Category Archives: japan

‘Shut up and die!’ she shouted at her mother. She didn’t mean it.

In a moment of extreme accumulated frustration, Chiaki Gadsden told her alcoholic mother during a fight: “Shut up and die!”

Chiaki’s mother died that day.

“The next morning my father told me, ‘Chiaki, you mother died today,’” she narrates on a Japan Kingdom Church video on YouTube. “I didn’t feel anything. I just couldn’t believe it. I went home and saw her body and still couldn’t believe it.”

Chiaki’s childhood frustration and source of loneliness and abandonment was her mother’s alcoholism. Her father didn’t like to see his wife drunk, so he stayed away from home. Her older sister had become hardened and unfeeling, so she paid no heed to Chiaki’s pleas that they help Mother.

Eventually, Chiaki became uncaring also and took drugs and became promiscuous as a coping mechanism, she says. The coping mechanism never worked very well.

Meanwhile, she grew hard-hearted and distant from everyone.

That morning Chiaki and her mother fought, as they did many days. The sinister effects of alcoholism over many years reached a boiling point and Chiaki uttered the words she later regretted: “Shut up and die!”

She pronounced the awful words, but didn’t want the horrible result.

So when Mom died that day, Chiaki was staggered.

“I started to blame God: ‘Why didn’t you help me?’” she remembers. “I thought, What’s the point of this life? No one can help. My family didn’t help. God didn’t help. What is this life?”

At a family meeting, Chiaki’s father made a terrible announcement to everyone.

“He said my mother’s death was my fault,” Chiaki says.

“I was shocked that he said that,” she says. “I could not understand why he would say that.”

“Oh, it’s my fault that my mother’s dead?” Chiaki thought. “My father said so. Then it is bad for me to be here. If I’m not here, then everyone will be happy.”

From that moment, Chiaki no longer sought to have relationships with people. She cut herself off. She lost all hope, all purpose.

“Everything just became darkness,” she says.

Then Chiaki was invited to a gospel music festival.

“When I saw and listened to the gospel music, suddenly I felt something warm in my heart,” she recalls. “I thought, wow, gospel music is amazing. Then all of a sudden, tears started to pour out. I thought to myself, Why am I crying? I thought, What is this? What is this?” Read the rest: Christianity in Japan

A black pastor in Japan

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

Loss of fingertip didn’t stop Christian pianist

In his hurry to finish chores before organ practice, 13-year-old Greg McKenzie reached down to fix the lawnmower’s chain without turning the machine off, and his right index finger got caught and fingertip cut off.

“My sister was screaming. My mom thought my whole hand got chopped off,” he says.

In the long term, the accident didn’t impede his musical aspirations. Today, Greg, 58, is a professional musician in Japan. In the short term, he learned to see the bright side of life and apply his Christian faith.

“That was the beginning of a new journey, meaning my spiritual faith. I was kind of depressed as a 13-year-old. Why did this happen to me?” he told God Reports. “To make a long story short, I started talking to other patients. Some of them had missing limbs. Here I’m thinking of how bad I have it, and these people have it twice as bad. I went out of that doctor’s office thinking ‘I’m very blessed. I’m very grateful.’”

Greg McKenzie grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, in a family that never missed a Sunday service.

“Most of our ancestral background comes from spirituality,” he says. “That’s how we keep moving forward in hard times.”

With sheer determination, he pressed through the year-long setback of his missing fingertip to pursue music. He opted to not have the fingertip sewn back on because, as a pianist, he needed full sensitivity. He compensated when it was sore, as musicians often do.

“I was determined to play,” he says. “For at least one year, I couldn’t even use that finger.”

But by the time he entered conservatory, he was at full capacity with the same technique as other students. He graduated and began taking jobs.

The interminable search for jobs led him in 2003 to Japan where the Hyatt International paid him to put together a New York-style jazz and Latin jazz band. Japan paid well, and he paid off his outstanding Sally Mae debt. Read the rest: Christian pianist who lost fingertip

A spider saved a Marine in WW2

s-l300After intense fighting against the Japanese on Okinawa during World War II, a Marine got separated from his unit amid the explosions, smoke, and chaos of battle.

He was alone in the hills in dangerous enemy territory. The sun was setting, and the stranded Marine heard the approach of Japanese soldiers so he took refuge in one of the many caves on the ridge.

It was no use. As the minutes passed, he realized the Japanese were searching methodically cave by cave for any American soldiers. With grim resignation, he realized his own death was imminent and inevitable. It was only a matter of time before the enemy would approach his cave and find him in the recesses.

But the Marine was a Christian, so he prayed to God.

lossy-page1-750px-photograph_of_a_marine_aiming_at_a_japanese_sniper_on_okinawa_-_nara_-_532559-tif“Lord, if it be your will, please protect me,” he prayed, as narrated on a website by Father Hugh Duffy. “Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.”

As he prayed, he observed a spider building a web over the crawl space of an entrance to the cave. He scoffed on the inside.

“Ha! What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web,” the anonymous Marine thought. “Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one.”

He remained extremely still and quiet as he listened. The enemy was getting closer. He readied himself to make a last stand.

But to his surprise, the Japanese soldiers passed by his cave and didn’t search its interior. Read the rest: prayer saved a Marine by way of a spider’s web.

This changes everything in missionology

reaching parachute students for ChristWhen Howon Chun showed up at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, he was a confirmed atheist.

“I thought religion is for those who are weak psychologically,” said the Korean foreign exchange student. “Christianity was just one of many religions, and I was not really interested at all. I thought Christians were unstable and just wasting their time going to church. I thought the church was corrupt and only wanted to get their money.”

His perspective changed after a year of hearing Bible class and then voluntarily attending a Bible conference in Tucson with his host dad (who happened to also be his principal and teacher).

evangelizing parachute studentsHe was surprised by the thousands of people whose joy was evident. He decided he should at least re-evaluate his atheism.

If this many people believe they are saved by Jesus, how can I ignore what they believe? he thought.

“I liked their energy. I wanted to have a purpose in life like them. I learned that Christians weren’t weird. They have a loving community. They weren’t corrupt.”

Howon wound up hanging around for three more years at Lighthouse. He just graduated, acing the SAT math with a perfect score, and enrolled in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study business. Part of his college choice based on accompanying his host dad, who is planting a church nearby Pismo Beach.

Howon’s story upends the traditional missionary model of sending workers into the foreign field. Here’s a vein of gold. The Christian Examiner reported that 300,000 Chinese students alone enrolled in American schools in 2016, and they prefer Christian schools, regardless of their government’s atheistic values.

There’s much discussion about how the surge in foreign students, who pay higher tuition than natives, has been a blessing to struggling private schools (public schools have strict limits on the amount of foreign students they can receive).

But there is precious little discussion about making a concerted effort to evangelize them. Read the rest about evangelizing parachute students.

God’s gangster: former yakuza is now pastor

yakuzaAs a teenager, he was lured into a Japanese crime syndicate known as yakuza, and after surviving several violent episodes and prison experiences, God began to get his attention.

“I admired the yakuza for what was visible only on the surface,” Tatsuya Shindo told CNN. “They have lots of money, spend their money lavishly, and play glamorously. The bad guys looked so cool in my eyes. I was a child. I didn’t think too deeply.”

Many of the estimated 50,000 yakuza fall into a life of crime because they come from broken families. The yakuza cultivate a sense of family, of belonging and of loyalty.

But if there were issues that seduced him to the mob life, the harsh realities began to pummel him.

“People were killed in power struggles,” he recounted. “People’s legs were shot. A guy who was doing drugs with me died of intoxication. Suicides happened. Sudden deaths. I’ve seen many deaths,” said Shindo, 45. “I saw my henchmen get stabbed to death.”

He got addicted to crystal meth. He crashed his boss’s car while driving under the influence. As a result, his pinkie finger was cut off with a chisel, which is a form of penance in the syndicate. For a first offense, the wrongdoer must cut off the tip of his left little finger and give the severed portion to his boss.

160222022016-japan-life-after-yakuza-ripley-pkg-00001721-exlarge-169Shindo’s body is covered by tattoos, which make him an outcast in Japan. Many yakuza have full-body tattoos, which are still “hand-poked”, with homemade tools using needles made of bamboo or steel. The painful process can take years to finish.

Crime members cover their tattoos in public, but when they play cards with each other they often remove their shirts to show off their creative designs.

Beginning at age 22, Shindo was arrested seven times and imprisoned three times, according to CNN.

He saw his mob boss killed and friends die of overdoses. After his third prison sentence, he began to question the “lavish life of the yakuza” he once imagined. He finally decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

During his final 10-year prison sentence, Shindo began reading a Bible in solitary confinement.Read the rest of the article written by a Chinese student at our Santa Monica school.

God’s tattoo

God TattooThe trouble with tattoos is you can’t erase them (easily). Most people spend the rest of the lives entrenching themselves in the defense of the tattoo they got when younger. It’s easier than to own up to an error.

Did you know God’s got a tattoo? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. But check this out:

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. — Isaiah 49:16

This means you are God’s permanent possessions, His love. He’s not going back on you.

A friend of mine got married. I don’t know if they got wedding rings, but I see he got his wife’s name tattooed on his arm. This is a younger generation. I love Dianna, but I don’t think I’ll get a tattoo.

But God is so over the top in love with us that He has our name “engraved” — read, “tattooed” — on his palms, right where He’ll see it constantly (although if you want to get technical, this is an anthropomorphism, but the principal is there).

The progress of the gospel in Japan

a-japanWith less than 1% of the nation Christian, Japan has been called the “missionaries’ graveyard.” In Africa missionaries died from exotic diseases, but in Japan Christian workers often face burn-out and leave with very few conversions after major commitments of time and money.

And yet, one missionary has hopes that recent events bode well for revival.

“The Japanese are not antagonistic toward the gospel at all,” said Gary Case, pastor of the Potter’s House Church in Tokyo. “If anything, they seem mildly avoidant and politely skittish.”

jack garrot baptism

Jack Garrott baptizes a believer

For months, Case met with Mr. N., an atheist retiree who attended his church to learn about being a better person. The two studied the Bible together over coffee, discussing God, Jesus and salvation until Mr. N. finally accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord.

Japan is one the most secularized nations in the world, according to a World Values Survey. Because loyalty is one of their core values, Japanese see leaving their traditional Buddhism and Shintoism as a family betrayal. The average church has only 30 members. A brief revival after World War II netted significant converts, but many of those are graying, and some of the churches left behind are dwindling.

The Japanese wear crosses as a fashion statement but have no idea what the cross signifies. They celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus and gift giving but ignore completely the story of Christ’s birth.

Jack Garrot's churchAmid the bad news, many see cause of hope. Japanese Christian leaders point to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant meltdown of 2011 as a time that began to soften the self-reliant Japanese character and open the Japanese to the need for the gospel.

“There’s a sense of hopelessness for the future. You can see it in their faces,” said Stephen Matsumura, pastor of the Mizuba Community Church, in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade video. “There’s a high suicide rate here in Japan – issues of loneliness and isolation – which is a huge indicator of a bigger need.”

If natural disaster brought greater openness, so too is gospel music. The 1992 movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg popularized the musical genre. Since then, there have been workshops and gospel choirs formed, attracting non-Christians. In 2011, CBN reported that some 50 churches had formed gospel choirs.

“It opened the church to the community,” said Pastor Masahiro Okita. “And it’s a very unique ministry because the target of the outreach are the choir members themselves.”

In the 15th Century, Portuguese traders brought priests, based in the port of Nagasaki. These Catholic Christians won converts but eventually were expelled by the ruling class who reverted to isolationism. Many converts became “hidden Christians” and worship Christ in their hearts while at the Buddhist temples. They passed their faith on to their children, a UCAnews video on YouTube reveals.

Japan Tsunami Relief and Rebuild

Some 40,000 Christians who failed to hide their faith were boiled to death in many of the nation’s scalding thermal mudpots, the video says.

Jack Garrott’s dad was part of the missionary movement in 1930s and 40s, landing in Fukuoka, Japan. In 1981, he returned to Japan as a missionary himself in Omura, Nagasaki.

“I am told that the number of committed Christians is growing, but that appears to be in metropolitan centers, where people are perhaps more loosened from their traditional roots,” Garrott said. “There are growing, vibrant churches in major metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka, but they are virtually nonexistent in the ‘boonies,’ which could be described as the ‘soul’ of Japan.”

Editor’s Note: This article, originally published in God Reports, is special to me because two of the men interviewed, Gary Case and Jack Garrott, are friends. I follow Jack’s blog. Please pray for their churches and for revival in Japan.