OSAKA 大阪, the kanji if translated literally means “Big Hill”. A city placed on a hill, when in a reality it is actually surrounded by mountains. In Japan, Osaka is known for its people, its distinct culture, historic sights, and its incredible food. It’s a city of roughly 19 million people; less than 2% declare to have a personal relationship with Christ.
I’ve been living here for almost 4 years now. Prior to living here as a missionary, I came on 5 summer long missionary trips to Osaka. Throughout the combined trips and 4 years living here, I’ve been able to experience many things, learn a lot, and witness lives transformed by the love of Christ. I’ve seen the children of prostitutes, cared for and nurtured by Christian volunteers, go back into the slums of the dark part of Osaka- the area that holds the record for the highest homeless population in the nation as well as highest concentration of prostitutes and Yukuza activity. Their purpose for going in at night (along with volunteers helping them) was to bring food, soap, medicine, and conversation to the hundreds of homeless hiding in the blue tarp colonies lining the forgotten side of this beautiful city– a response to the love they have received from Christ, a tangible act of humanity and hope to the hopeless, and forgotten. I’ve seen young people delivered from past lives of abuse and depression into new lives of hope with Christ. I’ve been blessed to witness a community started as a small seed of relentless believers in the 2nd largest city in Japan (3rd largest in the world) grow and flourish into a pillar of truth in this city with a mission of developing disciples who are capable and equipped to then go on and make more disciples in their own communities. I was able to baptize a close friend who just two weeks ago baptized his friend.
There is one image I will never forget. Upon entering Japan for the first time, we boarded a bus to take us into the center of the city from the airport. It was night time, I was jet-lagged from the 17 hour trip, and had a mixture of excitement, anticipation, confusion, and exhaustion. As the bus made its way into the city ,we went over a bridge overlooking the city. The Osaka skyline was unlike anything I had seen in my life up to that point, and there among the towering skyscrapers and neon lights sat the titan of this city: Osaka-Jo Castle. It sat there, sage-like, glowing in the forest of the busy city. At that moment I remember feeling the reality of where I was; I was in Osaka. Little did I know I would come to call it my new home.