Japan 2019 - Rugby World Cup
Japan 2019, “Since you are precious and honoured in my sight and because I love you” Isaiah 43:4 (this verse was on a packet in a Japanese shop).
Blog by Esther Champion
I arrived in Japan late on the 17th September and was met by other team members in the airport. This was the start of our two week adventure which would challenge us, provide us with new experiences, open our hearts, minds, eyes and ears, and show us even more what an amazing God we have. After spending the first night in a hotel in Tokyo, we drove to Toyota which is about 4.5 hours away and is where we spent out first week. We stayed in a church called Hope Chapel which is one of 7 Japanese run churches in this city of 400,000 people. Each church has a congregation of between 15-30 people, but their desire is that this number increases. This first week saw us attend a prayer evening with the most amazing dinner beforehand; run a Welsh cultural event inclusive of tea, welsh cakes, glamorgan sausages, mashed potato, leeks, cheese sauce, bara brith and custard; help with English classes run by a church that includes Chapel time in all of its classes (non- Christians mainly attend these classes); have dinner with the pastor of Hope Chapel, his daughter and the Korean missionary who was serving there (on the menu was KFC and a variety of salads- KFC is a popular choice for Christmas dinner in Japan); have personal reflection and team time by a lake (this was a tough one...); meet some of the welsh rugby team at a shopping centre (again a real challenge…); do outreach on the streets and offer to pray for people (more on this later); do some tag rugby coaching with some kids (I mainly put out cones and ran around); have a traditional Japanese BBQ at the house of someone from church and then more outreach followed by the Wales V Georgia game which we saw live in the stadium. Yes it was as exhausting as it sounds, especially with jet lag on top of it all! Two things that stuck out for me in this week: 1. God healed the mouth ulcers of the Korean missionary after I prayed for her. 2. I had the most amazing worship session with God in the middle of a mini typhoon and another brick was knocked out of a wall that God and I are breaking down.
On our day off we went to Kyoto which is the former capital city and was a 2.5 hour drive away. We saw wild monkeys at a monkey park, walked through a bamboo forest and spent time exploring the old city, including the lane where many Geisha's live and train. Whilst exploring the food market there were a couple of delights on offer that stood out…
Week two saw us head back to Tokyo where we stayed at a church in a suburb called Hongodai. I finally had my own room...an answer to prayer and a joyful moment for me! En route we had stopped at Mount Fuji, but unfortunately there were clouds so although we briefly saw the top of the peak, we were driving at the time so no photos :-(. Also staying at Hongodai church were two other Welsh lads who were meant to be in our team but for various reasons weren’t, and the Australian mission team. It was great for me to be around people who I clicked with, and many laughs were had over this week. This week saw us do more outreach; explore Tokyo a bit; visit a detention centre as part of a ministry a church has; help with a community festival at Tokyo Baptist church, which also included a few of the Fijian mission team; watching Wales v Australia in the fan zone; visit an international Christian school to speak to the kids about rugby, share our testimonies, and play some touch rugby with them; and then more exploring of Tokyo including going up the Skytree (up to 450m).
My favourite story from Tokyo comes from one of our outreach times, which I really was not up for! I was tired, had a sore throat, and was just feeling a bit meh, but I felt strongly that I should step out so I asked God to lead me to one person. As I walked around the park I saw a young lady sat on a bench (it just so happened to be in front of a beautiful lake). I sat down next to her, and asked God to give me a way in to be able to talk to her. Soon enough she sprung up because a big ant had made its way onto her arm...bingo! I made some comment about the ants and then asked her about the book she was reading- she was reading along like we do, but in Japan they read down. She said she was Chinese. She told me she was in Japan on holiday and I was able to tell her why I was there, mentioning that I was a Christian. She told me her mum became a Christian two years ago, but she herself hadn’t been to church as she thought it was full of old people. I asked her what she thought of God (she hadn’t really thought about it) and whether there was anything God could do for her. She said she was unhappy in her job, even though it was a very good job and she felt pressure from her family to stay in it. I asked if I could pray for her and she said yes! Crikey I thought, I now have to pray! After I prayed for her I noticed that her whole being seemed a bit lighter. I thanked her and walked on my way. What I also noticed was that I no longer felt tired, my sore throat had gone and I had a spring in my step. God had blessed me, as I stepped out in faith for him.
I have so many other stories that I could share and so many more things to say, but I’ll end with this; the toilets with in-built bd function, food, people, cleanliness, slippers, generosity, mountains, cold coffee, driving, train service, parks, plus much more are amazing. Visit and experience Japan- you won’t be disappointed.
Of course there is a darker side to Japan, but here is not the place to share it. What I know for sure is that God is working, God is moving, God is healing, lives are being transformed and 82 year olds are being baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.