Carter Connection June 2022

Lack of parking spaces. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed this problem. How thankful I am to have it once again! As the COVID restrictions have been gradually easing here in Japan, Sunday services have also been gradually getting fuller and fuller. New families, new believers, and those who haven’t been able to come in a long time are once again filling the seats, connecting with one another, building relationships, and working to reach those around them. God is good!

Did You Hear!?

In our last prayer letter, I got to share with you about one of the ladies who trusted Christ named “Yoko.” She was one who was saved recently through the Bible study of another missionary lady in a nearby city. The other day, Bethany was at a park with Asher, and Yoko happened to see them off in the distance. She excitedly came up to Bethany and said, “Did you hear!? Did you hear!? I trusted Jesus!” The joy in her heart was clear to see! God had graciously called us to be faithful in planting the Gospel and another to water that seed, as God produced the bountiful work of salvation in her soul. And in holding us up in caring for our needs and praying for us, I thank God that you too get to share in the joy of her salvation!

Helping Hands

Waichiro and Yoshie were saved in their 20’s, raised their three children in a Christian home, and have been faithfully following Jesus for many years. (The story of their salvation is incredible. Both of them were saved out of a strict cult. Yoshie’s story includes a Buddhist priest who, in order to rescue her out of that cult, actually drove her to a nearby church, where she met Waichiro (who a few years earlier had left that cult and gotten saved), and more importantly, where she met Jesus!)

About a year ago, Waichiro and Yoshie moved to a neighborhood near our church to care for some health issues. Not long after, due to an increase in covid, their previous church, along with many other churches in Tokyo (including ours), had to transition to online streaming rather than in-person services. One day, as they were walking around their neighborhood, they discovered our church, and started watching our services online as well. After the covid restrictions eased, they came to visit our services, and felt God leading them to become part of our church family. After receiving the blessings of their former pastor, they moved their membership to Akigawa Baptist Church, and have jumped in with both feet, giving a helping hand wherever needed. It’s been so encouraging to see them welcome and care for new visitors, to see them invest in the lives of their brothers and sisters, and to see them grow in their own walk with Jesus.

This Father’s Day, Waichiro will be preaching and sharing his testimony during the Sunday service. We praise God for the way He cares for our church family by bringing in just the right people at just the right time! Please pray that God will use his testimony to encourage our church family and to reach others for Christ.

Thanks so much for your faithfulness in praying for us, and for praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ here in Japan. We so appreciate you all! Also, please pray for more parking spaces. And for even more people who need them.

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection March 2022

Over the years, we’ve seen people from all walks of life come to know Jesus through our ministry here in Japan. Some of the stories of how people have come to know Jesus have been incredible. Let me share with you the accounts of two women who have been rescued and redeemed by Jesus. Both have an eternal future that is secure because of who they now are in Christ. Both have begun their walk as followers of Jesus, but the path that has led to their salvation, and the path that they will be on as followers of Jesus are quite different. (Real names have been changed to protect privacy.)

A Tale of Two Salvations

Eiko had come into contact with Kenji, a young man in her workplace. They both were interested in each other, and as they got to know each other, she quickly discovered that Kenji was a Christian, and that his faith in Jesus meant much more to him than how so many around her viewed religion. One day, Kenji invited her to meet his parents who were also Christians, and to visit the church they attended (Akigawa Baptist Church) to see more of what Christians believed. That first Sunday of 2022 was the day I got to meet Eiko for the first time. From that day, the one Sunday a month that she was off work, they would come to church together and then spend the day with Kenji’s parents where they would spend hours answering her questions about who Jesus is and what it meant to follow Him. She learned how God answers the prayers of those who follow Him and asked if we would be willing to pray for her father who was facing cancer surgery. The day of the surgery, the doctors were astonished to find the biggest tumor had completely disappeared leaving just a few small tumors to clean up! Last week I received a text from Kenji’s father letting me that Eiko had chosen to trust Jesus as her Savior, and that both Eiko and Kenji wanted to spend a few hours once a month with me to help them to grow in their faith. Praise God!

Yoko’s story started 8 years earlier. A lady she knew had invited her to bring her young daughter to a children’s Christmas event at Akigawa Baptist Church. For both her and her daughter, this was their first time hearing the story of Jesus. And it deeply touched her to hear of how God sent His son Jesus to save her. For Yoko though, coming to church on Sundays wasn’t an option. She had married into a strict Buddhist farming family where anything other than Buddhism was prohibited. While church was prohibited, she was still free to come to the outreach events of the church and so she would continue to come to the events to learn more about Jesus year after year. At each event, Yoko would tell me that she was listening to the church’s sermon podcast every week, but still not ready to trust Jesus yet because of her family situation. When covid started a few years ago, we had to suspend the outreach events. We weren’t able to see her except for the rare occasion when we happened to run into her around town. A few weeks ago, Bethany received a text from another missionary lady in the area. Yoko had been able to go to a ladies’ Bible study that the missionary lady was having in her home, and in one of those Bible studies, Yoko was finally able to put her trust in Jesus! Yoko specifically asked the other missionary lady to let us know that she had trusted Jesus! Wow! Her journey, due to her family situation, will likely be much more difficult. And yet her eternity is secure in Christ as she learns to walk by faith in Him!

Both of these ladies are precious treasures in the sight of our Father! Both have come to know Him, in part because you have chosen to forego temporary earthly treasures in order to lay up heavenly treasures that will last forever! The salvation of these two are part of those treasures that you have a part in, and I have no doubt that there are many others whose stories we have yet to hear until we see them face to face one day!

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection January 2022

For the last few months, as we’ve been able to meet together, it’s been encouraging to see our church family continuing to grow in many different ways. Our outreach events have helped many new people to hear the Gospel, and we’re seeing consistent growth as a church family as well. Our Father is so good and kind in how he cares for us!  

Outreach Events- They kept showing up!

Thanksgiving 2021

In November, about a month and a half after the emergency status in Tokyo was lifted, we held our first “tentative” outreach event with a Thanksgiving dinner Sunday. I had no idea how many people would come, as people were still a little wary of Covid. So, we decided to hold the event at our church, and set up tables to see what would happen. In no time, our little auditorium was filled! That Sunday we had 9 first-time visitors, along with many friends and family members of our church family who had been away for nearly a year.

So, for Christmas, we decided to rent a hall to have more space, and hold two events back-to-back. On Saturday, December 18, we held a children’s Christmas event, and then on Sunday, December 19, we had a Christmas candlelight service. At the children’s event, we had 50 children and parents attend! Over half of them, 22 children and 9 parents, were visitors!

The next day, for the candlelight service, we had an entirely different group of people come, and again, over 50 people came! During the service, people kept arriving and filling up the seats. It was awesome! For this service, we had 31 visitors as well, and over 50 in attendance. For us here in Japan, it was very encouraging to see so many people willing to come to hear the story of the Gospel through the birth of Jesus!

A week and a half later, we got together with another Baptist Church for a snow camp. I had the opportunity to speak to the campers throughout the 3 days of camp, and it was good to see decisions made throughout the time at camp.

Kids Christmas 2021Candlelight Christmas 2021

 

Growing Consistently

Over the last year we’ve lost nearly half of our church family due to covid restrictions as well as other reasons, but God has been so gracious to us. As we’ve been meeting just in the last few months, our church Sunday gathering has been gradually and consistently growing. While we are still not where we were before Covid, that’s ok. God is giving us many new people to witness to, as well as new families to encourage and help to grow in their faith!

Here are a few things that we would love for you to pray for. As the Omicron variant is starting to surge here in Japan, several surrounding prefectures are moving toward another emergency status. Please pray for the numbers to stay down so that that the churches in these prefectures, as well as ours and those here in Tokyo will continue to be able to gather together. Also please pray for those who heard the Gospel at the different outreach events, that they will be further drawn to the good news of the Gospel and be willing to put their faith in Christ. Pray for us as well, for wisdom and grace throughout the coming months as we help our brothers and sisters to grow in their faith, and to reach those around us with the Gospel.

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection October 2021

For those of you who haven’t been able to meet for a period of time, do you remember that moment when you finally get back together, sing that first song, and hear your voices once again join together with vigor in praising your Father? And as you look around, you see that the emotion welling up in you is also on the edge of bursting out on the faces of your brothers and sisters in Christ as well! We felt that again. And it was SO GOOD!

…Aaaaand We’re Back!

I waited a little longer than normal in writing this because I wanted to be able to tell you that we have finally, once again, been able to meet again. And boy does it feel AMAZING! To sing together, to enjoy the warm fellowship between the services, to hear the laughter and warm greetings of one another as they catch up from the week. For me personally, it’s a welcome reprieve from staring into the cold, empty lens of the camera that I’ve been preaching to for most of this year. How refreshing it is to be able to once again see the attentive gaze of our church family as they respond to the words of Scripture!

The most recent state of emergency here in Tokyo ended at the end of September, and we were able to start meeting again on the first Sunday of October. We hope and pray that another emergency status will not be declared, and in faith we’re making preparations for outreach events for the rest of the year. (I’m learning to not take these things for granted anymore. 😊) As our church family starts to gradually get back into the flow of attending again, we’ll start with a Thanksgiving service and fellowship next month to focus on the goodness and faithfulness of God throughout the year. Please pray for those in our church family who have been away from gathering this year, as well as for the Christmas outreach and winter camp we’ll be preparing for over the next several months.

While We Were WaitingMen working on the auditorium

In anticipation of the return of our church family, during the month of September, our church family began the task of taking care of some much-needed updates and repairs to the church building. We started with removing the old flooring and installing new flooring in the auditorium, (Here are several men in our church who are beginning the installation of the new floor.) We still have painting, expanding storage, and other projects that we will be working on over the coming weeks. It has definitely helped to give us a sense of a fresh new start for sure.

Meeting the “Regular Attenders” For the First Time

So far, we’ve had visitors each Sunday. On our first Sunday, we had a “first-time” visitor, a Christian lady who had been regularly watching the Sunday services on YouTube. It was a little amusing to meet someone that I’ve never met before who was familiar with me. That being said, I am so thankful that God has used our media ministry to help others as they grow in their faith in Christ, as well as to help others to find faith in Christ. The next Sunday, she brought along one of her friends to the service. We’re so thankful for them and for others who have become a part of our church family throughout this year even when we weren’t able to meet in person.

Thank you for praying with us throughout this year! While it’s true we don’t know what the next few months hold, we are confident in knowing that our Father will sustain us and help us, just as He has throughout this year.

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection July 2021

If you keep up with our letters, you may notice that this letter sounds a lot like our last letter. And you would be correct. While on the surface, we may not notice much change to our situation, below the surface… our Father is always working. He is faithfully giving grace and strength to those who are His own, while drawing more to Himself through the redemption of His Son!

Sigh…

Here in Tokyo, it seems that over the last year, it’s been a cycle of our church family getting to enjoy gathering together for brief moments in between long periods of states of emergency. In our last letter, we were just starting another state of emergency that was supposed to last until the end of May. It was ultimately extended until the end of June. We were able to meet for these last three weeks, before Tokyo declared yet another state of emergency. Starting this Sunday, we will be going back to online services until at least the end of August. This means that beginning in September, our church family has only been able to gather together corporately for 8 Sundays this entire year. It has also meant that we’ve been unable to do many of our evangelistic outreach events because of the state of emergencies. Honestly, this year has been difficult. That being said, we are thankful for all the ways we’ve been able to reach out to people, including two Sunday livestream services, the church podcast, Zoom meetings, along with the personal pastoring of our church family.

What Has Helped Us

For our church family it seems that we have two different trajectories within the same church family. For those who are willing to meet in small Bible study groups throughout the week, I see immense growth in their faith and confidence in Christ, as well as their bond of brotherhood with one another. Our core group of believers has been consistently growing stronger through all of this! Praise God for that! All throughout this year, I have been awestruck to see how this one simple act: reading the same Scripture throughout the week and then getting together to talk about what we read, has done so much to mature both our seasoned believers and those who are young in the faith!  I can’t help but see the grace of God’s timing in preparing us for this year. We had just started our first discipleship group at the beginning of last year, and the second group a few months after that- a few months before the surge of COVID. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, as He guides us through the words of Scripture, these two groups have been the glue that has kept the bond of our core believers strong throughout all of this.

For those who have been unwilling or unable to take part in these groups, we fear that they are drifting further away from our church family. Please pray for them. My heart yearns for them to discover once again the joy and encouragement of gathering together with their brothers and sisters.

How He Helps Us to Help Others

Our bonus ministry of being able to help missionaries get back into Japan is still thriving. Most returning missionaries are required to finish a two-week quarantine before they can continue on to their homes throughout the country. Because we are relatively close to the airports in Tokyo, God has placed us in the perfect position to help meet this need. Even as I write this, we have a dear missionary couple staying with us before they head off to Okinawa. Their stay in Tokyo for two weeks would have cost them over $3,000. I have a feeling this ministry will last for a bit longer as more missionaries are traveling for various reasons over the coming months. Again, praise God for his grace in preparing us to serve our fellow laborers in this way!

Thank you for consistently and faithfully praying for us. To know that our brothers and sisters are boldly coming to our Father’s throne on our behalf means the world to us!

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection May 2021

God is so kind and gracious to us! There are times when our efforts in serving our Father, and sharing His Gospel seem to be producing little, if any, fruit. At least from our perspective. And yet, in ways that are beyond our immediate scope of vision, our Father transforms our meager efforts to display His magnificent glory! And one day, we get to see HIS fruit produced through us, that has far surpassed our hope or expectation!

Round … Four!

In our last letter, we were just about to finish our third COVID state of emergency in Tokyo that had started in the end of December. After three months, in mid-March we were able to gather together once again as a church family. Boy was it good to get back together! As our church family gradually started coming back to the services, after about a month, we were really enjoying seeing our auditorium full of people again. The heartfelt congregational singing was glorious!

Just as our church was once again getting into the rhythm and flow of being together again… you guessed it. State of emergency. So far this year, we’ve enjoyed being together for five Sundays. This emergency status was only supposed to last for two weeks during a week of national holidays, but after the two weeks, the government of Tokyo decided to extend it until the end of May. Each Sunday we get to be together is becoming more and more precious!

We are allowed to gather with a few people at a time, so our Bible study groups have been consistently growing. One of the things we do as a church family is read the same passage of scripture each day, and then gather in different groups every week or two to talk about the things we learned. Those gatherings are becoming critical to us as we try to stay connected with each other through this season.

An Unusual, but Critical Ministry to Missionaries.

Japan has been notoriously difficult for people who are trying to get back into the country. For anyone flying into Japan through Tokyo (one of the main international airport hubs in Japan), one of the requirements is that they quarantine for two weeks in Tokyo, without using public transportation. For missionaries who are outside of Tokyo, this can be an incredibly expensive requirement. During this time, God has allowed us to host several missionaries so far to meet that requirement, and we’re scheduling more in the near future. This has allowed them to get back to their ministries without that added financial burden. Praise God for giving us a unique opportunity to serve our co-laborers this way!

There are a few requests for prayer that we have.

Many churches here who have Japanese pastors are struggling financially with the continued state of emergencies. Many pastors also hold part-time jobs in order to keep the bills paid. Please pray that their financial needs will be met, and that the believers here in Japan will continue to be faithful in a time when it is increasingly easier to drift away from church.

Also, please pray for new missionaries who are trying to get into Japan. Missionaries who are already in Japan are able to get back in (by meeting the quarantine requirements), but for people who are trying to get new visas to come into Japan, it’s currently impossible to get into the country. Please pray for those new missionaries as they patiently wait for Japan to open up again.

Thank you all so much for your faithfully being a part of serving and praying for your brothers and sisters here in Japan. We are deeply grateful!

To download a printable pdf, please click here.




Carter Connection February / March 2021

Thanks so much for how you faithfully pray for us and partner with us! It seems that 2021 is turning out to be another interesting year; a year in which we once again get to put our full confidence and trust in our Heavenly Father as He sustains us and cares for us through life’s twists and turns.

The Third Shutdown

In our last letter, I was able to share how last September we had the joy of reuniting as a church family to gather for services. Unfortunately, as the New Year holiday went into full swing, the COVID infection numbers in Tokyo started increasing dramatically. So in early January, the government once again decided to declare yet another emergency status for Tokyo. Part of this is due to how condensed the population of Tokyo is. There is also a massive effort to salvage the Summer Olympics which were scheduled to be in Tokyo last year, but because of COVID have been rescheduled for this spring. Maybe.

For us as a church family, it means that, once again, we would have to abstain from gathering together for services. So during this time, we have resumed internet only services via Facebook Live and YouTube. Our church family is able to gather during the week in small group settings, so we are taking advantage of that as much as we can. The emergency status is scheduled to continue until March 7, so we have just a little bit left.

During this time, we needed to take a short trip back to the States to care for a hurting loved one. By God’s grace and providence, because our church was doing online services, I was virtually able to be on both sides of the planet at the same time. I was able to pastor our church family as well as care for our family in the States. Thank you, Father!

A Resource Hub for Japanese Ministries

For those of us who speak English, having a plethora of great biblical resources to help you shepherd your church family is a huge benefit and blessing. Because of the small number of believers here in Japan (less than 1% of Japanese consider themselves Christians), those resources are much harder to come by for those who pastor Japanese churches. Many of our fellow-laborers here have a much harder time finding resources that are designed for the Japanese people. For a while, it has been my desire to do something to help our national pastors and missionaries here to have access to things that will help them as they shepherd their church families. So this January, we launched a resource hub called kyoukaihelp.com. (“Kyoukai” means “church” in Japanese.)

kyoukaihelp

While still in its early stages, I am looking forward to seeing how it will provide an opportunity for pastors and missionaries here in Japan to be able to share things they have learned in reaching and shepherding the Japanese, as well as to share resources they have found useful in their ministries that would help others. Please pray for this aspect of ministering to the Japanese! And pray for our church family as we look forward to gathering once again in March!

Thank you for how you care for us by going to the Father on our behalf and giving so that your brothers and sisters here can be encouraged and strengthened!

To download a printable pdf, please click here




Carter Connection December 2020

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s definitely been a year in which God has broadened my perspective of serving Him here in Japan. It’s had its share of both trusting Him in the times of foggy uncertainty as well as rejoicing in the moments He reveals his glorious plan for us.

What is church like in Japan with COVID-19?

From mid-September, Tokyo started allowing people to gather again, although with strict “suggestions” for how a gathering takes place. For a typical church like ours, it means that every church attender wears a mask (not a big a deal here in Japan as this has been a common practice for decades), the windows must remain open to allow airflow (winter will be veeery interesting…), and we must maintain enough space in our seating. This is the most difficult issue, as our main “auditorium” is essentially an oversized Japanese living room, where before COVID seating 30 people was doable but tight. Now, we’re limited to around 15 to 20 in our Sunday gatherings, and use an overflow room when the auditorium gets full. This, along with those in our church family who are either themselves or have family members in the high-risk category, has reduced our church attendance by about half. That being said, God still continues to grow our church family.

How God Works Through COVID to Care for His Children

Here is just one of the different ways God has been working through our church family. Ikuya and Sachiyo Suzuki started coming to Akigawa Baptist Church in 2018. The story of how they came to be with us, along with Ikuya’s salvation can be found here. (As a side note, one day when you meet Sachiyo, BE SURE to ask her about her salvation story. It will blow your mind.) THIS story though is about how God used Ikuya and Sachiyo to bring two dear ladies to our church family.

In the apartment complex that Ikuya and Sachiyo live in is a dear Christian lady named Mrs. Tamura. For years, Mrs. Tamura had been riding the train for an hour and a half each way to go to her church in downtown Tokyo. But her knees started getting weaker, and she just wasn’t able to make the trip. For 8 months, she had been unable to go to church, struggling with not knowing what to do. It was right around this time that Sachiyo’s mom, who also lives in the same apartment complex, fell and fractured her hip. Through another Christian, these two ladies met, and started helping each other as they recovered together. They soon became fast friends.

Not long after they met, COVID came on the scene and shut down Tokyo, including our church’s Sunday services. This led to us starting our online streaming services so that our church family, (and anyone else who wanted to) could watch and participate as the Bible was being taught. Sachiyo, who had gotten to know Mrs. Tamura through her mom, invited Mrs. Tamura to join her and Ikuya as they watched the Sunday message. After watching the sermon together with them in her living room, Mrs. Tamura was so excited, she begged them to make sure they came over every Sunday so she could watch. As the COVID shutdown eased and we were once again able to gather together on Sundays, Mrs. Tamura couldn’t wait to come to church. Not only that, a few weeks later, she brought along Sachiyo’s mom to come with her, and now the four of them come to church together every week. Each Sunday, Mrs. Tamura tells me how blessed she is that God brought Ikuya and Sachiyo to her so that she could be part of her new church family. God is so good! Thanks for your part in this too!

To download a printable pdf, please click here. 




Carter Connection September 2020

Round 2- Here we Go Again

Eight weeks was about all we had. After the three-month COVID-19 emergency status was lifted here in Tokyo, we were excited to finally gather together again on the first Sunday in June. But it didn’t last long. The following month, as people started to get out and about again, the infections in Tokyo started climbing at a very rapid rate. In less than two months, the infections shot up to twice what they were during the peak of the emergency status.  This time however, the government chose not to call an emergency status, but did shut down public gatherings, asking everyone to do what they could to help stop the spread. Because our auditorium is very small, and it was already consistently full, we decided to stop gathering and go back to only live-streaming again in August. So how has that affected our church family and our ministry?

Digital Outreach

Our online outreach has continued to gradually increase, as more people are watching our live-streaming services and listening to the audio podcasts. I am really looking forward to seeing the long-term impact of this aspect of reaching Japanese!

Honestly, I feel like I’m getting to experience YOUR end of missions outreach as the supporter. Just like you, while I know God’s word is going out, I only get a small glimpse of the impact it actually has. While I see the numbers grow of people listening and watching, I really do wish I could see the story of the person behind each number! Through it all, it’s been very encouraging and exciting. Because Japan is so digitally immersed, it really seems to be a viable way to help so many more people come to know Jesus, and learn to grow and abide in Him. In conversations with some of our church family, we’ve already come up with another way to help their out-of-town loved ones who don’t have access to a good church near them, (like so many others here) to learn about the Bible. But more on that in another letter. That project is still in its infancy.

Caring for Church Family

While we understand the massive potential that digital outreach has here in Japan, our church family is still our main focus. Helping our church family to grow in their love for Jesus and their love for one another without that corporate gathering as a church family has definitely been challenging. Midweek Zoom meeting services, small group discipleship, phone calls, texts, and group chats have all been keeping us busy caring for our brothers and sisters. And for the most part, I think we’re doing pretty well in growing together as a church family. That being said, I do think that for some, the fear of COVID is overwhelming, and it’s hindering their faith in God. For others in our church family, the lack of gathering together is causing spiritual lethargy. So please keep us in your prayers as we work through this together, that God would glorify Himself in each of our believers, and that through this, their faith in Him would be strengthened rather than weakened.

Having the Edwards here, the missionary family who came to work with us this year, has been invaluable. Having another missionary to share the load has been so encouraging. God’s timing in all this continues to amaze me in how He cares for us!

On a personal note, in July our daughter Brianah headed back to the States to begin her life as an adult. I think Bethany and I are recovering from the loss of not having her with us. But man, it takes time. I hate goodbyes. God’s been so good to our family though, and we’re so thankful for our home church in Louisville who has been so helpful in taking her in and helping her get adjusted to life in the States.

Thanks so much for praying for your missionaries even during these uncertain times. It means so much to us!

(For a printable version of this update, click here.)




Carter Connection May, June 2020

For us, it’s been just over two months. Like most churches around the world, we also found the necessity to change the way we meet. And while the change has been difficult, it has helped our church family to grow in ways we didn’t expect.  

How COVID-19 Affected our Nation

At the end of March, just a few weeks after our last prayer letter, Tokyo essentially shut down. And for good reason. The rampant spread of the COVID-19 in other large cities, and the fact that we were one of the most condensed cities in the world reflected the oncoming doom that many in our city felt. This also came with the realization that Japan has the highest proportion of elderly in the world, with 1/3 of the nation being over 65 years old. It didn’t look good for us.

Yet God was very gracious to us. While there was a significant infection of COVID-19, it didn’t spread nearly as much as everyone was fearing. And while there were a lot of unknowns because of the lack of testing, the deaths were proportionately few in comparison to other cities. This may have had a lot to do with the culture here, with wearing masks being very common, and physical contact like handshaking and hugging relatively nonexistent. We will see over the next few months how significant the economic effect will be for Japan, as only essential places of business have remained open, much like the U.S. That being said, we are grateful for how God protected so many of us here in Japan. It could have been a LOT worse!

How COVID-19 Expanded our Ministry

 While Tokyo shut down, our ministry took a turn that none of us expected just a few months ago. And, to be honest, I think it’s helping with one of the struggles of outreach that many of us here in Japan face in reaching people for Jesus.

There’s a saying in Japan: “The threshold of a church is very high.” The phrase points to how emotionally difficult it is for the average Japanese to walk into the doors of a church building. It makes sense if you think about it. Less than 1% of Japan are Christians. This means that while most Japanese recognize the worldwide existence of Christianity, very few are willing to pursue what it means to follow Jesus enough to be willing to step across the threshold of a church. There is a real fear of getting “sucked into a cult,” even if they are invited by their trusted Christian friend or loved one.

Preparing for FB Live Service

Preparing for FB Live Service

There was an obvious answer to this, and yet embarrassingly, I was oblivious to it. As the Tokyo shutdown began, we were looking for the best platform to stream our services over the internet. LINE, an app that is used extensively in Japan, was my preference, as we had a group for our church already set up. For a few weeks we went that route, and it worked well. But one day, Bethany suggested we use Facebook Live instead. I quickly dismissed it, saying how embarrassed I would be that anyone who wanted to could hear me preach. But as I thought about that, the Holy Spirit hit me. “All this time, you’ve been trying to get people to come to church. Why not just bring church to them? Why not just remove the threshold of the church?” There are a few occasions when I really feel foolish. This was one of them. And with that, Facebook Live for Akigawa Baptist Church has begun. Our hope is that, along with our other outreach endeavors, it will be used as a tool to help more people to hear about the good news of Jesus.

Just today, the governor of Tokyo announced that the emergency status will be lifted. This coming Sunday, we as a church family get to gather together again. I can’t wait! But also, I’m so excited to have yet another way to share the goodness of Jesus with those here in Japan!

(For a printable version of this update, click here.)