Wilson Visits Japan, Encourages Adventists,
Gets briefing on evangelism’s challenges in nation
By SukHee Han, NSD Communication Director, with Adventist World staff
The challenges of evangelism in an unfriendly environment were brought home to Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference president, during his visit to Japan in November 2011.
Although the Seventh-day Adventist Church has had work in Japan for more than 100 years, there are only approximately 15,000 church members in a nation of 128 million people. In 2009, according to statistics, 261 people joined the church in Japan, but 207 either died or were listed as “dropped or missing,” meaning a net gain of only 54 people.
Asking about this, Wilson was told by local leaders that Japan is a highly secular society, and that it is difficult to bring the Adventist message to people unfamiliar with and largely uninterested in Christian teachings. They also conceded that some Adventist members might have lost their enthusiasm for evangelism over the years.
“I realize that the Japanese Adventist Church is faced with many difficulties and challenges, but the Lord will surely do a miracle here if the church is armed with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit,” Wilson told Japanese church administrators in response.
Spending approximately a week in Japan, the world church leader was joined by Nancy Wilson, his wife, as well as Northern Asia-Pacific Division executives Jairyong Lee, president, and Akeri Suzuki, executive secretary. Masumi Shimada, president of the Adventist Church in Japan, welcomed the group to Hiroshima, the first stop in Wilson’s multicity visit. A port city and military center for Japan’s Imperial Army, it was destroyed by an atomic weapon on the morning of August 6, 1945.
“Although Hiroshima was devastated by an atomic bomb,” Wilson told 400 students and church members who gathered in the auditorium of Hiroshima Adventist High School, “it has been developed as a symbolic city of peace through indomitable willpower and the courage of the Japanese people. When we stand firm upon God’s Word, depend on the Lord, and do our best in preaching the gospel of ultimate peace, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Japan will be definitely revived.”
Also in Hiroshima, Wilson met Sumiko Ueki, a survivor of the atomic bombing. Now 83 years old, she worked at a Hiroshima munitions factory. The factory was just 1.2 miles (two kilometers) away from the bomb-struck area, but fortunately she had a narrow escape from death. After that incident she sent her daughter to an Adventist school, and she herself later became an Adventist.
On November 2 the group went to Okinawa and visited Okinawa Junior High School, where students performed traditional Okinawan music. Leaving the school, they went to the place where Adventist U.S. Army medic and conscientious objector Desmond Doss saved the lives of his fellow soldiers during the war, and were reminded of Doss’s dedication to the Lord and the nation. Doss, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, died in 2006.
In the evening, church members heard Wilson speak on revival at the Okinawa Adventist School. Among those in the congregation was Pastor Saburo Arakaki. He was sentenced to death for murder during World War II and imprisoned in Hawaii. However, he repented while in prison and fortunately was given a special amnesty. Coming back to Japan, he studied theology and became a minister.
When they spoke after the meeting, Wilson told Arakaki he appreciated his efforts in developing mission work on Okinawa as well as the establishment of an Adventist school there. Arakaki thanked Wilson for visiting Okinawa as a world church president, and said he is praying for Wilson.
Traveling to the tsunami- and earthquake-stricken city of Fukushima by bullet train after a flight back to the Japanese mainland, Wilson told local church members from that city and neighboring Sendai that the global Adventist family stood with the area’s victims.
“On behalf of Seventh-day Adventists around the world, I give my deepest condolences to those in the Fukushima and Sendai areas who are still suffering from the affects of the tsunami, earthquake, and radiation release,” Wilson said. “Psalm 121:2 says, ‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ The Lord alone keeps us from all harm and saves us. As no branch can bear fruit by itself, we should be close to the Word of God, who is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Lord. I hope you can overcome all your sufferings through His words and finally triumph in the name of Christ.”
On Sabbath, November 5, 2011, Wilson spoke to 1,300 members at the Yodobashi church in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
Wilson said, “As the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ reveals, we are a unique and special people who have a mission to preach the good news of the Lord’s second coming. This work must be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
During his trip to Japan, Wilson visited several church institutions, including the Japan Union Conference, Tokyo Adventist Hospital, and several Adventist schools. The journey also took him to the Republic of Korea and to the 2011 year-end meetings of the church’s Northern Asia-Pacific Division.