Living for Christ on the Izu Peninsula in Japan.
In many ways, the Izu Peninsula is an idyllic place. Lying just 30 miles south of Mount Fuji, the area is blessed with a mild climate, delicious seafood, stunning volcanic scenery, and numerous hot springs. As such, it has long been a popular destination for Japanese tourists. Whether you’re keen on beaches, surfing, golfing, or motorcycle touring, you’ll find something of interest here. And for the foodies, Izu is one of the biggest producers of wasabi in Japan!
However, recent years have seen a trend of depopulation, with younger people moving to Tokyo and Shizuoka where job prospects are stronger. The region also suffers from the national trend of declining birth rates. So much so that many village schools have been merged or closed altogether due to the lack of enrolments.
There are churches in the larger towns, some established over a hundred years ago. However, there are hardly any signs of gospel vitality in the villages and rural areas. This is a common situation in Japan more widely, with the proportion of people following Christ falling to one in a thousand or less in rural areas.
Recently the Japanese government has formed new towns and cities by amalgamating small villages, which often hides the need for church planting in statistical analyses of these smaller communities, who still maintain their separate identities. Where churches do exist in Izu, the ageing Japanese population is reflected and a lack of young people ready to take on positions of leadership is a growing concern. On top of this, the small congregations are isolated and don’t have much connection with other fellowships.
Even in for those blessed with strong church leaders, life as a believer involves constant struggles against societal expectations. These brothers and sisters are often the only Christian in their family, or even the whole village, and many need to travel an hour to attend church. Meanwhile, the issues of family altars and Buddhist funerals with their annual memorial services are particularly challenging, as not taking part in temple rituals and ancestor worship is seen as dishonouring the family.
Obstacles to evangelism are just as tough to negotiate. Unless God opens the way, meeting people and building meaningful relationships through which to share the gospel usually takes a long time. People may be set in their ways and slow to change, but the seeds of the gospel can penetrate even the hardest heart. God can re–awaken things from the past and there are lots of elderly people who had contact with Christians in Kindergartens or Sunday schools before coming to faith in later years.
Living for Christ on the Izu Peninsula presents unique challenges, and we are grateful for those who serve the Lord in the region. Despite the challenges of isolation, we long to see the church strengthened in the truth that nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!
HOW TO PRAY
- For churches and believers in Izu to be bold and Spirit–led in their witness for Christ
- For Christians to have a 24/7 relationship with Jesus, affecting all areas of their lives
- For new ways of church planting which are appropriate in rural communities
- That churches, pastors and believers would support one another across denominations
- For a new generation of church leaders
- That God would move powerfully, causing many to believe and become fishers of men