First Person: Hawaii Five-O takes a roller coaster ride in Japan

I went on a Hawaiian roller coaster ride this summer. It was a ride to remember, with people from Japan and around the world joining a virtual event my friends and I designed to reach Japanese people.

Our group of five was born from a group of college students from different churches in Hawaii who go to universities across the U.S. – Boston University, Liberty University, University of Hawaii and California Baptist University. We all desired to spend our summers serving in Tokyo during the Olympics but couldn’t because the borders are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

When the five of us met, I was in the process of moving overseas to Japan. We connected through the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention and spent one year meeting weekly and working through the International Mission Board’s Deepen Discipleship program together.

The five of us grew close quickly as we laughed together, talked about the study, and most importantly, prayed together. We prayed for one another’s struggles, burdens and ministry opportunities, and of course, for Japan. I’m now serving with the IMB in Japan and am currently involved in Olympic outreach.

The disappointment set in as the months flew past and travel restrictions appeared to have no chance of budging. We still had the desire to reach Japanese people, so we decided to do a virtual mission trip instead – one of the “new normals” the COVID-19 season brought us. With all of us doing ministry mostly online last year, we knew we’d be able to pull it off, but we also knew, in a different culture and language setting, it was going to be a lot of work.

We got connected to Mobilize Japan, a group of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students who are hosting a two-month virtual mission trip. The Mobilize Japan team helped us with advertisements, gathered volunteers from all over the world with a heart to reach Japan and provided us with a Zoom account.

Japanese people love Hawaii, so we decided  that was the perfect way to get people interested. We named ourselves ‘Hawaii Five-O’ because there were five of us, and named the event ‘Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride,’ because anyone who loves Hawaii has seen the movie “Lilo and Stitch”, and the theme song, which we named the event after, is a classic. We also wanted our attendees to enjoy going on a ride through Hawaiian culture.

We had 30 Japanese friends who joined from all over the country.

I hosted the event and had a local believer translate for me and the rest of the Hawaii Five-O crew. We started by playing the song “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride,” and then the games began, which was what drew people in for the fun ride they were about to enjoy.

Team member Natalie Kwon created a ‘Hawaiian Vacation’ recreation game.

Trevor Tamura, one of our team members, created a “Big Wave Edition” of the game “Nailed it or Failed it” and the group voted thumbs up or thumbs down whether they thought the surfer “nailed the wave” or “failed it” (fell off the wave).

My teammate Emily Leau and I planned the gospel portion of the event. We taughth about the “spirit of aloha” and how the people of Hawaii cherish the aloha of their neighbors. Aloha is used to express love as well as to say hello and goodbye. We explained how people in Hawaii share what they have with each other to mitigate the high cost of living.

We had each virtual mission trip participant draw something they wanted but couldn’t get on their own.

We read Matthew 14:13-21 where Jesus fed the 5,000 and  provides all we need, because even when we help each other, we will still always be in need without a Savior. We went into breakout chat rooms and asked everyone to share what they drew on their piece of paper. Participants drew things like “love,” and “a little sister” and “puppy.”

We asked what they did when they couldn’t get the thing they wanted on their own. Everyone had a different answer, “I went to a friend’s house to play with their dog,” or “I never got a little sister.”

Each of the Hawaii Five-O members shared how Jesus provided for us. We  create satisfaction, but Jesus  provides true peace, love and joy to those who follow Him.

Lastly, we ended with another game that our team member Rhysa Lee created.

We invited our new friends to future events we plan on hosting, both online and in person.

The Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride was full of laughter and fun, and most importantly, Jesus. We got to share the love of Jesus and that was our biggest hope and an answer to many prayers.