Japan (MNN) — In 2008–the latest year for which data are
available from the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare, Japan's birthrate was
1.37 children per woman.
The average life span is roughly 80 years (79.29 years for
men, 86.05 years for women) which means that the children have longer to
support more and more members of the older generation. However, in 1997, sociologists noted that the elderly
outnumbered the younger generation, and that number is only growing.
Add to that rising unemployment and a flat job market, and
younger people spend more time on the job making themselves indispensable. The
combination has taken a fluid culture and created a clumsy replica of its
Asian Access saw
the tremendous social challenges, which included rising suicide rates,
latch-key/shut-in children, and disintegrating families. They also saw the spiritual needs of Japan
with less than 1% of the population following Christ.
As a result,
they understood God was calling them to expand ministry in Japan.
To do that, they
needed someone with a heart for Japan to oversee the growth. Enter: Mary Jo Wilson. Today, she launches into her role as A2's
new Vice President to Japan. "Of course, our focus is always church
planting, church multiplication, and partnering with the Japanese
pastors. So I hope to strengthen that and prepare for what God has in the
Wilson sees her
role as part inspirational, part
counselor, and part director, as she develops the direction for the A2 Strategic
Partnership. One of the challenges will
be preparing the leaders. "In
Japan, it's an aging generation, so the youth will be carrying that burden
into the next several decades. I think
we see that in the church our pastors are older and that it's a matter
of passing that baton to the younger generation and seeing the younger
The mission of A2 is
"to unite the church, multiply leaders and congregations, and extend the
transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." This will be especially important as the
society responds to its stressors. Wilson agrees. "I've heard some say that it's a fatherless nation
because the fathers have been very committed
to their work, and the children have not connected well with fathers; after this goes on for a generation or two, there definitely is some fallout."
Wilson goes on to say the time is right to resource Christian
communities. "I think the church is
looking for practical ways to respond to that. We're seeing more emphasis on marriage issues, and I see just a more
holistic approach to sharing the Gospel, ministering to individuals and
families, and really transforming society in that way."
Why Japan? It all started with Urbana. Wilson picked up some literature about
ministry in Japan but was still hoping to be a part of medical missions on "a
real mission field."
After Haiti, God
reminded her about Japan. "Two
years later, I looked at that, and God told me to turn that in. I thought,
‘This is one of those tests.' And I, in obedience, turned it in. I wound up going to Japan for the summer, and
there was no turning back."
Wilson learned what defined a true "mission field." She explains: "The spiritual need is
just overwhelming. He gave me new eyes,
I think, to see what a mission field is and to understand the need there. Yes,
I just fell in love with the people and fully became committed to sharing the
Gospel with them."
Please pray for Wilson as she works to accelerate A2's church-planting work in Japan.