Two missionaries ministering to the South Bay area of Los Angeles, CA., can testify that Japanese in the United States are more responsive to the Gospel compared with those in Japan. In nearly 20 years of ministry, Yuji and Sumie Uno, couple missionaries from Japan Navigators Community Ministry who are currently working with the Asian American Ministry of U.S. Navigators, say it's the culture of the U.S. that allows for the growing evangelism of Japanese living there.
Before the missionaries came to the U.S., they were pioneering the community work in the Kobe area of Japan from 1985 to 1999, said Yuji.
However, comparing the first three years of their ministry in Japan to that of the U.S., the Unos learned there is a big difference in evangelism success.
"We didn't have a convert in the first three years," Yuji said about Japan. "But here, in three years, we've had 20 people come to Christ and confess Him in public at their baptism. I've never had so much fruit in such a short time."
The fellowship group in the Unos' ministry has a total of 40 members of whom 20 have already accepted Christ.
The Unos have a specific target group they focus on evangelizing and discipling, which includes Japanese businessmen, their wives, and singles since there is a growing community of 500 Japanese-owned businesses in this part of Los Angeles.
Yuji described three culturally-related reasons why it has been easier for them to evangelize Japanese in the U.S. than Japan.
First, when native Japanese move from their home country to America, they have moved into a Christian culture. He said they met their first contacts, about 30 women, through American culture-themed classes offered as part of an outreach of Rolling Hills Covenant Church. English classes were offered as well as U.S. cooking and culture classes, which Navigator staff Tom Steers helped start.
Second, they have more time to explore Christianity in the United States than in Japan.
And third, being in the U.S. has allowed them to live according to a different culture. If they were in Japan, they would be more inclined to listen to family members and friends who might say, "Don't do that!" when they want to try out something. However, in the U.S. those cultural ties are stripped off.
The Unos use a couple of new approaches in evangelizing the Japanese in L.A. They have tried "food evangelism" last November through a Sushi Outreach. The master sushi chef Masahiro Horita was their first fruit during the event attended by more than 160 people.
Since the main target group are Japanese in business, the Unos started a an outreach called the V.I.P. Club, which was originally started by the Japan Navigators in Japan. The laypeople of the club would invite their non-believer friends to eat lunch at a fancy restaurant. Although no direct evangelism is done, at the end of the meal, a layperson would share his testimony to the table.
Most recently, a person the Unos have been teaching, named Matt Nishioka, joined the Asian American Ministries staff after the U.S. Navigators' Staff Conference in Tampa last November.