A Furnace of Transformation
9 Apr 2020
Andrew here from Fukuoka, Japan. The Japanese government has just declared this week (from Wednesday, April 8) a ‘state of emergency’ for 7 prefectures in Japan (including where I’m currently living, Fukuoka). This is not technically the same as ‘lockdowns’ in Australia, and many other countries, and importantly has no legal power to impose penalties on non-compliance. However, most Japanese are very obedient and respectful of government authorities and so I am hopeful that people will respect the announcement, and make the necessary lifestyle changes.
My church stopped meeting in person last Sunday and is endeavoring to work out online-streaming (or some alternative) for Easter services. Contrary to what you might think – Japan having a very tech-savvy image, use of online-streaming, working from home online, and the general tendency towards all things online – is far from widespread here in Japan. Many of Japan’s small churches – with largely elderly congregations – will struggle with this change. Most of my team life has gone online for the last couple of weeks – I enjoyed trying to play an online game of Settlers of Catan with some of my teammates last night (via Zoom, and a gaming app).
I was set to begin a 1-year ministry internship/ placement, working with the KGK University student ministry (the Japanese equivalent of AFES) from April. I met with my supervisor, and have attended one meeting with students recently (which were both so encouraging), but it looks like from now, most things will go online and/or be delayed (the new university academic year, normally starting in April, has been delayed). I’m looking forward to trying to connect with students online!
One very special encouragement happened last week. Our Pioneers Japan Area retreat (like most events) had been cancelled but was reorganised into a regional ‘virtual conference’ via Zoom. The fellowship, though virtual, was still so wonderful, and the Bible talks also greatly encouraged me. One of the many wonderful reminders from that time was about how God can use the ‘in-between’ times, the long periods of silence and solitude. There are so many examples of this in the Bible but the one we were reminded of was following Saul/Paul’s conversion, and then having long periods of time in Arabia, and Tarsus (see Acts 9, Galatians 1). God can use such times as a furnace of transformation in our lives. This is an opportunity for me, for you, and, my hope and prayer is also, for the Japanese, to grow and to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). Let’s not waste this precious ‘in-between’ time gifted to us by the Lord during this pandemic.
Here are some prayer points from Andrew.
- Philippians 1:6-7 that I would cry out to the Lord; that His peace would guard my heart & mind and pour out of me to the people around me, pointing them to Jesus.
- Good internet & technical skills – for myself, Japanese pastors, KGK staff & students as more and more things go online, requiring greater tech-skills!
- For those in Japan feeling the isolation and loneliness of this time, especially those who live alone, students, the elderly, etc. May the Lord give me wisdom, compassion, more love, and opportunities to reach out to such people.
- God to have mercy on Japan and our world during this COVID-19 pandemic.
About Andrew: He has just finished a 2yr language, culture, and ministry training on-field in Fukuoka Japan (called “the Launch program”). This year he is working with university students’ ministry (KGK) for 1-year, and deciding about his future team. He enjoys music, cooking, karaoke, anime, hiking in nature, basketball, coffee, and inviting people to his home for dinner parties!
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