Four recent graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are hosting a virtual mission trip for people interested in learning about, praying for and ministering among Japanese this June through July.
The SWBTS alumni – Brit Redfield, Ariel Lee, Ines Chien and Vanessa Lim – have all served in Japan, separately and once together on a short-term mission trip to Nagoya, Japan. They share a passion for seeing Japanese people come to Christ.
Pre-pandemic, the alumni were planning short-term trips to Japan to partner with IMB missionaries during the Summer Olympics.
In 2019, Redfield traveled to Tokyo to partner with IMB missionaries Daniel and Tara Rice during the Rugby World Cup, and she planned to return to join IMB missionaries Scott and Julie Bradford, Rick and Hiromi Price and the Rices in their Olympic ministry plans.
Redfield, Lee, Chien and Lim began meeting to pray for Japan around the same time they began planning their short-term trips. From the prayer group, they founded Mobilize Japan, with the vision to reach Japan for Christ.
When it became apparent that they would not be able to visit Japan because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, they began praying about what to do next.
“That heart of prayer turned into this desire to keep going, even when we couldn’t physically go, so we tossed around the idea of a virtual mission trip,” Redfield said. Redfield works for the Office of Distributed Learning at SWBTS and previously worked for the World Missions Center and the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.
She said the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention’s virtual mission trip in September 2020 inspired them.
“During the pandemic, we believe that God is still on the move and that there are people who are not aware that Japan has these ministry needs,” Redfield said. “The whole heart and goal, and we use this as a theme verse, is that Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, so pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ That’s why we call ourselves Mobilize Japan.”
Mobilize Japan’s virtual mission trip will span June and July and includes three events each week – Training Tuesday, Missions Prayer Friday and Outreach Saturday. Each session will be an hour and a half and will be held in the evenings via ZOOM.
People joining the Mobilize Japan virtual mission trip will be signing in from across the U.S. as well as other countries, such as the Philippines and India.
Lim said they hope for 100 to 300 participants, and their prayer is that half of that number would be called to missions to Japan, and half would be called to be senders of missionaries.
“I hope that our organization will be used by God to call Christians to Japan, train up cross-cultural missionaries, and mobilize these cross-cultural missionaries to reach the Japanese people,” said Lim, a Ph.D. student at SWBTS in the World Christian Studies program and a technician for Lim & Associates.
From the onset of their planning, the Mobilize Japan team reached out to the Bradfords to ask if the IMB team would like to be a part of the virtual mission trip.
In addition to the IMB, Overseas Missions Fellowship, Reaching Japan for Christ Network, TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), Converge, Mustard Seed Network and other mission agencies and churches will be involved in the mission trip.
Bradford told Lee, SWBTS alumnus and one of the founders of Mobilize Japan, that this sort of inter-mission agency and interdenominational collaboration for Japan has not been done before, especially for a mission trip. This collaboration was made possible through Lee’s 12 years of ministry in Japan serving alongside multiple mission agencies and organizations.
“We are praying that more believers in the States can see what God is doing all over Japan in different ways. We are all part of God’s body, and He may call some of us to work with the IMB, or perhaps in a different ministry that does a different sort of work in Japan,” Lee said.
The message Redfield, Lee, Chien and Lim would like to convey is, “You may not be in Japan right now, but hey, you can get to know Japanese culture a whole lot better to make you an effective minister, whether that be ministering to a Japanese person who’s in your town and among the diaspora, or [Japanese students] studying abroad,” Redfield said.
Training Tuesdays are designed to equip people as they interact and share their faith with Japanese people, whether that is in the U.S., Japan or the world.
The idea for Missions Prayer Friday came from the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention’s virtual event. The prayer hour will be a forum to not just pray but also share information about the various ministries in Japan.
Even though it isn’t possible to travel to Japan right now, the Mobilize Japan team wants to utilize an outreach element, so they reached out to missionaries for ideas of how they could minister virtually. “I’m looking forward to the Japanese people who are going to meet Christian friends and maybe make lasting friendships, but also hear about Jesus and, Lord willing, even be saved through a virtual space,” Redfield said.
Chien said she hopes Japanese Christians will also pursue hosting virtual events.
“Lord willing, it would be absolutely amazing to see a similar virtual event, hopefully in the near future, hosted and planned by local Japanese believers for mobilizing the Japanese to effectively witness to and disciple other Japanese people,” said Chien, who is a bivocational minister, serving as the Discipleship and Witnessing Director at Collin County Chinese Fellowship Church in Plano, Texas.
Redfield, Chien, Lee and Lim are each pursuing serving in Japan in the future.
“My prayer is that God would use the virtual mission trip as a way to stir up our hearts for Japan and as an encouragement that indeed, God loves Japan, God is moving in Japan, and God is sending laborers out into the harvest,” Chien said.
There are also opportunities to minister among Japanese communities in the U.S. Redfield attends First Japanese Baptist Church in Fort Worth, and she noted that both Fort Worth and the city of Plano, Texas, have a sizable Japanese population.