Part 1 Japan
by Laura Harstad
Kingdom Workers
Part 2 Japan
Part 3 Japan

Pastor Mitsuo Haga – far right

Less than 1% of the population in Japan is Christian. It is in this country filled with darkness that Kingdom Workers hopes to send long-term lay missionaries in 2015. They will serve Grace Lutheran Evangelical Christian Church and teach English in a local school. Serving at Grace, Pastor Mitsuo Haga has been shepherding Lutheran congregations in Japan for 11 years. Through an interview with Kingdom Workers' Laura Harstad, Haga tells the story of how God led him to become a pastor.

 Pastor Mitsuo Haga didn’t always want to be a pastor. When he was a child, Haga attended a Lutheran church and Sunday school, and he also played a lot of baseball. Weekend practices eventually pushed church out of his life. In high school, he continued to fill his days with baseball and school, but that wasn’t fulfilling enough. Eventually he felt an emptiness and an urge to go back to church. Sometimes he walked to church and stood outside but wasn’t brave enough to knock on the door. He was worried they wouldn’t welcome him back.

 One Christmas, however, he found a flyer about a special Christmas service. His aunt, Miss Kato, is a Christian (attended DMLC), so he asked if he could go to the service with her. She happily took him! Even though this was the start of Haga attending the Lutheran church again, he continued playing baseball and soon began attending a university. To feed his growing thirst for the Word during this time, he attended three or more Bible studies every day and was following his pastor, WELS Missionary Kermit Habben, everywhere he went.

 At one Bible study, a woman asked Missionary Habben for help with what seemed like an impossibly difficult situation. Haga was sure that Missionary Habben wouldn’t know what to say. Instead, he witnessed Habben smiling in encouragement while reaching immediately for his Bible to share verses that directly connected with this woman’s struggle. As he watched tears stream down the woman’s face, he remembers this being the moment when he realized the power of the Word and began to think about being a pastor. He shared this desire with Missionary Habben and asked what it was like to be a pastor. Habben said that the most rewarding part of his work was to see someone’s face who had been saved by Christ. He also warned there would be many difficulties and attacks by Satan.

 Haga took these words to heart, but he was torn between a desire to go to the seminary and a desire to get a different job. One day, he told Missionary Habben, “I’ve decided not to go to the seminary.” Habben replied, “Wait until Pastor Takeshi Nidaira (a Japanese Lutheran pastor) comes tonight and talk to him.”

 Haga did talk to Pastor Nidaira – until 4:00 a.m.! During that conversation, he remembers Pastor Nidaira saying, “How can you learn to swim while standing on the ground? Jump in the water, and God will help you learn to swim.” The next day, he went back to Missionary Habben and said, “I have decided to go to the seminary.”

 As Pastor Haga concluded this story, he said, “It’s encouraging for me to share the work of God in Japan. Please pray for the Christians there and for opportunities to share the gospel.”

 (This is a three-part series about our brothers and sisters in Japan. In future updates, learn how God worked in the hearts of Pastor Haga’s family members and the blessings God has given Grace Lutheran Evangelical Christian Church.)

 If you are interested in serving long-term in Japan, click here to learn more: http://kingdomworkers.com/teacherjapan.php.

Questions? Contact Laura Harstad at 262-955-4643, or email: lharstad@kingdomworkers.com