Why I Left India to Reach the Unreached in Japan - Radical

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Why I Left India to Reach the Unreached in Japan

God is writing a story around the world for the global glory of Jesus and his saving grace. One such story is that of the Mizos. Perched on top of the Blue Mountains in Northeast India is my hometown, Aizawl, Mizoram. My people were once headhunters before two Scottish, Baptist missionaries first brought the gospel in 1894. They were followed by Welsh Presbyterians who established the first church in 1897. 

In less than 50 years, the vast majority of my people came to see the light of the gospel through consecutive awakenings and revivals. Even long after the 1904 Welsh Revival flames had died, the church in Mizoram continues to experience gospel revivals to this day. Mizoram has now celebrated more than 100 years of Christianity, owing to God’s grace. About 87% of the Mizos are Christians, and churches now send cross-cultural missionaries all across India and abroad. 

But even though I grew up in a Christian home, I was blind through unbelief. Like that prodigal son, I lived a licentious lifestyle (Luke 15:11–32). I was not truly converted until another wave of gospel renewal swept across our city in the 1990s. Jesus literally made me new as the Spirit illuminated the Scriptures. The chains fell and my eyes awakened. I was finally alive (Ephesians 2:8–9) and my sin and self-righteousness were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). It was a deeply heart-altering experience in the context of the local church. And this same gospel renews my heart today as a missionary in Japan today. 

God Has A People For Himself

“Why Japan?,” asked a friend when I sensed a call to Japan. I came to Japan in 2004 to learn the Japanese language and culture while studying theology. The task of gospel contextualization is more than language acquisition (Acts 17:22–34). It takes time to listen, observe, and bring the power of the gospel to bear on people’s nightmares, hopes and aspirations. Unreached people groups are those among whom Christ is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known.

In Japan, gospel progress is slow and in need of significant missionary engagement and outside help.

In Japan, gospel progress is slow and in need of significant missionary engagement and outside help. It requires patient endurance to plant gospel seeds, water the seeds, and trust in the sovereign work of the Spirit (Mark 4:26–28). Therefore, after 19 years of living in Japan, I might have answered my friend, “Why not Japan?” 

Japan has long-standing cultural barriers, long working hours, sinister warfare, and a high cost of living—not to mention personal idols. This can drain missionaries over time. Though the nation is rich economically, behind the facade of group harmony and professionalism lies spiritual poverty. Many die of kodokushi, death by loneliness, in aging Japan. In times of discouragement, I have often found comfort in how Jesus stayed. 

Jesus Stayed and Fulfilled His Mission

Jesus left the comforts of his Father’s house and entered our world of sin, shame, suffering, and death. When it was most tempting to leave, Jesus did not come down from the cross (Matthew 27:42). He did not abandon his mission. This is the ground for joyful perseverance. This is what compels us to love when it’s hardest to love. He stayed and loved us to the very end. 

After the resurrection, Jesus said to weak and fearful disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 19–20). This news of his resurrection is what he commands us to tell to the nations. Jesus has a people from every tongue, tribe, and language—including the Japanese (Revelation 7:9). 

While we await his return, many unreached people groups are waiting to hear of his first coming.

While we await his return, many unreached people groups are waiting to hear of his first coming (Romans 10:15). Though the church in Japan seems weak, with only 0.57 % evangelical Christians, perhaps a day is coming when the seeds sprout into a great harvest. It will take many established churches renewed by the gospel and new gospel-centered churches planted to see a nationwide movement for Jesus’ renown. 

Joey Zorina

Joey Zorina is the Lead Pastor at The Bridge Fellowship in Tokyo, Japan. He is from Aizawl, Mizoram, India. He was sent by his home church to Japan in 2004 and was later ordained in 2006. He holds a theology degree from Tokyo Christian University (2008) and served as assistant pastor prior to planting The Bridge Fellowship. He has lived in Japan for 19 years.


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