This is the question we are asking. At first it was a faint one, more like a curiosity since Amakusa is situated in Kyushu in Southern Japan, and noted for the history of Hidden Christians. In 2000, JEMS took a tour group that covered Nagasaki, Shimabara, Amakusa, and Kumamoto, and all the way up to Tokyo. One tour members had relatives in Amakusa. They directed us to the sites of Hidden Christian’s graves and worship areas. Some places were made into national parks. Thoughts about bringing the Gospel there have occurred in our minds.
The same question is becoming louder now. About the same time, one of our missionaries in Japan felt the call of God in her heart to go to Amakusa. She dreamt of new Christians worshipping God in a cave just as the Hidden Christians did during the period of persecution in the early 1600’s when Oda, Hideyoshi, and Tokunaga ruled. In an amazing way, God provided an opportunity for her to visit Amakusa with another friend about a year ago and survey the land, so to speak.
So from the headquarters in LA, three realistic requirements were spelled in order to determine God’s call and seek affirmation about an open door to Amakusa. These are:
While waiting for God’s affirmations, the Executive Director of JEMS felt that a special meeting should be held in Tokyo with key affiliate church leaders on September 16, 2003. Rev. Dr. Akira Hatori, Rev. N. Murakami, Rev. Timothy Himei, Rev. Isozaki, and Rev. Dr. Sam Tonomura met at Sodoin Dendo office. Our JEMS worker was invited to attend as well. In this meeting, we learned how God seems to be calling our JEMS worker to Amakusa and the ways he has been preparing her for it. After much exchange of valuable information from one another concerning Amakusa, it was agreed that we form “An Amakusa Advisory Council” consisting of those present. Details of the council will be worked out later. It was also agreed that a team should be sent to Amakusa to investigate possible open doors such as key contacts, partnership, ministry, and base opportunities, etc., on October 2-4, 2003.
During this trip to Japan, the Executive Director received additional information about an open door to Amakusa. While at a restaurant, a lady came over to our table and told us about a music concert tour featuring the story of the Hidden Christians in Amakusa. Even though she had met out JEMS worker two times in the past three years an Machida, she recognized her. It’s amazing how God brought her into the same restaurant to remind us about Amakusa and the Hidden Christians.
Should Christianity be hidden any longer in Southern Japan? Is God showing us the open door to Amakusa? Please pray with us. Are you burdened for the people in Amakusa? If God is speaking to your heart in any manner, please let us know.
Amakusa has many islands, some 120 of them various sizes, located in the southwest of Japan. We are focusing on Shimo, the largest island, where the chief city of Hondo is located. Hondo, a city of 41,000 people, is about two hours and 20 minutes by bus from Kumamoto where you can fly in. Kumamoto is about 1 ½ hours from Tokyo by air.
Amakusa has no high mountains. It is rugged in the interior with beautiful green timber, blue waters, and white sandy beaches surrounding the islands. Principle products include lumber, fish, oranges, porcelain, and pearls. Seafood and sushi bars are the best. Amakusa is known for the famous five bridges, called the Pearl Line, or Amakusa Gokyo, which links the major islands with Nagasaki in the north and west of Kumamoto.
Historically speaking, Amakusa was at the center of Christianity in the 16th-17th century when Christians were persecuted for their faith. Today, historical relics of this era are preserved in attractive museums and a memorial hall such as the Amakusa Shiro Memorial Hall in Oyano. During the JEMS tour of Japan in 2000, we met our tour member's relatives who escorted us to see several historical areas, graves of hidden Christians, and caves where images of worship are still arranged on natural rocky ledges. These sites are strong reminders of the sad religious history and faithful Christians who were martyred for their faith in God.
Today, these memorial sites are crying out for someone to bring the Gospel that will provide true equality, justice, and freedom in the hearts of men and women. Jesus Christ will provide what Amakusa Shiro was willing to die for when he rallied the people of Amakusa and Shimabara to make a stand for equality and freedom.
We invite believers who have the vision and desire to see the complete Gospel of Jesus Christ incarnated in Amakusa so the people there will want to trust in God and serve Him. We need believers who will pray for Amakusa at home and periodically meet together at the JEMS headquarters or in their respective regions. Those desiring to be a part of the Amakusa Shinsetsu Ministry (Shinsetsu means "sincerely caring for others"), are asked to contact JEMS.