Missionary Stephen Young (fourth from left) and baseball player Matt Murton (third from left), with Korean-Japanese church congregation in Osaka.

A Generational Legacy of the Korean Church in Japan

By Stephen Young, Nov 21, 2019

While Sarah and I were ministering to the Japanese community in Perth, Australia, a Christian single Japanese woman attended the church. When she returned to Japan she eventually started to attend a Korean church in her neighborhood that was reaching out to the Japanese. The church is comprised of both Koreans and Japanese.

The Japanese woman told her Korean pastor that she knew the grandson of Luther Young who was one of the early Canadian Presbyterian missionaries (1927–1950) working with the Koreans in Japan. He immediately recognized the name and found out that I was the grandson. I was invited to preach at his Osaka church on Oct. 20, and was also able to preach in an area-wide Korean evangelistic afternoon meeting. In the Lord's providential timing, my friend, Matt Murton, a professional baseball player in Japan, was there and shared his testimony after the message. He attracted many nonbelievers to the event, and my Korean root connection helped fill both services with people. 

In addition, Junko Cheng, a Christian vocalist from California, was able to participate in the afternoon service. After the service, several Korean families brought their infants for me to hold and wanted a photo, telling me that their grandparents knew my grandfather. It was encouraging to see how the Korean churches in the area had not forgotten the early work of Luther Young and were appreciative of three generations who had ministered amongst the Koreans and Japanese in Japan. 

I was told there are now 1,500 Korean missionaries in Japan and with more Asians going to Japan for employment, the Japanese church will become more international. Japan remains the second largest unreached people group, but God is bringing other people groups together to slowly saturate the society with the gospel of Christ. 

An 87-year-old Japanese lawyer who is well-respected in the Kansai area answered my question: Does the Japanese government have the right to decide what is traditional ceremonial custom and what is religion? They did this before WWII and he answered that this is a crucial point of contention in Japanese society and that they did not have any right to do that. There remains confusion in the society as to custom and religious ceremony and is one of several reasons for an indifference to spiritual things. 

May we pray that the Holy Spirit will use various means to clear up misunderstanding and remove barriers so that the hearts of the Japanese people will come to Jesus in saving faith and repentance. 

Stephen Young is a third-generation missionary to Japan. He now ministers to the Japanese people in Nashville, Tennessee.

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