removed by distance, language, and education that an attempt to spread the gospel takes great resources, time, and sacrifice to accomplish with little immediate fruits exhibited. It is said that five cents out of every one hundred dollars spent on missions goes to this region! There is little glory yet great risk involved in going to this area of the world. Unfortunately, given the type of modern Christianity formed in the west, namely “me-focused” gospels, very few in up-and-coming generations are willing to sacrifice greatly to reach these areas, nor do they care to.

What can we do? We can pray for these regions that God would raise up people to reach them. We can also support legitimate missionaries working in this region. Whereas the Western missionaries have failed in this area, many Asian countries such as South Korea, Philippines, and India have raised up many missionaries to start works in many of these countries. Satellite TV, Internet, and Western Educational resources have reached a great many people in these regions directly and indirectly as well. God is working even through Covid-19 circumstances.

I encourage anyone reading to do some research on the 10-40 Window. Start praying for countries in this region and see what you can do to help.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

COVID Abroad in Japan


It has become quite clear in the last year that our world is ever-changing due to the COVID virus issue as well as the government responses to how best to deal with the issue. Sometime in March 2019 in Japan we started to experience signs of COVID as toilet paper lines and mask shortages became a reality. A few months later this reality started to hit home in the United States. What was that experience like in Japan? This is one of the most common questions that we get.

Japan prides itself on being a homogeneous society, so the response to COVID appeared to be immediate and uniform. Japanese typically wear masks anyway given their close proximity in daily life, desire to prevent spreading of sickness to others, and general cleanliness. When COVID came on the scene society quickly wore masks everywhere believing that it would prevent viral spread. Even to this day they continue to wear masks everywhere. Almost immediately every area open to the public had hand wash sprays out with requirements for use upon entry. Some of the larger stores also had head thermometers to determine if the body temperature was at fever levels. Eventually the nightlife areas were shut down as they were determined to be a major spreading areas. The Japanese solution was to close down known drinking areas as well as limit restaurants to a 7 P.M. curfew. Japanese people were hesitant to get the vaccine, however when the government began to issue them by age category almost every elderly person immediately got one. However, there is still a portion of society that refuses the vaccine. As of the writing of this article about 60% of Japanese have received a vaccine.

In general, currently in Japan the infection as well as death numbers are very low compared to most countries. I believe this has to do with the Japanese culture itself in that Japanese tend to keep their distance, don't touch, and have excellent hygiene practices in general. Almost immediately Japan also closed its borders to international travel to most people unless they had special permission which was difficult to get. Even now it is very difficult to gain access into the country unless you were a prior resident. For this reason many in ministry have not been able to gain access into Japan. Also, many in ministry have come off the field as well. We plan to re-enter Japan in the winter time. Please pray for Japan that they would re-open their borders so that families can see each other, business can occur, and ministry can be done.