From the minute Tara Jones walked through the door of her new pediatrician’s office, she knew something was going on that was bigger than the fact she had a sick child.
The spiritual soil in Japan is hard to till, but International Mission Board missionaries Jared and Tara Jones say the Japanese have a deep longing to know genuine love and purpose.
Tara and her husband, Jared, had been praying for years for God to start a fire in the hearts of the people of Japan, where the couple serves as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. They had been praying for God to open very specific doors – doors that many people had told them were sealed shut. And they had been praying for God to soften hearts in a country many consider hard, cold and closed.
“Jared and I had been praying about where God would want us to start a church,” Tara said. “The time had just never been quite right.” The Joneses weren’t the only ones praying – people back home were too, including Tara’s parents, Bill and Barbara Greene in Alabama.
“My parents are prayer warriors,” Tara said, “and my dad had been praying that God would give us a national partner that we would have to run to keep up with. He said, ‘I just feel like God is going to do something big.’” So that day when Tara met the pediatrician, she knew immediately that God was answering her father’s prayer for God to shake a nation where less than 1 percent of the population claims Christianity.
“Our pediatrician asked me out of the blue, ‘You guys are church planters, right?’ She said she had been praying about starting a church there at her office,” Tara said. “As she shared, I knew God had brought our paths together.”
Amazed, Tara went home and prayed with Jared, and they knew God was confirming this was exactly what He had in mind. The first week the new church opened its doors, more than 70 people came. “Jared and I were amazed – people showed up who we hadn’t seen in years, people we had tried to share the gospel with but thought nothing had taken root,” Tara said. “We just looked at each other and wept. It was a beautiful picture of what God had been preparing.”
The hearts they’ve seen change in the months that followed represent a harvest only God could bring about, Jared said.
“God was already at work,” he noted. “He can make doors where doors don’t exist.” Tara’s dad, Bill, said amazing is the only word he can think of to describe it.
“We’ve seen God’s faithfulness to answer prayer, and we pray that Japan will be the place where the next great spiritual awakening begins,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 3-10. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)