Missionary Update: Jon and Maki Robison
This week, Jon and Maki Robison, provide an update on their ministry.
Back to the Basics
Ministry in the year of Covid-19. If you ask 10 people you’ll probably get 10 answers, and even though Japan’s virus numbers have stayed low by a worldwide comparison, the response has been pretty pretty conservative. In our case, we moved about a month before quarantines hit, and churches largely moved to online services, so we didn’t have much in the way of pre-existing local friendships to develop. The blessing in disguise here was that our less busy weekends led to a chance for Aki and Leon to join the local baseball club, and through that, for the first time in quite some time, Maki was able to have a non-Christian friend over for tea and baked goods. Though Japanese, this particular couple spent their college years in the States before returning to Japan. They’re the only Japanese people we know that like burritos and Guacamole! We’ve learned to develop friendships a bit before pressing pressing into religious conversations, but Maki reports that the topic did come up naturally, and in a way that seemed to allow for further investigation as the friendship deepens. That meeting went so well that I invited the husband of the lady who came for tea to bring his laptop over and ‘telework’ while watching game 1 of the World Series with me (Jon). While eating chips, salsa and guacamole. A different baseball mom has also expressed interest in coming over for tea and baked goods with Maki. While these are very small first steps, it’s so encouraging to form friendships locally, and pray that they lead to hearts open to the gospel.
Thoughts on modern religion?
This afternoon while walking through town Maki was approached by a woman passing out flyers for an organic food delivery service. We already use the service, but the lady was so encouraged that she asked Maki to take a bunch of flyers to pass out to her friends. The enthusiasm seemed a little high for a food delivery service. But in a sense, that’s what religion tends to be. Today in Japan, religion isn’t so much about appeasing evil spirits it’s more about moving the needle from ‘pretty good’ to ‘perhaps a little better’. Evil, sin and suffering are largely kept out the public eye, and being a good person and spreading some good in the neighborhood (and organic food is good) provides an avenue for people looking to act religious. This works especially well in a culture that says suffering is to be endured, which is something that Japanese have done for a thousand years. But we know that what Jesus has done is so much better! Jesus offers us not just an escape from suffering, but a connection to God and to others, a connection that was severed in the garden of Eden. Please pray with us that God would awaken more Japanese to the fact that Jesus is better.
Well, above is me talking modern religion in a Japanese context with you, but I’ve also been talking religion, Christianity, philosophy and methodology of ministry in Japan with a number of other missionaries and pastors lately. Actually five different ministry workers that I never otherwise talk with, and hopefully another three plus such visits on the horizon. What is the best way to minister to people in Japan? How about planting churches that strive for depth of Biblical knowledge and Christian fellowship? What about supporting existing Churches that don’t have the staff to do more than a Sunday morning service and perhaps a Wednesday night prayer meeting? Then there’s the forecast that in the next 10-30 years the number of pastors will decrease dramatically, and that in a country that has a pastor shortage (and a church shortage, and a Christian population shortage). Lots of questions, but with our unexpected journey bringing us to a town for family reasons rather than for a specific ministry opportunity, these conversations continue to be useful as we both serve locally and consider how best to serve the church as we look forward. Please pray for productive conversations and God’s leading moving forward.