Journey to Japan

Author: Michael & Caitlyn Babienco

August 2022

If you work on AFM’s recruitment team long enough, you may end up recruiting yourself to go serve overseas. You might recognize our names from the recruitment articles on the back inside cover of this magazine. We have seen firsthand the need for more laborers in the field after our time in service in Southeast Asia, as well as all the testimonies we have heard while working for AFM. While we have enjoyed our time here in Michigan for the last few years, we have decided to take the plunge and serve as career missionaries. We will be starting a new AFM project in the land of the rising sun: Japan!

Japan is a nation of over 6,000 islands and 126 million people. The country was first introduced to Christianity around the middle of the 16th century with the arrival of Francis Xavier, a Catholic missionary. Christianity took off at first, but the Christian population soon fell under a long period of harsh persecution while Japan closed itself off from nearly all outside influences. In 1844, King William II of the Netherlands sent the leader of Japan a letter suggesting that the country reopen, but this did not occur until 1854.

Christianity slowly grew from 1854 until the second World War began. After the war, General MacArthur called for missionaries and workers to help Japan rebuild, and Christian membership again flourished—but this did not last long. Today, despite having a gospel presence of some kind for over 500 years, only 2 percent of the country has embraced Jesus as their Savior, and Christianity is declining yearly by 0.4 percent.

The Seventh-day Adventist message reached Japan in 1889 with the arrival of Abram La Rue. The first SDA missionary, William Grainger, arrived in 1896. Today there are only 15,000 SDA members throughout Japan, amounting to about 0.01 percent of the population. There are more people in the metropolitan area of Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, than Adventists worldwide!

To put the situation in perspective, if you were to make it your full-time job—eight hours a day—to meet a Seventh-day Adventist by talking to random strangers back-to-back and spending only one minute with each person, it would take you an average of 17.5 days to meet an SDA church member in Japan. In the United States, this same job of meeting a Seventh-day Adventist would take less than two days, even though the U.S.A. has a much larger overall population.

God has been throwing open the doors for our upcoming time in Japan. We have already met and been conversing with a first-generation Japanese Adventist who has provided us with many cultural tips and advice. This led to us having discussions with the Center for East Asian Religions manager at the General Conference, where we were able to learn much more. At the GC Session in St. Louis, we had the opportunity to meet with the Japanese Union President. We have also been spending our spare time using several different apps to start learning the three Japanese writing systems. All this has taken place in just a few short months, and we are sure God will continue to clear the path as we press forward.

We pray that we can finish our fundraising this year so we can concentrate more fully on language learning and other preparations for our work in Japan. Will you please prayerfully consider joining our support team so that we can go to training and launch next year to Japan?