‘Floating Souls’ in Japan

Megumi Sato and Miyuki Takahashi live in Sendai, Japan, an area devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. After the disasters, God gave these women hope through Back to God Ministries’ Japanese radio program. They longed to connect with other followers of Jesus Christ.

But in a country where only 1.5 percent of people publicly profess their faith, it can be difficult to find a community of believers.

“It is very important to connect listeners who contact us to local churches,” said Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) Japanese leader Rev. Masao Yamashita.

“The power of the radio and Internet ministries is great, but listeners may have a hard time making any real connections. If not connected to a local church, they become ‘floating souls,’” he added.

To equip local churches to disciple these “floating souls,” BTGMI began a partnership with Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) and The Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ) to create a leadership training center.

The center, housed at Toyosenkyo Church, a CRWM/RCJ church plant near Tokyo, will offer leadership training and coaching programs based on the needs of local churches and participants.

“Church leaders in Japan learn a lot but seldom practice what they learn,” said Jeong Gho, CRWM missionary in Japan. “As RCJ pastors, we emphasize that Bible teaching is very important. But many times, we realize that people don’t know how to apply this to their daily life.”

Jeong Gho and his wife, Misook, lead several training seminars for church leaders in Japan each year, traveling many miles to do so. The new leadership training center will centralize the location where trainings occur.

Jeong Gho said the connections they make at training events allows them to guide people like Megumi Sato and Miyuki Takahashi to a church community.

“We have developed many contacts with several churches, even with different denominations,” said Gho. “Many of the leaders have told us after the trainings that they feel refreshed, and they realize they can do better at bringing the Word of God to life.”

During the leadership trainings, church leaders also learn the importance of setting goals for themselves and their congregations.
Recently a pastor made it his goal to tell more stories in his sermons, a skill he had not learned before.

“These leadership trainings help both the churches in Japan and other Asian countries work together for the glory of God,” Jeong Gho added.

Right now 30 pastors, including eight who record BTGMI radio programs in Japan, and 30 lay leaders participate in leadership training programs. In addition, 70 church leaders are enrolled in Bible study leadership training.

Thanks to the training received through this ministry, Megumi Sato and Miyuki Takahashi were able to attend a Bible study for radio listeners in Sendai.

Leaders equipped to provide a bridge to the local church welcomed the women to a community of believers where they could learn more about the Bible and the Christian faith.

Revs. Gho and Yamashita will lead a follow-up training in Sendai in October 2014 and March 2015.

Pray that these and other trainings will allow church leaders in Japan to bring the “floating souls” of Japan into fellowship with other believers

About the Authors

Christian Reformed World Missions
Nancy Vander Meer is a staff writer with Back to God Ministries International in Grand Rapids, Mich.