Missionaries in Japan are hosting three vision trips in October for those interested in leading mission teams to Tokyo during the 2020 summer Olympics.
Daniel and Tara Rice, the International Mission Board’s Olympics ministry coordinators for Tokyo, are leading a yearlong “Connect2020” initiative to connect Japanese people to God, Japanese Christians to other believers and Japanese Christians to the world for the purposes of evangelism.
“Japan is less than .5 percent evangelical Christian, making the Japanese the second-largest unreached people group in the world,” Daniel Rice said.
The vision trips will give volunteers five days on the ground in Tokyo with the Rices and other Japan Baptist Mission personnel to learn some of the basics about getting around the city, seeing some of the Olympics venues and gaining a better understanding of Japanese culture. The participants will spend time praying for the upcoming year and the outreach that will be taking place.
In addition, Rice said they will learn about some of the specific Connect2020 methods of outreach, including:
- The ECHO Project, a coffeehouse with a variety of entertainment options and a stage for musicians and speakers. The coffeehouse will offer free iced coffee to guests and a place for people to get out of the heat. Rice said the plan is for Japanese Christians to team up with international believers to engage guests who visit.
- Community festivals by local Japanese Baptist churches that will offer free family-friendly entertainment and activities and give church members an opportunity to interact with kids and their parents.
- Viewing parties, to be held inside churches to give people an opportunity to watch the Olympics on television together. Athletes and other Japanese Christians will share their testimonies at these parties.
“Everything we’re doing is providing opportunities for gospel conversations, not presentations,” Rice said. “We want to be very distinct in our verbiage. We want to be having conversations.”
Japanese believers often are timid about engaging strangers in such conversations, Rice said, and he hopes that by partnering them with Christians from other countries, like the United States, who may not be as reluctant, the Japanese Christians will learn to be more outgoing and intentional about sharing their faith with others.
While the Olympics are an important component of Connect2020, the initiative is not strictly about the Olympics, the Rices said. Instead, it’s using the Olympics for the larger purpose of broad-based evangelism and discipleship in Japan.
The Olympics is a key opportunity to provide the Japanese church with “opportunities to grow in discipleship, evangelism, prayer, and all those other healthy disciple characteristics,” Rice said.
Everything associated with Connect2020, he said, is designed to help the Japanese church “stretch their spiritual muscles.”
Through the vision trips, team leaders can become equipped to train their teams that will be coming to Tokyo next year.
Dates for the trips are Oct. 1-8, Oct. 15-22 and Oct. 29-Nov. 5. Anyone interested in participating on a trip or who wants more information about Connect2020 can email the Rices at [email protected].
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., who has covered five Olympics for Baptist Press.)