In 1997 Kana left her devoutly Buddhist home east of Tokyo, to study at university in Denver, Colorado. There a Christian befriended her and invited her to church. She was given a Bible but struggled to understand it reading on her own. She decided to attend a Bible study with her Christian friend. After many months of study and heart-searching Kana became a Christian. She was baptised a few weeks before returning to Japan. In preparation she attended the ‘Equipper conference’ organised for Christians returning to Japan by the Japanese Christian Fellowship Network (JCFN).
Kana had never been to church in Japan, so on her first Sunday back, following JCFN’s recommendation, she tried the Chapel of Adoration just ten minutes’ walk from her parents’ house. It was very different from the church she had attended in Denver. But she was welcomed by others who had also become Christians overseas and introduced to some young people her own age.
When I (Alison) first met Kana in 1999 she was struggling with reverse culture shock. With the vast differences between her church experience in the US and Japan and her family’s lack of understanding of her new faith, it took Kana several months to adjust back to life in Japan as a new Christian.
One of my greatest joys during my twelve years working in the Chapel of Adoration was to watch Kana grow and mature in her faith. After working in child-care for a year, she felt God calling her to help others who had become Christians overseas. She worked in the JCFN office in Tokyo for four years, helping Japanese returnees connect with churches in Japan. Then, feeling the need for further training, she took a four-year course at
a Bible seminary in Tokyo and since then has been serving on the pastoral staff of the Chapel
Kana is a wonderful example of how someone can become a Christian overseas and flourish on returning home. A large part of that was the welcome she received from the church she first attended in Japan. The acceptance and support she found there carried her through some very challenging times. Sadly, the vast majority, 85-90 per cent, of returning Christians do not have that experience when they return. Most never connect with a church back home; some may attend once or twice but few really connect, giving up after a few weeks.
But connecting to the church back in Asia is critical for the ongoing growth of these new believers. Because of this Diaspora Returnee Ministries (DRM) is developing links with churches in Asia and building on existing relationships to connect returning new believers to churches who can nurture and support them in the faith. We are also partnering with others with the same ministry. We are seeing an increasing number of churches in Asia embracing these new returning believers with both the opportunities and challenges they bring. Returning believers come with new ideas, fresh insights and a passion for Christ but also need support as they adjust to life back in Asia and learn how to express their new faith at home.
We pray for the Lord to give us more churches in Asia who will embrace and nurture these returning new believers that they might continue to grow in their passion for him. We pray that they might learn to be missional in every aspect of their lives, living passionately yet humbly before him and other people. We also pray for the Lord to lead those who are in Asia connecting with churches and supporting pastors in this ministry. May they know his favour. And we ask the Lord for those who are returning, like Kana, to find churches who will embrace them.
Will you join us in these prayers?