This week, please pray with us for Dr. Kei Hiramatsu in Japan.
Also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan has one of the world’s largest economies and is a global giant in technological innovation. Despite its high living standards, Japan faces troubling suicide rates and a declining workforce, as many young people choose to remain single or childless. According to 2018 data from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, over 92% of the country’s 125 million people follow Shintoism, Buddhism, or a syncretistic combination of both. Although Jesuit missionaries introduced Christianity to the island nation in the mid-1500s, fewer than 2% of Japanese identify as Christians. Currently, Japan is scheduled to host the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but recent COVID-19 outbreaks have placed several prefectures under a state of emergency and intensified opposition from locals, who feel vulnerable due to vaccination delays.
Kei earned his PhD in New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. His research on “Christian Suffering in Conformity to Christ in 2 Corinthians 11-12” will guide and encourage Japanese believers who often endure social pressure and ostracism for Jesus’ sake. When Kei graduated in 2020, after overcoming various pandemic-related challenges, he became the first Japanese faculty member with a PhD in Biblical Studies at Central Bible College in Tokyo.
Kei reflected on faith and suffering in his poignant 2017 Global InSights article, “The Silence of God: Beyond Triumphalism,” written after Martin Scorsese released a film depicting Shūsaku Endō’s Silence, set during the seventeenth-century persecution of Japan’s “hidden Christians.” Kei and his wife Saki have three young daughters: Hanaka, Kaho, and Rin.
Kei shares the following message:
In April, as we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Japan also welcomed the new school year. This spring, we saw God’s miracle in our school, Central Bible College in Tokyo.
Many may not know this, but Japan is the fastest-aging society in the world. For example, 89% of pastors in Japan are over 50 years old, which has significant consequences for the church in Japan.
One crucial crisis is a lack of seminary students. Thus, we have a shortage of prospective pastors and Christian workers for the future. I have heard of many theological institutions in Japan that struggle with this issue. Some do not have any new students. Some schools decide to merge.
We have had only a handful of students over many years as well. However, our school welcomed about 40 new students this year, the highest new enrollment in our 71-year history. In total, we now have 70+ students.
Since we do not have any full-time faculty or staff to run our school, we are a little panicked, trying to figure out how to work with such a large number of students. Nevertheless, we are overjoyed that God sent us so many students to train and prepare for God’s work. I want to do everything I can to prepare, teach, and mentor these students, so they can share the Gospel with more people in Japan.
After having spent a few months in Osaka, we moved to Tokyo in early April. Our community appointed my wife and me as pastors to serve at a local church here. In addition, I will preach at another church.
Also, I am teaching three courses this semester at our seminary, helping our school to launch two new programs, and working as a registrar for online students. While many moving boxes were still sitting in our tiny apartment unpacked, I had to jump into all these responsibilities. I am trying to keep my head above the water.
My family and I are anxious about my busyness. However, I am thankful that I can serve our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave His life for me, and I want to pour out my life to serve Him. I would like to do whatever I can to prepare our students for God’s Kingdom and to reach out to the 99% of my people who do not know Him.
1) Please pray for our transition to Tokyo. Pray especially for our daughters, who have never lived in Japan. Life in Tokyo is very different from that in Kentucky, but they are doing their best to adjust.
2) Please remember our students at Central Bible College in your prayers as they progress in the new school year.
3) We would appreciate protection and strength, especially for me amid my busyness and responsibilities.
We continue to pray for God’s protection and provision for you, as well as His intervention in the global pandemic.