Blacks aren’t generally accepted in Japan. Even Japan’s 2015 Miss Universe candidate Ariana Miyamoto, being half black, was widely rejected on social media as not being truly Japanese.
So how does Marcel Jonte Gadsden – and a handful of other black pastors – lead churches and evangelize in Japan?
“No matter what you do, no matter how you treat me, I respond with a deeper love, an unconditional love, agape love,” Marcel says on The Black Experience Japan YouTube channel. “The Bible tells us to love our enemies. How can you love your enemy? You can’t do it. That’s why the L of love is written from the top down. You must receive love vertically from the Father, down to you and then you can give it out.”
Marcel arrived in Japan as a military brat in 1999.
“I thought coming here there’d be samurais everywhere with swords,” he says. “I was scared to come to Japan. I thought we’d be the only black people in Japan. All I knew was Ramen noodles and samurais.”
When he got out among the people, he was smitten with compassion – so many hordes without hope, without Jesus.
“If what I believe is true about God, what is the hope for these people?” Marcel remembers. “The passion began to rise.”
Motivated to reach the people, Marcel threw himself into learning Japanese and when he had memorized some verses, went out as an adolescent to street-preach in Japanese in the Shinjuku neighborhood.
Japan has virtually no context for understanding street preachers. While there are street performers, they make a poor reference point. Some stared at him as if he were crazy, others ignored him.
While the initial response wasn’t exactly warm, Marcel was warmed by the fires of the love of God.
“Some people were listening and others were like who is this guy?” he remembers. “I began to learn about Japanese people and how they’re not expressive like we are.”
He took a job at 7Eleven to immerse himself in the culture and get to know the people. When he started a church in his living room, many of his first visitors had met him at 7Eleven.
“It was a training ground. I learned so much. It turned a lot of heads when they saw me at the counter. To see the reactions in people’s faces, they look and look again like, he works here?”
When Marcel met and married a Japanese girl from church, he had to overcome the resistance of his father-in-law, who shared the typical entrenched racism of Japan. Every day his future father-in-law would drop his girlfriend off at church, he would pop up to the car, open the door for Chiaki and warmly greet her dad.
“I think he had this image of me being a gangster and trying to steal his daughter,” Marcel relates. “He totally ignored me. And this continued until finally one day, he slightly looked like he slightly acknowledged me. He gave an inch of a nod. I was really convinced that love could destroy his prejudice.”
After Marcel and Chiaki were married, the formation of a relationship with his father-in-law began… Read the rest: black pastors in Japan