When we first arrived in Japan four years ago, we met a young seminary student who smiled with his eyes, played the bass like a pro, painted beautiful artwork, and whose love for Jesus overflowed. His name was Nozomu. Fast forward a few years and we have had the privilege of teaching him in our next gen ministry courses, singing along while he proposed to his beautiful girlfriend, sitting under his preaching at ANF, and sending him out from our church to plant a new one in the least reached prefecture in Japan.
This past weekend we drove from one coast of Japan to the other so that Brooks could preach at Trinity Church Toyama, the church Nozomu has planted directly across the street from a college campus in the heart of the biggest city in the prefecture (state). When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was that their worship space was filled with Nozomu’s artwork. There was a cafe in the back and people were sitting on cozy couches preparing meat for their weekly Sunday lunch together. When Nozomu first arrived he knew no one, but that morning two of the first people there were English teachers whom God has provided to help lead a bi-monthly English cafe night outreach event.
Just before the service began, they pulled the projector screen up to reveal a white board FULL of the names of people (mostly nonbelievers) who had attended an event at the church. They spent time praying for each person by name, asking God to work in their hearts and give them faith. The friendship and love growing inside that room was palpable. People in search of community are finding Trinity Church to be a refuge, and that heart of welcome is beginning to spill out into the community of Toyama and make God’s name famous in that city. We’re told that Nozomu often has to kick people out in the evenings so he can go home and be with his family, because they just don’t want to leave.
It’s an exciting problem to have, but Nozomu and Shoko are tired. There are not a lot of leaders in the church to offer support. Nozomu is working a lot of hours shepherding the congregation by himself, preaching weekly, and leading worship. They have a new baby and Shoko will begin her medical residency next month. Please pray for them! Please pray also for the new class of seminary students just like Nozomu who will graduate next week and move out into the places God is preparing for them. We feel the earth (and our hearts!) swelling with excitement as the Gospel breaks into places that we had heard were impossible to penetrate. As we start to pack up our bags and prepare for a year in the States, this is just one more way that God is overwhelming us with how much He is doing in Japan.