“God placed this burden on me,” Daniel says, gazing out at the Tokyo cityscape. “For the past few years, I’ve had this burden because less than one percent of the people are Christian in Japan.” He grew more animated as he spoke, stressing his concerns with emphatic gestures. “It’s a big country with lots of people, but for some reason, the everlasting gospel isn’t being communicated.”
His concerns aren’t unfounded. Tokyo is the world’s second largest metropolitan area, with almost 40 million people.* Reaching a city of this size might seem impossible, but God can use anyone, even someone on the other side of the world, to spark change.
Daniel grew up in California, United States, as a third-generation Japanese-American. His parents encouraged him to retain the Japanese language, helping him learn to read, write, and speak it. As Daniel grew older, he always told himself he would be open to God’s plans for his life. After much prayer, he felt that God was calling him to move across the globe and use his language skills to serve in Tokyo, Japan.
When he arrived to work alongside the pastor of the Setagaya Adventist Church, he learned that the church was about ready to shut down; fewer than 10 people were attending each week. Daniel knew that God had bigger plans for this congregation, so he began working to once again make the church a pillar in the community. He chose to begin by nurturing relationships.
“Here in Japan, there are a lot of lonely people,” Daniel shares. “They just commit to work or school, and a lot of them are lonely, so they want fellowship. I think that’s what the Japanese people need. We just need to mingle with them.”
Keeping this first step in Christ’s method in mind, Daniel decided to try to reignite this church’s mission spirit with a fresh approach. He invited young people from across Tokyo and held evangelism training for them in the church. High-school-aged youth and college-aged young adults came together for three weeks. Together, they bonded, worshiped, studied the Bible, and learned how to reach out to people, whether by praying with them or by knocking on doors.
“It’s been a blessing,” declares Daniel. “The students really grow a lot. They have this identity as Seventh-day Adventists and have the mission spirit.”
This once dwindling church transformed into a youth training center. As the young members reached out to their local community through prayer and face-to-face interaction, attendance quickly grew fivefold! And word is spreading throughout the community.
Pastor Yasuki Aoki of the Setagaya church sees God’s hand moving in the young people’s efforts. “When we go out to this community, sometimes we can’t meet the people around this area, but sometimes God sends people to our church. When people come to our church, I feel that Jesus is working for this church.”
The church is now essentially run by young people who are eager to share Jesus with all of Tokyo. Yoriko, one young Setagaya church member, says, “It’s great to see how the young people are getting excited about God and the Bible.”
For young adults like Takahashi Toru, being a part of the Setagaya church community has meant a lot to them personally.
“In my experience, I’ve developed a stronger prayer life,” he shares. “I have direct communication with God as I reach out to people. I learned the joy of communicating with God.”
With the success the church has experienced so far, Daniel decided to expand its programs to include youth from all over Tokyo. One of these is a monthly social night where 50 to 70 young people stay in sleeping bags at the church, study the Bible, sing songs, and fellowship together.
The Setagaya church’s mission spirit has been reignited, and this group continues to grow. Daniel feels that a large part of this was thanks to sparking the youth’s own desire for mission. “When young people get on fire for Jesus, I believe the entire church gets on fire for Jesus,” he says. “That’s why working with the young people is such an honor and privilege.”
Setagaya church members are exploring new ways to break down barriers and show the love of God to the people of Tokyo. Please pray for them as they spread His love throughout the second largest city on earth. Your prayers and support of the mission offerings go a long way to rekindle mission in Japan and around the world!
Mission to the Cities is a world initiative that seeks to plant new congregations in every city with a population of 1 million people or more. This initiative challenges “the way we’ve always done it,” calling for church planters to take unconventional routes to reach urban areas while still building on Christ’s method of ministry. It’s time to reach the cities. How will you be a part? Explore Mission to the Cities projects around the world at MissionToTheCities.org.