Starting up and Staying the Course in Asia

I recently returned from a month-long, two-part ministry trip in Asia.

The first and biggest part of the trip was to assist with the second International Intensive training for City to City Asia/Pacific, our sister church planting network. Our ten church planting trainees came from cities including Hong Kong, Taipei, Sydney, and Melbourne. The training itself took place in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Singapore over four weeks, and created a peer learning community for them to interact with content on urban church planting, contextualization, and case studies of actual churches in those cities who are several years ahead of them.

The second part of our trip was a three-day visit to Grace City Church Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan. Founding pastor Rev. Makoto Fukuda was part of our Intensive training in New York back in 2008. My wife Lois and I thought we would just attend the service, meet with Rev. Fukuda, then have some R&R time for ourselves. To our surprise, we ended up in ministry meetings nearly the whole time we were there. We were overcome by the surprise of seeing not only the fruits of a growing church plant, but seeds of a potential movement of church plants in Tokyo.

Having walked alongside this church plant project as one of their coaches from the very beginning, we have witnessed the tremendous sacrifices, costs, and challenges the pastor and his team faced—in one of the most difficult, unreached, unchurched populations in the world and one of the most expensive places to live and work, where the average church size nationwide is only around 30-40 members. Many said it couldn’t be done, and many wondered (and many are still wondering) whether this church plant will make it or not. And I must confess, at times I myself wondered with uncertainty and wrestled with doubt, especially in times of crises. But that Sunday, July 21, we were amazed by the number of people we saw in worship of our Lord. We were told that since they moved from their old venue (which maxed out at 80 people) at the end of last year, the attendance quickly rose to a 120 within a matter of months, and within the last few weeks had risen to an all time high of 160! 

That day I also met five other individuals, one from England, one from Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, the son of a Korean church planting missionary to Japan who is also planning to plant a church in Tokyo, church planter Seima Aoyagi who was trained in our New York City Intensive in 2010 and who will plant a second Tokyo church, and a church planting missionary with the Evangelical Free denomination. Although all of these guys were coming from different backgrounds and walks of life, they all had one thing in common. They all were attracted to what God is doing with Grace City Church plant in the heart of Tokyo and wanted to learn more.

As we considered the church planters that were trained in the International Intensives, who are in the beginning stages of their church plants, and then having witnessed what was happening in Tokyo with the Grace City church plant, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Therefore, would you join us in:

1.    Praise for the successful completion of our second City to City Asia/Pacific International Intensives training, and prayer for each of our church plant trainees and for their growth personally and in their ministries. 

2.    Praise and prayer for the continued growth of Grace City Church Tokyo in terms of deeper roots in the Gospel, numbers, finances, leadership, and new church planters.

3.    Prayer for all of our church planter training and coaching programs occurring in New York and abroad. There are trials ahead of all of our church plants, which are very young both in age and spiritual maturity, and needs lots of prayers as the gospel reveals much sin and need; but there is also so much glory ahead. 

With much gratitude and appreciation for your partnership in Christ with us,

Gary and Lois Watanabe