Written by Adam Pietrantonio

“After a few months, everyone just left…and there was still so much to do.”

I felt my jaw drop. Holding onto every word that was translated back to me, I felt uneasy. Upset. Convicted. Anxious. Scared. I was wondering why her words were piercing through me.

I was in Iwate at the time, one of the prefectures in Japan that was most devasted by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami disaster. This conversation took place in 2015, with memories of death, destruction and hopelessness still fresh in the minds of residents, like this elderly lady who said the words above.

I was spending my fourth of five weeks in Japan, nearing the end of a mission trip that God used to redirect my life forever. The elderly lady was a survivor of the Tōhoku disaster. She lost family members and friends. But she also explained the enormous global response in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami—how people were so willing to go to this mostly rural prefecture and help rebuild. Entire neighbourhoods and shopping districts were literally swept away. So much needed to be done. But then she muttered those words:

“After a few months, everyone just left…and there was still so much to do.”

She wasn’t talking about the physical need to rebuild. She emphasized the emotional and spiritual needs of the survivors of the disaster, those who lost everything. People did not know where or who to turn, or even what questions to ask. They were without hope. This elderly lady is a Christian, and she was echoing a need that is prevalent for all of Japan: workers are needed…workers for the Kingdom of God.

The reason I ended up in Japan in the first place was the result of a desire the Spirit placed on my heart after discovering these two perplexing facts four long years ago:

1) The Japanese are the second largest unreached people group in the world.
2) Complete religious freedom is guaranteed in the Japanese constitution.

If the need for labourers is so high, why aren’t more people going? If government persecution is not a concern, why aren’t people going? Why hasn’t the gospel taken more of a foothold? (There are less than 1% evangelical Christians in Japan). Questions like these plagued my mind. The Spirit was disrupting something in me—an apathy. This led me to go on the aforementioned mission trip in 2015. Through university student ministry, relational evangelism in Iwate and other disaster-stricken cities and discipleship ministry, my heart for the Japanese broke and my desire to love and serve them was confirmed. I want to be salt and light for those who do not know Christ.

And I will be! I am leaving for Japan this upcoming August as a long-term missionary with Fellowship International. I desire to see Japanese people experience the grace and love of Jesus in culturally-resonating ways and enter into a rhythm of discipleship, ultimately leading to disciple-making movements where lives are changed, churches are planted and communities are transformed.

There is a growing dissatisfaction among young Japanese people regarding the societal expectations placed on them, with little to no room for honest questions. Combine this with the tortured history of suffering in Japan: the only nation in history to experience atomic warfare, and a country that is prone to some of the world’s most destructive natural disasters. Japanese people are suffering and without hope. They need to know about Jesus, our suffering servant who through His death identifies with us in our suffering and weeps with us (John 11:35), and through His resurrection gives us hope.

I am both confounded and amazed that a translated conversation with an elderly Japanese woman four years ago has led to me preparing to leave my home in Canada to love and serve people just like her. I am looking forward to my return to the ‘land of the rising sun’, where I will be desperately awaiting the truth of the raised Son to take hold in the hearts of this beautiful and broken nation.

Would you consider journeying with me to Japan? Check out the platforms where I’ll be inviting you into my preparation for and service in Japan:
Facebook: facebook.com/adamtojapan
Instagram: @adamtojapan
Email: [email protected]