Japan (MNN) — Hope is peeking over the horizon in the land of the rising sun. Three Japanese UUPGs (Unreached and Unengaged People Groups) were identified at the Finishing the Task conference earlier this month. Joshua Hari adopted all three UUPGs in one fell swoop.
Hari is a Japanese pastor and Asian Access’s National Director for Japan. When he made arrangements to attend the Finishing The Task conference, he thought he was going to celebrate what God did in India through several ministries, Asian Access included.
God had other plans in mind.
“I thought Japan was one linguistic people group (Japanese), but I noticed on the [FTT] list there were 3 linguistic people groups located in Japan,” Hari notes.
“I sensed God’s calling [and] I decided to adopt those UUPG groups.”
Totaling an estimated 80,700 people, the Toku-no-shima, Yaeyama, and Yoron people groups live in Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea. Evangelical Christians make up less than two-percent of the population in each group, and – until now – there were no efforts to make Christ known in these communities.
Reaching the unreached in Okinawa
What does Hari’s “adoption” mean for the three Japanese UUPGs? On a basic level, it means Hari, Asian Access, and their partners in Japan are going to do whatever it takes to start engaging these groups with the Gospel. And, they’re going to do it in two years or less.
It’s a pretty big undertaking.
“One of the second-largest unreached people groups [is] the Japanese. One-third of the municipalities are unreached [and] unchurched, there is no church at all.”
Japan’s resistance to Christianity is widely-known throughout the missions community. The East Asian nation was even called “the missionary’s graveyard.” As noted here by Operation World,
Japan is the largest unevangelized nation that is completely open to missionaries. Yet, due to spiritual, socio-cultural, linguistic and financial difficulties, becoming an effective minister of the gospel is a long, hard process of adaptation.
This resistance hasn’t stopped Asian Access, though. The triple disaster of 2011 softened Japanese hearts and opened minds, and in 2016, Asian Access announced a seemingly-impossible goal: plant 50,000 churches by 2035.
The unreached and unengaged Toku-no-shima, Yaeyama, and Yoron reside in southern Japan, but Hari and his team also have their eyes on the north.
Hope for Hokkaido
Home to 5.4 million people, Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost main island. There were 400 churches present in 2014; each one averaged between 10 and 12 people in attendance.
“Hokkaido is the largest unchurched prefecture [and] we are really praying to start [a] mission network in Hokkaido,” Hari shares.
This month, Hari is meeting with local pastors throughout Japan and they’re starting to form plans for Hokkaido and Okinawa. Please surround them in prayer.
“Please pray for us to open our eyes to see the spiritual poverty. Pray for us to raise up [with] the compassionate heart of Jesus Christ.”
Header image obtained via Pexels.