A bridge of faith between Norwich and Tokyo
A Bible study group in Tokyo is aiming to build bridges between Norwich and the Japanese church. Liz Jeggo, who with her husband Mike is a missionary with OMF International in Japan, tells the story.
We had recently arrived back in Japan for the start of our second term with OMF International. We would be based in a place called Chofu, in the western suburbs of Tokyo, and half of our time would be spent in reaching out to the local community in partnership with a local Japanese church. For the remaining time we would be involved in returnee ministry across the Tokyo area.
What is returnee ministry? Every year hundreds of Japanese people return to Japan after living overseas, with a new-found faith in Jesus. Many more return with an interest in Christian faith. But each country has its own church culture and sadly, without support, many returnees struggle to adjust to a Japanese church and drift away.
From 2001 to 2007, while working for Friends International, I saw a number of Japanese friends return to Japan and lose interest in Jesus. I sensed the Lord calling me to go to Japan to support and encourage these returnees – both believers and seekers.
Within a few weeks of arriving in Chofu I received a message from Rebeca Sanchez, a lady we'd met at a Friends International conference a few months earlier. She was leading a Bible study for international students in Norwich, many of whom were Japanese. Her message said that a Japanese friend, Ayaka Handa, who'd become a Christian in Norwich, had returned to Japan, and was living within walking distance of our new home. I began to meet with her regularly for Bible study and prayer.
Two years later Rebeca came out to Japan to visit her Japanese friends and brought a group of them to our house for a meal. Apart from Ayaka they were all interested non-Christians. As they shared memories of their time in Norwich, it was clear they missed reading the Bible together. They were delighted when we suggested starting a monthly Bible study for returnees from Norwich.
Over the next two years the group gradually grew as Rebeca, and others reaching out to Japanese in Norwich, sent other returnees back to Tokyo. Some had become Christians in Norwich, one or two were already Christians before they went overseas. Others were interested seekers.
It was a joy to see seekers starting to go to church in Japan and seemingly weighing up whether to become Christians or not. Last year one man decided he wanted to follow Jesus and now goes regularly to a Japanese church.
Our long-term aim is that returnee seekers put their trust in Jesus, and that believing returnees settle in Japanese churches and learn to live as Christians in Japan. But the purpose of this Bible study group is to be a bridge between a Bible study group in Norwich and the Japanese church. We connect with the returnees’ overseas experience by talking in English and eating western food and cakes. But we use bilingual Bible passages and encourage them to apply what they learn to their lives in Japan.
Editor’s note: Liz and Mike met while students in Cambridge and have spent most of their adult life in Cambridge (when not in Japan), apart from 2 years at Redcliffe Mission Training College in Gloucester. Ayaka previously went to Kings Community Church in Norwich.
If you would like to support or stay in touch with the Jeggos, please contact them via Tim Jenkins at the OMF office on Tim.Jenkins@omfmail.com
You can hear more from Liz and Mike during an online webinar on Saturday August 15, 10.30-12 noon. To sign up please via email: email@example.com
Pictured above are Mike and Liz Jeggo with their family