While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. – Acts 13:2-3
From 22 March to 31 March 2017, we went on a field trip to visit a church in Detroit, Michigan, with support from the Japan Covenant Churches Evangelism Committee.
It has been 7 years since Pastor Shunichi Miyamoto and his wife Masako began reaching out to Japanese people living in Detroit. They had a hard time initially and felt ill-prepared for the challenges in Detroit. But through the support of Faith Covenant Church, their ministry has since borne fruit.
Our field trip members went with the purpose of observing the Miyamotos’ work, learning how they do evangelism among the Japanese, and contributing financially to their ministry.
The field trip was planned by two churches, Tokyo Life Church and International Bible Fellowship (IBF), with support from the Covenant denomination. Invitations were sent to other groups. This resulted in four participants from other denominations joining us, two of them from the Evangelical Free Churches. With the prospect of an American homestay, we also had elementary and high school students join – all in all, a diverse group of 13 members. While in Detroit, three families confessed faith in Christ. This came about partly from their opportunity to enjoy fellowship with other Christians in the U.S. We returned to Japan feeling the afterglow of this special trip.
As for the fruitful evangelism among Japanese residents in Detroit, I felt that team effort has been the key to that success. Many people understood the importance of Pastor Miyamoto’s ministry and supported it: Senior Pastor Ken Larson, Associate Pastor Dennis Carlson, the youth pastor, and the nursing staff. In addition, English class volunteers and teachers provided a warm, loving environment for their students – who are mostly Japanese housewives. These women run a high risk of falling into depression and isolation. After all, imagine the stress of raising their children in the U.S. without knowing much English. Though they may not be led to faith while in America, they come to love the church that has loved them. In turn, they encourage other Japanese expats to visit their church.
Our visiting group contributed to Pastor Miyamoto’s work by bringing unique Japanese items for a fundraising auction. Pastor Miyamoto asked in advance if we could contribute some items, so we stuffed our suitcases full of souvenirs. Along with our souvenirs, cakes made by local Americans were sold at the auction at high prices. We were astonished by the total profit made. Over 100 people attended the event to support the Miyamotos, and it was a wonderful auction and dinner event.
As part of the field trip, we also visited the recently completed Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. Japanese families living in Chicago joined us and experienced, in a tangible way, the gospel message and gospel themes through exhibits inside the ark. We were grateful for the time spent with these Japanese Christians.
In summary, the Miyamotos’ evangelistic mission to Japanese people would not be possible without the help of local Americans. I would like to say how valuable this field trip has been, thanks to the efforts of Pastor Miyamoto, Pastor Hirunuma, and Cornerstone Church. I hope further visits might be possible in the future. Hopefully, more Japanese Christians and pastors will see the value of teaming up with American churches and, subsequently, invest in overseas missions.