Known as the “land of the rising sun,” Japan is one of the most unreached countries in the world, with less than 1% of the country’s 126 million people professing Christ.
It’s the venue of the 2020 Olympics, rescheduled for next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it’s home to four Alabama Baptist families who are serving as missionaries in the country more than 6,000 miles from “sweet home Alabama.”
That is why Japan is the focus of a 30-day call to prayer for Alabama Baptists.
The prayer effort was scheduled for June 25 through July 24 prior to the pandemic.
Prayer is priority
July 24 would have marked the opening ceremonies for the 2020 Olympics.
Still, even without the Olympics occurring this year, prayer for Japan remains a priority.
“Our missionaries there are really excited,” said Scotty Goldman, director of global missions for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“Ask any missionary anywhere, ‘What’s one thing we can do for you?’ Without fail, every one of them have said to me, ‘Pray for us.’ They know that without prayer, their ministry is going to struggle. To know that they’ve got people all over their home state who are lifting them up for 30 days, that’s going to be really special for them.”
The plan for the 30-day prayer commitment began to take shape after Goldman and Matt Burford, SBOM evangelism strategist for north central Alabama, took a vision trip to Japan, where they met and visited the Alabama Baptist and Texas Baptist missionaries investing their lives in the populous, yet unreached, country.
“It’s wild that a country so advanced, not only culturally but technologically, is still that unreached,” said Goldman. “We began to think, ‘What could we do to help make our folks here in Alabama more aware of that situation?’”
The two prominent religions in Japan are Shintoism and Buddhism, Burford said. The Japanese culture that favors outward signs of perfection with little to no understanding of the Christian concept of “free grace” makes it challenging to share the gospel, he explained.
Cities in Japan are clean and quiet; the Japanese people are conscientious, wear their “Sunday best” every day and are committed to thinking about the people around them, Burford said. Still, birth rates in Japan are dropping dramatically, and suicide rates are high.
Alabama Baptists will have many opportunities to help with missions efforts in Japan in the coming months, Goldman said. He and Burford are scheduled to teach some classes online for Himeji Baptist Church in Japan, and they are continuing to grow the partnerships begun earlier this year.
Alabama Baptists can join in praying for Japan by texting “JP2020” to 94090. By registering, volunteers will receive a daily text prompt for 30 days with a specific prayer request for Japan.
Prayer prompts will be sent in the afternoon in Alabama, which is the time the sun rises in Japan.