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He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” — Mark 16: 15 (NIV)
People aware of Blue Ridge Mountain geography know that Bedford County lies just east of Roanoke. However, Bedford County resident Aaron Archual will soon be going east–FAR East, to Japan to be precise. And despite all the current hoopla surrounding the Tokyo Olympics, that is not his motivation. Here is Archual’s story, in his own words.
My name is Aaron Archual, and I am on staff with the Navigators in Tokyo, Japan, where I will be doing full time college ministry. I graduated from Parkway Christian Academy in Roanoke (now King’s Christian Academy) in 2016 and Liberty University in 2020.
I began a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in eighth grade. Shortly thereafter, I began serving at my home church. In tenth grade, I had an opportunity to go to Tokyo, Japan with my church to support Navigators staff there doing college ministry. While there, I learned firsthand about the deep spiritual darkness in Japan. However, I also met a community of Christians with the Navigators who loved their friends, loved Jesus, were culturally competent and relevant, and who simply wanted to introduce their Japanese friends to the God of the universe. As a new Christian, this was incredibly impactful on me.
After returning home, I continued to keep up with my Japanese friends through Facebook, and occasionally, I would have the opportunity to meet up with them when they would take trips to the US. As I kept up with my Japanese friends, saw these friends begin following Christ, and continued to learn Japanese, I experienced a draw from God toward this ministry in Japan.
After my freshman year of college at Liberty University, I had the opportunity to go to Sendai, Japan with the Navigators for two months. While I was there long enough to have good days and challenging days alike, I saw the Lord greatly use that summer to draw my Japanese friends to himself. Afterward, I returned home and finished college, while doing ministry in a variety of roles at school, church, and in the community. However, God continued to draw me towards ministry in Japan, and after sharing about this with a mentor there, I learned of an opportunity to apply for a longer-term staff position with the Navigators. Upon applying, in obedience to God’s leading in my life, I have been appointed staff with the Navigators in Tokyo where I’ll be doing college ministry full time.
Japan, with its history and culture, has very unique social challenges and barriers to the gospel. Japan is less than 2% Christian, and even this is a more generous number. While Buddhism and Shinto, Japan’s native religion, have a presence, they often merely serve as tradition and a source of Japanese history for most Japanese young people. Given this, it is apt to describe Japan spiritually as a very godless place.
Japan’s work environment also contributes to its dark spiritual climate. The Japanese are one of the most overworked peoples in the world. For many in Japan, a normal work day entails arriving at work before the boss, working long hours nearly every day of the week, only leaving after the boss leaves, then potentially accompanying him for a full night of drinks, karaoke, and activities afterward, if the boss so chooses, only to repeat it all the very next day. For this reason, a surprisingly high number of Japanese, if asked about the idea of becoming a Christian, bring up, “I’m too busy to be a Christian. I couldn’t possibly go to church every Sunday.”
Further, there is even a term in Japanese, “karoushi”, that refers to death or suicide from overwork, as it occurs frequently. Japan also has one of the highest suicide rates of any developed country. Recently, the suicide rate reached a twenty-year-high during the COVID-19 pandemic. All these factors together paint the current picture that is the dark spiritual climate of Japan.
As staff with the Navigators, I will serve in Tokyo with a ministry called BEST Club at Chuo University. BEST is an acronym that describes the group activities of the club: Bible, English, Sports, Travel. Many students are initially drawn to BEST Club with the motivation to learn and practice English, as English is a very marketable skill in the Japanese workforce.
The purpose of these club activities is to build relationships with students, establish a bridge of trust with which to share the gospel, and ultimately, disciple students through “life-to-life” discipleship. In short, my role as Navigator staff will be to disciple college students and facilitate club activities with BEST Club in Tokyo.
If you would, please pray for the Japanese to know and experience Jesus, for the social issues of suicide and unhealthy work culture, and for my support raising and preparation to go in the following months, as borders are closed and visas are not being granted in light of COVID-19.
As I am raising monthly and first-time financial support for ministry, information on giving can be found at my page on my organization’s website: navigators.org/staff/23829823.
Thank you so much for reading my story.
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