Japan is not the first country that comes to mind when you say the phrase “Least Reached People Groups.” That phrase projects images of jungles or far away places without modern plumbing.
But consider that Japan has a population of 127 million yet less than 1% of its population is Evangelical Christians. There are entire parts of the country that do not have a single church.
So it is not surprising that Jeff Hershberger felt called to take the gospel to the people of Japan when he served on a short term missions trip in 2007. Upon returning from this trip, he discussed this with his wife Tamara and together they responded to the Lord’s leading. They returned to Japan on a second short-term trip in 2008 together and began preparations for full-time service in Japan.
After their return from Japan in 2008, Jeff began the Pastoral Residency program at College Church in Wheaton. This two-year intensive program is designed to prepare future pastors for full-time ministry. Jeff came to this program after completing his degree at Wheaton College Graduate School.
During Jeff’s time in graduate school, Tamara taught elementary school. After their first son Marcus was born, she became a stay-at-home mom. Their second son Lewis joined the family two years later.
Not only is Japan a least reached country, but it is also the most expensive country to send missionaries to. It took a number of years for the Hershbergers to raise the support needed to move their family to Japan.
After completing the Pastoral Residency program, the Hershbergers committed to serving full time in Japan with SEND International. Even though they have not yet raised full support, they would need to leave for Japan. At this point, Jeff was connected to Christian Art Gifts through a pastor and Christian Art Gifts was blessed to be able to offer Jeff employment during this time.
I praise God for the way he used CAG in my family’s life. From fulfilling orders in the picking lanes to helping with international shipping, this job provided for our family during a time of transition. I greatly enjoyed getting to know and working with the CAG team. We’re so grateful for the way CAG invested in our life and ministry.-Jeff Hershberger
Through the Lord’s perfect timing and provision, the Hershbergers were able to arrive in Japan in 2012.
There have been challenges to overcome – finding a home, learning to drive on the other side of the road, getting their boys settled into school in a new country. Language and culture learning is an ongoing process.
Relationship building can take a long time in Japan. Even with their language limitations, Jeff and Tamara have seen God open doors for friendship. They have been able to build special relationships with neighbors and families at both church and school.
In the future, we will be relocating closer to our new church plant. We are eager to develop our community and make new friends. - Jeff Hershberger
The Hershbergers are finishing up their first 4-year term in Japan and will return for home service in July 2016. Upon returning to Japan in 2017, they look forward to being a part of a Japanese-led church planting effort in the Tokyo area.
Part of what it means to be a least-reached people group is that the national church by herself is not able to equip the local church and minister to the 127 million people. Please join us in praying for the Hershberger family as they assist the Japanese church in their Gospel ministry. Also, if you would like to join Christian Art Gifts in financially supporting the Hershberger family click on GIVE and follow instructions.