Japan was amazing.
I think what sums up the whole trip is this: Lives were touched and changed.
From the Sager family (the pastors of our sister church in Japan) to the members of the church, the people we spoke to on the street to the team members themselves, the impact was evident. Friendships were made and deepened and stories exchanged, but most importantly, hope and encouragement were given. That makes it all worth it.
Each of the ministries we visited in Japan struggles with the daunting statistic that less than 1% of the population is Christian. They are the minority. Their beliefs are the ones that are strange, they are the ones that don't fit in. To have a team come all the way from America even to just pray with them is a huge reminder that what they are doing is noticed and is valuable.
In Japan, the hardest individual to change their beliefs and convert to Christianity is an older Japanese male. They are usually very invested into their Buddhist or Shinto ways, and the traditions of those faiths are deeply tied into their way of life and their identity. They worship shrines to their ancestors and consider this idol worship to be an essential part of honoring their family. Honor is one of the things Japanese value most, so when they are confronted with the idea that idol worship is actually dishonoring to God, they rarely convert. Yet during our trip, one Japanese man prayed the prayer that brought Christ into his life. Though I wasn't there when it happened, the fact is so remarkable and impacting!
Another powerful time was our trip to Mt. Fuji. We were able to pray on the fifth station, the highest place you can drive to, and it was so incredible. Mt. Fuji is worshiped in Japan, it is a spiritual high place, and it is so important to the people that some even call it the soul of Japan. We truly felt the presence of God and He was giving us words of encouragement and specific things to pray into for the nation while we were there. What truly made this experience amazing was this: a Japanese man who was in his early sixties and had been converted just 10 months earlier also prayed with us for his country. Words cannot describe the emotions I felt then... God will continue to move greatly in this nation!
I wish I could share even more of the stories! Maybe I'll write more in the future, but to end this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for praying and supporting this trip. Everything went smoothly, only one person was sick (yet when he came back he said he wanted to move to Japan!), and God touched so many lives.