May 8, 2018 | Tokyo, Japan |
Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic meetings across Japan officially began on Friday, May 4. Months and even years before, however, the “All Japan 2018 Maranatha” initiative began with careful planning, bold decisions, and uncountable sessions of prayer.
“Prayer is essential for the success of these meetings,” acknowledged Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson as he addressed church members of the Eastern Japan Conference at a joint prayer meeting at Tokyo’s Amanuma Seventh-day Adventist Church on May 2. “Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists are praying for Japan.”
Prayers Around the World
Thousands of miles from Tokyo, Pioneer Memorial Church senior pastor Dwight Nelson agrees. On the campus of Andrews University, an Adventist school in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, he has enlisted a group of people to fast and pray for Japan. Nelson, who was born in Japan to a missionary family, knows very well the challenges involved. He is heading for Japan in the next few days to conduct evangelistic meetings.
“I’ll be preaching on the campus of Saniku Gakuin [in Isumi-gun, Chiba], a 201-student college where 70 percent of the students are non-Christian,” he told Adventist Review.
Nelson is taking twelve theology majors with him, who will specifically work to connect with the non-Christian students in morning and evening meetings from May 14-19.
Last month, Nelson’s home church organized a Day of Prayer and Fasting to ask God to intervene. “Our focus was ‘Against the Strongholds,’” shared Nelson. “And we solicit the prayers of the wider Seventh-day Adventist family, as we move into this…evangelism strategy.”
Praying for Japan — Across Japan
Church members at the Amanuma Church are not strangers to prayer. In 2017, they devoted most of the year to a Field School of Evangelism and evangelistic initiatives that required — among other things — unnumbered hours of prayer.
“The Amanuma Church…took prayer seriously,” said Northern Asia Pacific (NSD) church region Ministerial Association director Ron Clouzet in describing the initiative he led in October 2017. “Each of the 40 days leading up to the first day of the evangelistic meetings, 20 or 30 members gathered early in the morning to pray for the meetings. Prayer teams also became involved with prayer-walking sections of the city, asking for the Holy Spirit to be poured upon the people they saw in the streets, the stations, and the stores.
During the May 2 meeting, prayer was also an important part of the service. Church members knelt in small groups and earnestly prayed for God to open doors to the hearts of their relatives, colleagues, and neighbors.
Other Adventist churches across Japan also spent the launching weekend of their evangelism initiatives in prayer. At the Toyohashi Seventh-day Adventist Church three hours southwest from Tokyo, the few and aging members of the Japanese-speaking congregation knelt asking God to bless their efforts. Even though the Adventist Church in the area has been growing steadily among immigrant populations — mostly Brazilians and Filipinos — the Japanese congregation stopped growing years ago, according to local church leaders.
A month ago, Shigenori Matsueda, a young Japanese pastor intern arrived. He and his wife Satoe are doing their best to turn things around.
“There are big challenges ahead,” they concede. “It is the reason we need prayer more than ever.”
One hour west from Toyohashi, in the heart of the Toyota-Nagoya industrial region, pastor of the Kariya Seventh-day Adventist International Church Roger Ueno is also hoping prayer and hard work may allow God to bless their efforts.
“We live in a prosperous region, and people have become extremely materialistic,” he tells Adventist Review. “They study and accept Bible truth but keeping the Sabbath it is usually the last hurdle.” Ueno explained that in a society that highly values hard work, keeping the Sabbath usually means losing one’s job, as religious accommodation is uncommon. “Some people have finished Bible studies and are ready to be baptized but for the fact that they still find it hard to commit to Sabbath rest,” he says. “It’s a challenge, for sure.”
Praying for the Holy Spirit
According to Wilson, the key to any successful evangelistic enterprise is enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit. “What a blessing it will be to let the Holy Spirit take control of the meetings!” he said during the May 2 prayer meeting. But we need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s presence, he said, praying that He will intervene.
“Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to fill this room and for people [who have been invited] to come,” he said.
“We are living in a very spectacular time because Jesus is coming soon” added Wilson on a hopeful note. “As we enlist the power of the Holy Spirit, we will witness miracles again.”