Our Purpose
For the first time in four years, a team made up of six members from Geelong, McKinnon and Frankston Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Australia once again visited our brothers and sisters in Christ living in Kobe, Japan this past December. This group, appropriately named the Japan Bridge Team, actively aims to ‘build a bridge’ between the RP Churches in Australia and Japan, our closest Reformed Presbyterian neighbours. The team visited four different churches and their pastors; Pastor Kihei at Okamoto; Pastor Yusuke at Kasumigaoka; Pastor Sakai at Higashisuma; and Pastor Kanamori at Mukonoso. The Japan Bridge Team was able to rekindle old relationships, foster new ones, and engage in the church activities planned. It was deeply encouraging to see people of all ages faithfully serving the Lord, and we were blessed by the kind hospitality we received.


What the team did
The Japan Bridge Team was in Japan for three weeks, from the 5th to the 25th of December. Upon arriving in Kobe, the team met with Pastor Kihei Takiura who kindly picked us up and drove us to the Covenanter Centre Building, where we stayed for the duration of the trip. Pastor Kihei was our main contact throughout the trip and along with Jane Blakston, helped to plan our many activities. Some of these included attending regular prayer meetings at Okamoto, teaching a Psalm and giving an Aussie quiz to kids at Kasumigaoka, attending Pastor Kanamori’s farewell from KTH, distributing flyers around the neighbourhoods of Kobe for both Okamoto and Mukonoso, helping set up and run Okamoto’s kids Christmas party, and babysitting. We also enjoyed helping with English classes at Higashisuma and attending the Christ in the Psalms conference where all four Japan RP congregations met to sing, enjoy fellowship and remember the life of Christ and all that He has done for us.


Things the Bridge Team learnt from the trip
There is so much that the Bridge Team was able to take away from the trip, so many experiences that will continue to shape us throughout our lives. Here are some of the things the team was impacted by, the things the Lord taught us, how we saw Him working in Japan, what challenged us and things for which we thank the Lord. Firstly, God taught us that He answers prayer faithfully! He taught us to remember His eternal, trustworthy plan and our need to have faith in it and be dedicated to the furthering of His Kingdom, even if it takes decades of waiting. We saw and heard a number of stories of people in Japan coming to accept the Lord after years and years of praying and waiting.
The Lord revealed how faithfully He was working in and through the Christians in Japan to be lights in the midst of a secular, non-christian environment (where less than 1% of the population identify as Christians). We saw the Lord’s continual work in the hearts of the youth, building them into faithful servants and leaders of the church. God was pulling at the hearts of people outside of the church as well. Through flyer distribution and other outreach opportunities we saw people become curious and interested about the Gospel. Even so, responses are few and faithful patience and trust in God’s timing is needed. Another significant way God was working in the people of Japan was the way He set the lonely in “families,” bringing people to Himself and into the church family after many years, giving them love and connection though the church family.

Challenges and Blessings
The team was also challenged in many ways. It was difficult to have the courage to connect with people due to the language barrier, but God provided us with words and creative ways to tell and listen to stories with the church family in Japan. We were challenged to think about our motives behind going on the Bridge Team trip, to ask the question “why are we here?” and then apply this question to the rest of our lives and the different things we do. We were also constantly challenged by the preaching of Pastor Kihei and the other pastors of the churches in Kobe, and we thank all of them for their continually faithful work.

Lastly, we have innumerable things to thank the Lord for. We thank God for the steadfast faithfulness in the members of the churches, for their hospitality, kindness, and eagerness to talk with us and make us feel welcome. We are thankful for the fellowship we were able to have as a team and for the way we got along well and encouraged each other to live like Christ. We thank the Lord for keeping us safe, giving us smooth travels and for being with us in the big and small things throughout the trip. We were grateful for the opportunity to bless and be blessed by the people in Japan, and that we were able to gain an eye-opening view of the Lord’s global family and His faithfulness. We also thank God for all the hard work the pastors and members of these churches in Kobe work to make sure that the churches continue to spread God’s Word. They are such faithful workers even in the face of unseen results and the knowledge that so many people are still lost in Japan. Being able to see this faith in action as a team was greatly encouraging.


Conclusion
Coming to Japan and being able to worship alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ (despite the language barrier) was a spiritually invigorating experience. We enjoyed joining people in prayer, exploring Kobe city and its beautiful mountain, Mt. Rokko, attempting to read from the Japanese Bible in prayer meetings, and getting to know both the youth and the elderly from all the churches of the RPCNA in Japan. We would like to say thank you to all those who generously donated towards the Bridge Team missions trip. The funds we received were enough to cover all living and on-ground transport costs, and we thank the Lord for making this happen! The Bridge Team would also like to thank Jono and Louise Blakston (Frankston RPC) and Brandon and Megan Fisher (McKinnon RPC) for helping to plan this trip! Thank you to everyone who contributed towards this mission, whether in money, time, or support. We appreciate you all very much. We encourage you to continue praying for our church family in Japan, for the spread of the Gospel in Japan and for all those in this country who have not yet turned to Christ.

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations

Psalm 33:11

Thanks to Jolene Fisher for putting together this article. Jolene was born in the US, but grew up in Australia. She is the eldest of five children and a member of the McKinnon RP Church in Melbourne. Her passions include dancing, birds, travelling, and most importantly, living like Christ in a broken world.

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