“I am not yet a Christian,” writes Dr Ko, a FEBA Japan listener. “When I married my Christian wife, I came into contact with Christianity for the first time. I once went to a church with my wife. However, my concerns were about lifestyle rules, not about Christianity itself. ‘Is there anything Christians are not allowed to eat? Are Christians allowed to drink alcohol? Are Christians allowed to go on an outing on Sundays?’ These were my concerns.”

Christianity and cults

Like Dr Ko, people in Japan tend to be ignorant of Christianity. This is unsurprising, as a mere 0.8% of the population are professing Christians, but the lack of knowledge can lead to social persecution. There is a tendency to confuse Christianity with cults such as Aum Shinrikyo, whose members released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995 and killed 14 people, or the Unification Church, whose fundraising practices prompted an angry young man to assassinate the former prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. As a result of incidents like these, people are wary of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Christians – school children included – are often treated with hostility, even ostracised from their friend groups. This makes Christianity unattractive to most Japanese.

Ministering to a tough crowd

FEBA Japan has been broadcasting for more than 50 years. Their most popular program, Keiko’s Mailbag, has been presented by Keiko Yoshizaki since 1979! Due to Japan’s laws on religious equality, Christian programs may be produced in the country but not broadcast from within its borders. As a result, FEBA Japan produces about 20 programs in Tokyo and sends them to Jeju Island, South Korea, from where they are transmitted back into Japan for about 75 minutes a day. According to Takanori Nagakura, FEBA Japan’s assistant director, they receive some 300 e-mails and handwritten letters from listeners every month. He estimates that they have between 300,000 and 500,000 listeners.
To missionaries, Japan is the definition of a “tough crowd”. In addition to the aforementioned wariness, the culture presents its own challenges: people are hesitant to stand out, especially if there is a risk of embarrassment, and so they choose not to attend church, be it as Christians or curious non-believers. FEBA Japan’s work is essential to these people. The radio and internet offer anonymous means of learning about the Good News.
“We are trying to figure out how to continue sharing the [FEBA] spirit of seeking the Lord Jesus, with people who have difficulty going to church,” says Assistant Director Nagakura. To this end, FEBA Japan hopes to start airing exciting new programs in April. One program will host prominent theologians, asking them questions on listeners’ behalf; a second program will read aloud essays by Japanese Christians who live abroad; a third will share sermons by Japanese preachers from 150 years ago! The team is also exploring various methods of evangelising via the internet.

Still seeking God

When Dr Ko’s wife became ill with cancer, he sank into a depression so profound that he had to take a leave of absence from work. When he learned that recovery would take about a year, he decided to read the Bible in that time.
“I started reading from the New Testament, but I couldn’t grasp the gist of the story. There were many contradictions and many things that I couldn’t understand. [My wife] recommended that I apply for the FEBA Bible Correspondence Course. Through this course, I hope that I can become a Christian by solving the ‘God problem’ that has bothered me for many years.”
May FEBA Japan help Dr Ko and many other Japanese to find the answers they seek.

For more information on Ukraine and other FEBA fields,
please visit www.febaradio.co.za.

Until all have heard,
Dr Jurie Vermeulen

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