Making Connections in Japan

By Niles Kageyama Retired Pastor

Making Connections in Japan - Hawaii church work team assembling storage building in Japan.
Hawaii church work team assembling storage building in Japan.

OMS missionaries to Japan, Steve and Dixie King, had been on a work project at the Kalaheo Missionary Church in Hawaii a number of years ago and had befriended people at the church. It was this connection which led the Kings to request a team from our church to build a storage unit in Tokyo.

However, the Japanese government required a $10,000 building permit which seemingly made the project prohibitive. We sensed that some unseen force was working to block the trip. Fortunately, Steve came up with the idea of putting together four metal storage units which did not require a building permit.

Of our nine team members, only three had been on a previous missions work team. All but one of us had reached retirement age. Our group consisted of different personalities and a variety of gifts and talents –– two hakujin (white people), one nisei (2nd generation Japanese) and six sunsei (3rd generation Japanese).

Making Connections in Japan - Among Hawaii team members are talented ukulele musicians.
Among Hawaii team members are talented ukulele musicians.

The metal storage units had arrived on the OMS compound. Each unit came with 30 boxes and instructions all written in Japanese. None of our workers could read Japanese. However, our men somehow were able to figure things out and put together the first unit after a couple of days which made the rest much easier and faster. The units did not require the help of all of the men so others were assigned to other projects on the grounds.

The women conducted cooking, sewing, and card making classes. The largest attended class was the cooking class. My wife and I also conducted ukulele classes.

Let me tell you about Toshi. We were asked if we could sing and play our ukuleles for two English speaking classes. Between the classes Toshi introduced himself. Then we sang a couple of songs and played our ukuleles. The following Sunday our team was split in two groups, and my wife and I and three others were sent to a church in Tokorazawa. Toshi was there so we assumed that he was at his home church. However, on the following Sunday, Toshi was at the seminary church where my wife and I sang and played our ukuleles in the morning service. At lunch after the service we had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Toshi. He was a widower and lived about an hour's train ride from the seminary campus. He told us that he had started to take ukulele lessons and that he was inspired when he first heard us at the English speaking class. He also wanted to purchase a ukulele. After he purchased the ukulele, he stayed for the service where I spoke, my wife and I sang a song as one of our team members did the hula and a few members of our ukulele class sang and played "Jesus Loves Me." That evening as we were having dinner with the OMS staff, we were told that Toshi did not attend church anywhere. We were surprised. So Toshi is now on our prayer list.

Making Connections in Japan - OMS missionaries, Steve and Dixi King, in Japan
OMS missionaries, Steve and Dixi King, in Japan

We discovered that both hula and the ukulele can be great tools to make connections with people like Toshi. All of us returned to Hawaii with a greater burden for Japan. Now when we pray for Japan, we see the faces of the Christians whom we befriended and of the non-Christians with whom we connected. We pray that the Japanese people will make the greatest connection of all…to Jesus Christ.

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