ICOMB: Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan 

AROUND THE WORLD: Getting to know the global Mennonite Brethren family

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The Japan MB Conference is involved in training and sending workers to other parts of the world. Photo: Multiply

COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects on the ministries of Japan’s 28 Mennonite Brethren churches, says Takao Sugi, president of the Japanese MB Conference (Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan), in a December email to the CL. Each time over the past three years when the government issued states of emergency and other restrictions, most Christian churches canceled Sunday services and other activities.

Even though most churches have resumed in-person meetings—with some restrictions in place—restoring previous habits has not been easy.

“It hasn’t been easy to get back to the former way of doing things,” Sugi says. “Gathering at church for Sunday services was a priority for Christians. In a pagan society like Japan, going to church is often done at great cost. Still, faithful Christians cherished doing so.

“Most Christians are eager to return (to in-person gatherings), but some seem satisfied with remote worship and meetings. It is certainly convenient, but it’s not comparable to face-to-face fellowship.”

Due to COVID-19 the Japanese MB Conference celebrated its 70th anniversary with an online event

Sugi continues, “Even now, some churches refrain from singing praises out loud. Some churches have not yet held the Lord’s Supper and have increased the number of worship services to two or three to avoid crowding.”

As a result of the restrictions on church activities, churches’ financial situations have been deeply impacted. More than 70 percent of the Japanese MB churches are finding it difficult to support their pastors. The seminary is also in a difficult situation. There were no students enrolled in 2022, and as of December 2022 there are no applicants for admission in 2023. Half of the current pastors will reach retirement age in the next 10 years. New leaders to lead the next generation are needed.

Prayer requests:

  • Pray that people desiring to be full-time ministers will enroll in the seminary.
  • It is difficult for many churches to fully support their pastors financially, so some pastors serve in two or more churches. Pray for financial provision.
  • There is a growing tendency in Japan to dislike religion. Pray for God’s moving among the Japanese people.

Did you know?

Tokyo’s Shinjuku building and Mt. Fuji. Photo: Getty Images
  • Japan consists of 6,852 islands.
  • Japan has the highest density of vending machines in the world—one for every 24 people. Batteries, ramen, sake, umbrellas, flowers—you name it and the vending machines probably stock it.
  • Japanese bow when they meet, express thanks or say goodbye. The precise depth of the bow and the length of time it is held for depend on the relative status of the two individuals. Foreigners aren’t expected to bow. The usual compromise is a slight nod or a quick half-bow.
  • In Japanese culture it is polite to remove your shoes in a home. Entranceways of Japanese houses called genkan signal where you should take off your shoes with the help of its raised floors. The lower area indicates where you should remove your shoes and the raised upper area, often in a different type of flooring, is considered indoor living space.
  • The Japanese language orders words differently than we do in English. Instead of ordering sentences by subject-verb-object (example: I write words), Japanese uses subject-object-verb (example: I words write).
  • When eating in Japan, slurping your noodles is not rude. Quite the opposite—slurping loudly is considered evidence of enjoying your meal. It is also said to add flavor to the noodles.
  • If you check your zipper, chances are, it will say YKK on it, which stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha. Founded in Tokyo in 1934, it is estimated that 7 billion zippers are produced by this manufacturer each year.

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