Abundant Life Crusades
Tony and Marge Abram have been sharing God's Good News for over 64 years!

JAPAN Ministry Continuing Report! 
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XXXIX No. 3a

Once again, Marge and I were able to minister the Word of God in the country of Japan We have planted seed each time we have come and we believe the time of Harvest is soon at hand for Japan. We do love the people and enjoy our ministry to them. The Christians seem to be so very sincere in serving the Lord.

Japan's Geography: Land Area is 145,868 sq. miles (380,000 sq. kilometers). Japan is slightly smaller than the state of California, made up of more than 6,800 islands. There are four major islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Japan has a population of over 120 million, and linguistically it is a nearly homogenous nation, with more than 99% of the population using the same language. This means that the Japanese language is the sixth most spoken language in the world. However, the language is spoken in scarcely any region outside Japan. The Japanese writing system comes from Chinese, although the languages spoken by the Japanese and Chinese are completely different. The Japanese added their own alphabet and there is a mixture of both.

We have ministered in many places in Japan over the past 22 years. The five largest cities in order by population are Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo. We have ministered in all of these cities and surrounding areas except Sapporo. The Climate in Japan has four distinct seasons. Since the archipelago stretches over 1800 miles from north to south, the climate varies greatly. The northern end of Japan has the same latitude as Quebec, Canada, while the southern end has the same latitude as Key West, Florida. Most of Japan has a rainy season called tsuyu in the summer, and frequent typhoons occur from August through October. We do not like to get caught in one of these. We have been in two in the Pacific over years. The country is quite crowded as the population is 127 million (2000) the 9th largest in the world. Population density ranks 4th.

Its two major religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. Urbanization has cut many Japanese off from their family ties to a specific Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine. Still, many people consider themselves both Shintoist and Buddhist. The Agency for Cultural Affairs statistics for 1996 show the combined membership of both religions as approximately 194,000,000, which is about 54 percent more than the total population of Japan. Most people give both and thus the great number. For the average person, however, religious affiliation does not translate into regular worship or attendance. Most people visit shrines and temples as part of annual events and special rituals marking life passages. Originating in India around the fifth century B.C Buddhism spread through China in the second and third centuries A.D., and finally reached Japan via Korea in the mid-sixth. In the Edo period (1600-1868) the Tokugawa shogun requested that every person be affiliated with a Buddhist temple as part of its effort to control the population and wipe out Christianity.

Christianity in Japan can be clearly divided into three periods: the initial encounter with Christianity beginning in the mid-sixteenth century; the reintroduction of Christianity, after more than 200 years of national seclusion ended, in the mid-nineteenth century; and the post-World War II period. The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Kagoshima in August 1549. Jesuit missionary activities were centered in Kyushu, the southernmost of the four major Japanese islands, and by 1579 six dairnyo (regional military lords) had been converted and there were an estimated 100,000 Christians. The efforts of the Jesuits were treated benignly, probably in reaction to their growing influence in Kyushu. However, Hideyoshi later turned against the Christians and had 26 crucified at Nagasaki in 1597. After he became the defacto ruler of Japan in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu initially tolerated the missionaries but, in 1614, the Tokugawa government forbid Christianity and expelled the missionaries from Japan.

At this point there were more than 300,000 Japanese Christians. It is estimated that about 3,000 were executed and a great number renounced their faith as a result of persecution. Many others concealed their beliefs and continued to practice Christianity in secret. After Japan had abandoned its policy of seclusion, foreign missionaries returned in 1859, although they were not able to evangelize openly until 1873 During this period over 30,000 "hidden" Christians came forward; they belonged to groups that had worshipped clandestinely during the more than 200 years of persecution. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries were active from this time, and although the number of converts was relatively small, Christians were influential in education and the trade union movement. Increasing nationalism and the promotion of Shinto shrine attendance as a patriotic duty made the 1930s a difficult time for many Christians.

Christian activity in the immediate postwar period had the support of Occupation authorities but only minor gains were made. In 1996, Christians, numbering 3,170,000, made up less than 2.5 percent of the population Despite the increasing popularity of superficially Christian wedding ceremonies, many Japanese probably still regard the Christian religion as foreign. As knowledge of and interest in Christianity has grown over the years, people are certainly not unfamiliar with the religion. This familiarity, however, has not translated into a large increase in the number of believers. One possible reason for the lack of growth, is that the emphasis on exclusive belief in the Christian God requires a strong commitment in rejecting the more relaxed polytheism of Shinto and Japanese Buddhism.

A great mistake of the Church was that at the end of World War II, when General Macarthur asked for missionaries to come to Japan, only two families of missionaries arrived. Instead of the Church evangelizing Japan, they sent food, clothes, etc. Japan then became one of the world's greatest materialistic nations. We gave them materials when we should have given them spiritual truth. It is not too late. We must evangelize Japan now! We did have wonderful ministry on this mission, seeing people lives touched and healed by the power of God. Working with our associate missionaries Jim and Darla Snipe is always a blessing.

Religious Institutions in Japan:
Shinto: 89,321
- Shrines, temples, churches, missions, Clergy (priests, ministers, etc.) 82,797, Members 102,213,787.
Buddhism: 87,429
- Shrines, temples, churches, missions, Clergy (priests, ministers, etc.) 236,087, Members 91 ,583, 843.
Christianity: 9,164
- Shrines, temples, churches, missions, Clergy (priests, ministers, etc.) 55,780, Members 3,168,596.

We trust this information will give you an idea of the need and that you will pray more earnestly for Japan. Pray that God will also use our ministry for His Glory. May God bless you and yours for your part in our ministry outreaches of this Gospel

Pictures from Japan
Marge and Darla
ladies Beautiful Japanese Ladies!
tony preaching Tony Preaching
tony preaching with friend Tony & Aoki Sensei (note Tony's cool tie)
tourist shot Tourists!

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