I'm often asked to sponsor Asian missionaries coming to Japan. My friend Bob Finley, President of Christian Mission, has said, "We should retire all western missionaries and take that money and just support native evangelists." In response, another friend, Greg Tingson of the Philippines, countered, "If we got 100,000 new western missionaries tomorrow we still wouldn't have a hundredth of the hands needed to bring in the harvest. So it isn't either/or. We need both."
Yet how do you ex plain to a poor Japanese or American pastor in the hills of either Toyama or West Virginia that you and your family need $6.000 to go to Japan. "What?" says the pastor. "For a year?"
"No, for a month's support." The answer to that, spoken or unspoken, would be that they could send 20 missionaries to Indonesia or Romania for that.
So when R.E.A.P. Mission was asked to sponsor a Korean missionary, I said, "Great, this doesn't cost us a dime of support. He's coming supported and will work part time to help support himself until his church gets on its feet. Then the church will support him fully. This is a win-win situation."
In this way we've helped support pastors like Kim, Park and Hong. And they're on their own and doing great. I always encourage them to reach out to the Japanese, as well as their own people. And they do. Once they get their ministry going they have simultaneous translators and those who can't understand Korean use earphones.
They like to be near train stations or shopping centers, so they get a church location which is sometimes in the most expensive part of town. It is an amazing financial challenge, but they face and meet it.
Several Filipino churches in Kanto hold a yearly Golden Week conference where over 200 gather for three days of meetings, challenges and blessings...in Tagalog. They tend to reach only their own, but there are many Filipino women married to Japanese. Getting these husbands to church is a top prayer request and a great mission field.
Then there are the six thousand Iranians who gather at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo every Sunday. I was challenged by a phone call from an evangelist passing through Narita Airport to do something about this incredible opportunity. We printed 40,000 Iranian tracts (Four Things God Wants You to Know) with the word "Allah" ("God") on the front. Not one was thrown away be cause as Salem Kamel said, "You can't put "God" on the dirty ground." On the back we printed a railway subway map.
As we passed out these tracts. we were sometimes mobbed and they were taken like hotcakes. We told everyone to go down the street and find a white church (Shibuya Harvest) where there would be music and a message. Up to twenty went, looking over their shoulders to check who might be watching.
Baptist Karens from Burma meet in the NCC-Northern Baptist building on the Waseda Hoshien compound. We get calls from around the country for tracts in Iranian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Chinese, showing that Christians all over Japan are reaching out to ethnic groups. I point them to New Life League for literature in these different languages.
So how do you start ethnic evangelism? Next time you see a foreigner in your neighborhood, introduce yourself. You may easily make a friend and then he or she will lead you to the "inner circle."
Rev. Yanase had a burden for Jewish evangelism but couldn't go to Israel. Israel came to him in the form of those street vendors selling jewelry! He invited one to his Christian Center in Higashi Matsuyama and this one man brought his friends. They had 26 Jews who had never been to church come to hear the Gospel and enjoy friendship!