Relational evangelism is important. What I mean is that Christians should always be on the look out to share the gospel. And not only share it, but to do so in love. You can't preach the gospel to someone without loving them as a friend and expect them to believe our God is Himself caring. 1st Thessalonians 2:8 tells us that Christians should desire to not only share the gospel but give their whole lives to others. People should become so dear to us that we want to be their friends from a purely loving desire. On this trip we realized that once we get back home we should make at least make some use of our ability to speak English and relate to American culture by reaching out to those people in our own country. If we spent the last three weeks laboring hard to share the gospel to Japanese college students we should definitely be sharing to our friends and family.
Also we learned that God is the same in Japan. I saw this in the fact that Hamadera Bible Church was full of believers who recognized and loved God. People can only can recognize God through His word (John 1:14) and through His sovereign working of revealing the truth of the Bible to them (Ephesians 1:4, 1st Corinthians 12:3). 1 Cor 12:3 says, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." It is mind boggling to wonder and awe at the Holy Spirit's power to convict people of their sin and bring them to an understanding of their redemption in Christ (1st Corinthians 2:10-16). The Holy Spirt's power to do this transcends any and all difference between people. We are all human, and therefore sinners in need of rescue (Romans 3:23).
Thirdly, we all felt how tiring full time ministry can be. Not only full time ministry but full time ministry in a foreign country. The hardest part about the trip was being drained from the day's work knowing that tomorrow we would have to go at it again. But I am sure we are all very thankful for the experience. We all learned just a little bit better how God pours out strength into us as we pour out our's into others (Colossians 1:28-29).
In the middle of our meeting the Pastor Kondo of HBC walked in and sat down with us. After listening to some of the things we learned he answered one question for us. The question was, "How do we deal with wishing we could have done things differently or better on the 3 week trip?" Japan's geographic location compared to the U.S. prevents us from easily coming back and building on the relationships we made. In some senses we only had one shot to do our work. Were we satisfied with all we did? We heard out of Matthew 25 that God rewards and is satisfied with those who are faithful. But more than that Pastor Kondo charged us with this: he reminded us that Christian ministry should be defined by commitment. He said as nice as it is to have a team of evangelists fly oversees each summer, what churches in Japan, and Africa, and the Middle East, and Europe, and China, and even America really need is men and women that will move to a place where the gospel is needed so that they can serve the church there long term.
Hearing this was no doubt a tough call. There are many reasons why I personally would not move to a new place, maybe outside of the U.S., to serve. I have school, work, family here. It's a big leap to pack up and leave but Pastor Kondo used the way God called him to be a pastor in Japan to illustrate to us that God's plan for our lives is ALWAYS better than our plan for our lives. It takes a lot of thinking and praying to understand what this means for each family or individual, but I hope that I would be willing to do whatever God calls me to.
Now for some more light hearted and warm memory's of our last day:
The sweetest and most heart warming thing on the last day was having members of the church pop in and out to say goodbye. One member came in and gave us a card that she challenged herself to write in English that said thank you for coming and working hard to share the gospel in Japan. This particular church member made lunch for us just about everyday. Our whole team felt like we were the ones who need to show our appreciation. Another church lady came by with her three cute children to hand out personalized letters and goodie bags of bread that she made herself. It was so sweet of her. I was so moved by how sweet and caring these members of HBC were. I think they were good representations of the entire church there in Osaka.
All in all I learned that it is very rewarding to serve God and the people at church. People indeed are the most important investment in the world. God shows us that in John 3:16 by the value of what He was willing to give up for us. I would recommend the experience of serving a church in a different country or context to anyone. I was specifically able to do this by being sent out by Grace Community Church. Thank you to all the supporters and staff who complete certain logistics of this trip that free us up to focus on ministry. By serving on a trip like this one you will be sure to learn: one, how important loving people through relational evangelism is. Two, realizing that God does not change although place, language, and culture do. And three, that churches around the globe need ministers of the gospel to answer the call.
Please help us pray and remind us to pray for all those who heard the gospel and for Hamadera Bible Church in Osaka, Japan.