What does it mean to minister cross-culturally? The broad answer might be international mission programs or to simply travel and evangelize. However, something that I have been able to learn is before evangelism, we must make connections. In other words, before we expect to teach, we must have the humility to learn. Here at NHCC, we value cross-cultural learning! Not only because we have fostered a multicultural community on campus, but also because we recognize that there is a world that must be reached for Christ.
I’m currently a graduate student in the Master of Formational Leadership, a graduate program that NHCC is in partnership with through Lancaster Bible College. Recently, we traveled west, across the ocean, to Japan for our international residency. The heart behind this experience was to immerse ourselves into a new culture, learn more about their history, and experience ministry through a different context in order to influence and increase our own leadership skills.
Not many people know this, but the population of Christians in Japan is less than 1%. There are about twenty different New Hope churches established throughout Asia; however, there are significant differences in their approach. For example, many believers commute anywhere from one to two hours to get to church every Sunday. Many of the churches don’t have church buildings that they own. They often meet in places like office buildings, shopping centers, or people’s homes. Sometimes, churches have to meet in a different place every weekend according to the availability of some spaces. No matter what, they make it happen! Although something like this might seem inconvenient to some of us, the level of intention they put behind doing church is truly amazing.
On this trip, I was reminded of the importance of community with other believers. As aforementioned, many church members have to commute, so they make church an all-day event. Everything takes place on Sunday—main service, youth ministry, life groups, young adults ministry, and fellowship opportunities in between. At times, there might be two ministries happening simultaneously. Although this sounds like a long day to anyone, their community approach is so filling. Of course, their choice to do things this way is out of necessity, but they know how to make it fun for everyone.
Throughout my time in Japan, my heart was filled with so much gratitude for what I often take for granted and for the grace and hospitality of the people of Japan. I was given the opportunity to try new things, learn different customs, make new friends, and even had the chance to worship in a new language.
Something Pastor Wayne told us during our time there was, “When you visit a new country, you never walk away the same.” I can confidently say that he was right. My heart has been changed for the better. I’m so grateful for everything that I was able to experience while I was away. I look forward to visiting again, hopefully soon!