To read all of the journal entries that relate to our Gunma Harvest efforts click here: Gunma Harvest
To read an explanation and description of Gunma Harvest scroll down here…
Gunma Harvest is an admittedly grand name to describe what is in actuality a very modest work. The vision is huge: to see all areas of Gunma reached with the good news of Jesus Christ. Our time, abilities, and other resources, however, are very limited and don’t always seem to be a proper match for what we are praying for. Yet, we feel encouraged to continue on, taking the first steps that are right in front of us and trusting God to either show us the next step, or move us in different directions.
We are not the first to pray in this way nor to work for these goals. We stand in a long line of missionaries and Japanese Christians who have prayed for Gunma. The specific part we are playing in all of this began around August of 2006 with a visit to the village of Uenomura. Since then we have been a group of 3-4 pastors and about 5 other Christians who have made regular visits (once or twice a month) to remote areas in Gunma, primarily in the southwest portion including the areas of Uenomura, Kanna, and Nanmoku. We always have our ears and eyes open for others who might be willing or able to network with us….and we continue to study and research so that we will have good data about towns and villages that are yet without a church or Christian witness.
The vast majority of Gunma Prefecture’s 2 million residents live in 12 cities on the flat area which makes up the northwest part of what we call the Kanto plains, a large plain stretching out in all directions from Tokyo bay. However, the majority of our land area here in Gunma is mountainous and is the home for about 50 towns and villages. In the past few years there has been a great deal of political and geographic consolidating of towns and villages all over Japan. Here in Gunma – as of May, 2009 when the last consolidation of municipalities went into effect – we have become 12 cities, 16 towns and 9 villages. But while the boundaries change and the actual number of municipalities decreases, the reality of about 50 towns and villages throughout the mountains of Gunma remains pretty much the same.
Over the past few years (as mentioned above) we have tried to pray for these areas, most of which have no church or Christian witness. We have done a bit of research, trying to understand where churches presently are located and looking at the areas where a Christian witness may be most absent or lacking. The following sentences may be a way to begin describing Gunma Harvest:
- A geographic vision and prayer to see a church (the body of Christ) worshiping regularly in every city, town and village of Gunma Prefecture. Specifically, we are most interested in going to areas where there presently are no churches or Christian witness.
- Gunma Harvest is not an organization or even a model for church planting. It is simply a desire to pray about how to bring the gospel to every part of Gunma, even the remote and rural areas.
- In the beginning we are simply trying to take a “first step” of visiting various towns and villages. We have limited finances and limited time. Yet, we want to take a first step. How can we serve these towns and villages?
- We believe that as we take a first step God will lead us to the next step.
- At present it is a seed-planting work. Just as “Life-Line” and “Harvest Time” television reach remote areas by air, we hope to reach some of these places by land….on foot.
- In order for the goals of Gunma Harvest to be realized, it will require cooperation from many different people and different churches and denominations. We ourselves can only do a small part. But as we network with others our prayer and vision will grow.
Gunma is famous for its many hotsprings….and so we have laughingly described Gunma Harvest using the acronym “SPA” :
1. Study – Understanding Gunma
Consult CIS (Church Information Service) and collect data about churches / Find what areas have no church / Maps (understand towns and villages, getting data from the Gunma Prefectural Website)
2. Pray – with Understanding
Pray for contacts and connections with local people in unreached areas / Pray for all of Gunma in a regular rotation / Pray for mass media (Life Line – weekly television broadcast) / Pray for God’s eyes and heart to see the harvest / Pray for laborers / Pray that God would gather Jesus followers in every location.
3. Act – networking to begin worshiping in new locations
Networking of gifts (traveling pastors, teachers, evangelists, musicians / exchange thoughts, ideas, experiment / consider new cooperative arrangements – between denominations, congregations, etc.)
WHERE IS GUNMA?
Coming in a bit closer you can see Gunma as it sits within the Kanto area… Tokyo can be seen as the pink metropolitan area so Gunma lies to the northwest of Tokyo, about half way across the island as one travels from Tokyo (the Pacific Ocean side) to Niigata (on the Japan Sea side).
In the above map, the yellow areas represent the 12 cities, and the rest of the map represents the towns and villages. The green parts of the map represent the areas where Gunma Harvest has been involved. Red dots show locations of present Covenant Churches in Shibukawa, Takasaki, Maebashi, and Isesaki.
Asking the Lord how we can reach these towns and villages, most of which have no church or Christian presence, with the good news….is the focus of our prayer for Gunma Harvest.