Greetings from Tokyo.
When at a crossroads, one has four choices! Choose left or right, continue straight ahead or reverse course.
We lived our first 20 years in Japan as church planters, learning how to love Japanese in the Ibaraki country side into the kingdom of God. So many good years invested into the lives of Japanese people who occasionally responded with faith in Jesus, sometimes after months, but more so after years of seed sowing and watering.
The past 3 years we have lived in Tokyo, the move mostly because of Julia needing English high school, our unwillingness to send our 3rd baby to boarding school, and our work in Ibaraki was coming to an end. Tokyo has been an introduction to a more developed mission field. While there is still a need for church planting, there are more believers, and the Japanese have access to the gospel in a way they do not have in more rural Ibaraki. Don`t get me wrong, where we used to live has a Christian population of 0.2%, close to the lowest on the planet, but Tokyo is about 1% Christian, due to the large expat. population.
We visited Hitachi Hope Church (this was our church plant from 1995-2005) last month. I (Rob) still go there to preach/teach once a month. The church is an average sized Japanese church of 20-25 souls, with no pastor, as are 20% of churches in Japan. A single mom named Maiko will be baptized as soon as the big Pacific baptismal tank warms up in July (July 29 actually if you can pray that day!). The average Japanese church has one baptism every 5 years or, so Hitachi is keeping up with Jones`(Tanaka`s?).
We also met with Rutsu, one of our Hitachinaka Oasis house church members (our work from 2005-2014). Mrs. Fujieta followed her kids to Oasis house church outreach in 2008, believed in Jesus along with her sister and children, and has continued in her journey. She does not “go to church” as we think in the western tradition. She lives her faith, leaving for work 30 minutes early to be sure to have her Bible reading/prayer time, asking God to lead her every step of the day. Dependence on morning Buddhist idolatry has been replaced with the Bible and Jesus, and she has regular times of encouragement with another believer, where Rutsu serves as Mrs. Fujieta`s mentor. That was not what we had in mind when we came to Japan 25 years ago, but it is, I think, a more natural expression of faith for Japanese than our western “go to church” expectations.
We left behind two very different communities of faith in Jesus when we moved to Tokyo. But we continue to minister Hitachi Hope Church and the remnants of Hitachinaka`s Oasis outreach.
Tokyo, and our 40 million neighbours has also become home. There is no fishing here, and the morning sound of Cicadids chirping in summer and frogs tirelessly croaking in the rice paddies at night have been replaced by the cry of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances each night. 70 years young Mrs. S has become a believer recently and needs to be discipled and encouraged to reach her family. There are a handful of young missionaries from Canada, USA and South Korea who are asking us old folks to mentor them here as well.
Canada also beckons us, temporarily. All three of our kids graduated from something this June! Tess completed her second BSc., and is a nurse with a new job. Grady graduated from U of T in East Asian Studies/Political Science, and Julia graduated from Christian Academy of Japan (winning all the sports/industrial arts awards). Tess will move to Toronto where hubby Jacob begins a masters program, Grady moves to Waterloo for his master level studies, and Julia will begin a Co-op engineering program at U of Waterloo.
Kathryn and I will spend our vacation time in Canada this year, basically helping our children move. Then, we will return to Tokyo , and continue ministering in Tokyo and Ibaraki in a mentoring/teaching/ evangelism/ discipleship.
One more thing. Julia has spent about 18 months of her 18 years of life in Canada. This summer she will transition to being a Canadian university student. She is really a foreign student, so will spend a week in July at Reboot, a ten day reentry camp for mks in Alberta. Reboot is an invaluable tool, with a goal of helping mks make a successful transition to Canada. If you would like to help, please make a special donation for Julia to attend Reboot. Flight to Alberta and Reboot cost is about $1,750. We have saved $500 from our salary for this, but If you would like to help out with the remaining $1,250, follow the fellowship.ca links below, and specify Rob & Kathryn Fleming, Reboot.
Thank you for your generous prayers and support.
Rob and Kathryn Fleming.