Imagine your youth group has been planning a mission trip. You join your friends in the group working to prepare for the trip. For 3 years many of your Saturdays are spent working to raise funds. Your pastor and youth leaders speak and teach about missions. Questions are discussed. “How can we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people who speak another language?” Somewhere in the preparations for this journey, you meet Christ and the journey takes on a whole new meaning.
In a nut shell, I believe this is what happened with some of the young people at FBC Kansas City, Missouri. Mariko Prigel, one of the youth leaders is from Japan. A few years ago some of the youth suggested they go to Japan for a mission trip. A youth mission trip to Japan? Some people might ask, why Japan? It is a rich country. That would cost so much. However, Mariko said the Lord opened the doors each step of the way during the preparation.
Near the end of their time here in Japan, Tomoko took the group to the Hiroshima Peace Park, and then on to her home town of Setoda, on a small island in the Inland Sea. They stayed at the Setoda Baptist Church. I drove down to meet them and on a beautiful afternoon the youth gathered at “Sunset Beach” along with several members from the Setoda Church. With the blessing of their pastor, Rev. Doug Valentine, I had the privilege of baptizing Lexi and Jashuna. These two young ladies testified their lives were changed in the preparations for this journey to Japan and wanted to be baptized in Japan. So at the beach where Tomoko was baptized as a youth, they gave their testimonies and began another journey, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why a mission trip to Japan? That is a good question. Finding “work” to do isn’t always easy here, but who said “work” is the only way to show your love for Christ? Of course work trips are a great way to share your faith, and are an important part of ministering to the whole body and to specific needs.
The youth from Kansas City, MO, however, came prepared with songs and skits. Knowing that language would be a problem, they mimed one of the skits, using a few paper board signs written in Japanese to help the audience understand that Christ brings healing and salvation to lives broken by alcohol, bullying and suicide, problems well understood in Japan. It was a powerful message that brought tears to many eyes. They shared in churches, pre-schools, a hospital, in homes and more. These youth came to build a bridge in relationships through the love and peace of Christ. It was a job well done!
One last thought, if you think it is only about giving, you may miss what the Lord has to give to you. This applies to the World Mission Offering, or sending a youth group on a mission trip.
Grace and Peace,
John and Tomoko Armagost – American Baptist Missionaries in Japan