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FRESH EXPRESSIONS OF THE CHURCH

How one Japanese congregation responded to the COVID-19 pandemic 

Rev. Yoshiya (Joshua) Hari

WHEN I TALKED TO PASTOR YOSHIYA (JOSHUA) HARI, THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR FOR ASIAN ACCESS JAPAN, his church had already been dealing with its own crisis before the coronavirus came. After over 20 years in the same location, in 2019 the congregation of Saikyo Hope Chapel was told they had to vacate the building they were leasing because it would be demolished. Finding a similar facility for the same price proved to be extremely difficult, so from February 2, 2020, they found themselves alternately renting one of two local community centers for services each Sunday.

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japan masked pedestrians pexels dlkr 5493280

Japan (MNN) — In January 2020, a group of believers in Japan lost their church building. Little did they know, God would use their “temporary solution” as a growth point when the pandemic turned the world upside-down.

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MicroChurch

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” — Matthew 13:31-32

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The header photo shows cherry blossoms in Japan. (Photo courtesy of Kanenori on Pixabay)

Japan (MNN) — As cherry blossoms bloom across Japan, the country has barred international spectators from the rescheduled 2021 Summer Olympics due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. 600,000 people bought tickets to watch the games in-person.

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joe and silk with couple cropped

Silk and I have had such a wonderful last few weeks in Japan.

Last week we were moving which brought several aches and pains, even after just day one of the move! However, the last four we were able to travel to many places in country and say farewell for this season of ministry.

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Part2ohashi 3 generations

I was so inspired a few weeks ago visiting my colleague Pastor Hideo Ohashi. He has served faithfully with Asian Access over several decades and his church is a remarkable testament to God’s faithfulness to Japan.

You’ll see him pictured here with his son and grandson: three generations of pastors! What a powerful image of God’s work from one generation to the next.

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"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." — Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV

It has been six months since the lockdown began in Manila and to this day churches have not been allowed to operate fully. Restrictions on mass gatherings have severely crippled what we call “corporate churches” or churches that manages the ministry like a corporation, with paid pastors, board of elders, and facilities (rented or owned).  For months we cried out to God to intervene so that we can go back to the way we used to do worship, but what if God has a new agenda for his church?...

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Asian Access has been training pastors in Japan for over 40 years, largely through gatherings of cohorts who come together as a learning community, grounded in deep relationships. The current pandemic, which requires social distancing and a period of shutdown, has challenged this model. In the process, it has accelerated our development of online learning platforms and opened the door to new opportunities and even greater reach. As Japan was dealing with the outbreak in April, churches across the nation were increasingly limited in how they could meet. Much like the persecution of the early church, which resulted in the gospel spreading around the world, our A2 Japan National Director, Rev. Joshua Hari, saw this “shut down” experience as...

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FreshMove george desipris PRKfGLxskJc unsplashSome months ago, just before the entrance of the coronavirus, I began reading a book on my shelf that had been in my possession, unread, for a few years. The author is John M. Barry, and its title is The Great Influenza. It is a New York Times Bestseller. Barry tells the epic story of what he says is the deadliest plague in recorded history. The US experienced 650 thousand deaths; worldwide some 50 million died. Somewhat ominously for us now, as we are hoping for an end to the present crisis, there was a second wave during that influenza that was far more deadly than the first. While a little long, it is a good read. The timing of the read for me is most... 

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