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Good news in Tokyo

WORLD Radio - Good news in Tokyo

Local and international missionaries share the gospel during the Olympic Games

Photo courtesy of the International Mission Board

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 4th.

Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Olympic Ministry.

The Olympic Games come to a close on Sunday in Tokyo. The entire event looked and sounded much different than usual with almost no spectators in the stands.

But a small band of faithful Christians already in Tokyo took the gospel to the streets.

Last week, WORLD Correspondent Bonnie Pritchett spoke with U.S. missionaries and a Japanese pastor in Tokyo to get their story.

WOMEN: Free English conversation. Fun free facts. English conversation.

REPORTER, BONNIE PRITCHETT: On a shady sidewalk in Tokyo, Japan, two American women hold signs advertising free 5-Minute English lessons and uniquely designed Olympic trading pins. The women are missionaries to Japan and taking part in a city-wide evangelistic outreach during the 2020 Olympic Games.

MAN: God we pray for today- that you will lead our efforts—that you will specifically lead people to us who are searching for you.

Courtesy of the International Mission Board

This weekend Christians in Tokyo will cross the finish line of an Olympic-themed ministry. It’s not the marathon they had planned for almost two years ago. It’s more like the steeplechase with extra hurdles tossed into their path.


Ever-evolving COVID-19 protocols have kept the ministry team of local and foreign Christians constantly adjusting their game plan. They’re doing it without losing sight of the goal—sharing the gospel with Tokyo’s 37 million residents.

SCOTT: It's huge. And you have in Japan, 99.5 percent lostness, you have churches, with the average attendance of maybe 30 to 40 people.

That’s Scott Bradford. He and his wife, Julie, are missionaries in Tokyo with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. They came to the world’s most populous city in late 2019.

Tokyo ministry teams had just completed an evangelistic outreach during the Rugby World Cup. They anticipated duplicating those efforts for the Olympic Games only a few months later.

Akira Watanabe is a pastor at Tokyo Baptist Church, a partner in the World Cup and Olympic outreaches.

WATANABE: And that was very successful. So, we had big expectations for Olympics. But unfortunately, since last year the situation has totally changed.

Julie Bradford said postponing the games affected more than the Japanese ministry teams. Over 200 international volunteers from outside Japan were prepared to assist the effort.

JULIE: I think there was a lot of disappointment. So, we did have to regroup. We did have to look at things and say, ‘Okay, God's got this, but you know, we have to join him.’ And but we do have to grieve, right?

The Bradfords said God redeemed that time.

With the games on hold, the newly transplanted Bradfords turned their attention to forging relationships with their mission partners and Tokyo’s handful of Christian churches. They believe their team was better prepared when the 2020 Olympic Games finally opened July 23.

VOICE: Hello from Tokyo, Japan. Hey, we’re right here at Nakano Station as you can see right behind us. Today we were doing 5-Minute English. And we were able to engage 80 people today.

Just like Olympic officials, the ministry team has constantly adjusted to new Japanese government mandates. Churches scheduled to host ministry events are closed. Gatherings, even outdoors, are strictly limited.

Street evangelism plans need fine-tuning again.

SCOTT: So, how do we do these activities and spread it out and still be strategic and effective, but also do it in a way that is not going to raise attention and is not going to cause people to be uncomfortable?

The recent government protocols put Japanese Christians in an awkward position.

WATANABE: This month is not good for evangelism.

How could they assist without appearing to defy their own government?

WATANABE: As Romans 13:1 says, ‘Let everyone be subject to governing authorities.

Courtesy of the International Mission Board

So, Japanese Christians are taking a support role. They’re praying. And they’re offering their churches for follow-up activities, once it is allowed.



Despite the scaled back volunteer corps, the mission team presses on. They’re covering the city in prayer—walking through neighborhoods and riding trains. Street evangelism includes 5-Minute English lessons, small sports-themed outdoor events, and the obligatory Olympic pin trading.

Courtesy of the International Mission Board

Scott Bradford tapped into the extremely popular cosplay culture and donned an anime character costume to hand out Bible literature near the city’s busiest pedestrian crosswalk.

Courtesy of the International Mission Board

As of July 31, the team had spoken with over 500 people. Sixty-two of the conversations included gospel presentations.

The Olympic evangelism project may not be reaching the world as originally planned. But for one man among the 37 million people, their faithfulness may have made all the difference in the world. U.S. missionary Pierce Hite explains.

HITE: Yeh. One of those cool engagements we had was with a guy from China who’s here as a student. And he has had a hard time meeting people and making friends. So, he just straight up asked us directly, ‘Would you be my friend?’ And so, we talked to him and said ‘We would love to be your friend…’

The student was invited to and agreed to attend a follow up event.

Those sharing the gospel in Tokyo the last two weeks have little control over when, where or even how it takes place. But there is one thing they do control:

SCOTT: And so, we can’t control what is happening under the scenes. All we can control is being faithful and doing what God has called us to do and living out our lives and sharing the good news of the gospel.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett. I’d like to thank Scott Bradford and Andrew Rivers for providing audio from their work in Tokyo for this report. Arigatou gozaimasu!

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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The second line in your title the word "missionary" is misspelled.

WORLD's Mickey McLeanKingdomnetworker

Thank you for pointing out the error. We have corrected it.