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Jeff and Naoko MacKay, Foursquare Missions International missionaries to Japan, live in Osaka, a thriving port city and the second largest city in Japan.

After planting Hope Chapel Mililani (Mililani Foursquare Church) in Hawaii and serving as the senior pastors for 10 years, Jeff MacKay, an Oregon native, and his wife, Naoko, took a leap of faith to sell everything and move to Osaka in 1997. They landed in Japan with their two young children and one “on the way.” Within a year, they successfully planted Hope Chapel Osaka, a thriving international, bilingual church in the center of the city.

Japan is between stages three and four in Foursquare’s Four-Stage Development Model. The national church is functioning well and does some outreach to other nations. Only 2 percent of the Japanese population identify themselves as Christian, and the average church in Japan is made up of only about 30 people, making Japan one of the most unreached nations in the world.

What do you love about Osaka?

Jeff: Osaka itself is nearly 3 million people, but it is linked with the cities of Kobe, Nara, Wakayama and Kyoto. Accounting for all of these cities, the Kansai area is over 11 million.

Osaka is a vibrant merchant’s city. People and companies here like to make things and sell things, and Osaka has traditionally been known as a Japanese center for commercial trade.

The Japanese dialect that is spoken in Osaka is a type of slang with its own accent and words, and it is also the language spoken in Japanese comedy. Hence, Osaka people have a great sense of humor. 

Osaka is filled with interesting and modern-looking buildings, and waterways with bridges. The most interesting “must-see” tourist spot is Osaka Castle. Osaka Castle is surrounded by a mote and towering stone walls. I love taking walks around Osaka Castle at night when it is all lit up. Osaka is alive and filled with interesting shops and restaurants; people are personable and very easy to talk with. 

Describe your vision for Japan.

Jeff: My vision for Japan is simple: I want to simply be available to encourage God’s work in people’s lives. We strive to live close to the Lord and daily experience His Holy Spirit baptism. When He tells us to go, we trust and go. When He says wait, we trust and wait. It’s all about obedience to His softly spoken words.

I’m responsible to be faithful to the flock God has entrusted to me at Hope Chapel Osaka. My primary long-term goal is to train Christian leaders and send them out to plant churches. My job is to make disciples: establishing their faith, leading them to baptism, and hopefully moving them into leadership. We have planted a net number of five churches. 

Tell us about some of the challenges in this region.

Jeff: The primary challenge is the spiritual blindness of the Japanese people. Japanese people are “allergic” to religion in general, except for observing certain religious holidays or culturally required duties, like visiting gravesites. Japan is basically a nation of agnostics.  

It is difficult for a Japanese person to come to Christ. There is family pressure against becoming a Christian, and work schedules prohibit most activities other than on Sundays. But we remain faithful and steadfast, and let God do the work. He brings the people to Himself. It is all God’s work in the hearts of the Japanese people.

What is one of your ministry highlights this year?

Jeff: We recently baptized four people at the beach. One of the ladies we baptized is named Mina-san. She first met us at a church cooking event and was impacted by the love she felt among the believers from our church.

Later on, she visited our church. It was quite a surprise. She started attending on a regular basis, and began to go through the long journey toward faith in Jesus that a Japanese person usually travels. 

One day, she finally asked the question: “Jeff, how do you believe in God?” God was faithful, and two weeks ago she was baptized. For the Japanese person, baptism is the turning point of faith. 

Mina-san is a registered nurse with experience in the emergency room. She just told me she feels called to go on a missions trip to the Philippines. So now, God has not just raised up a new Christian, but also possibly a missionary warrior. Praise God; He is always faithful.

In what tangible ways can people support the work in Japan?

Jeff: We love to have short-term teams. We also would love to have long-term missionaries who can teach English for their livelihood and work with one of our churches, which span from Hokkaido (the very north) to Okinawa (the very south).

How to Pray for the MacKays:

  • Pray for God to open the eyes of individuals across Japan to Jesus. 
  • Pray for Japanese Christians to be faithful to Christ.
  • Pray for churches to rise up across the country, and a new generation of pastors who will have a heart for discipleship.
  • Pray for Japanese leaders who will disciple future pastors. 

How You Can Bless the MacKays:

Our Foursquare missionaries are always encouraged by and grateful for any prayers and correspondence they receive. Whether it’s a gift sent on a holiday, or simply a letter or note of encouragement, you can make a difference by expressing your support in a practical way. You can also donate to their efforts here.

To send correspondence to the MacKays, email here or write to them at the following address:

1-2-7 Nishiyamamoto-cho
Osaka, Yao-Shi
Japan 581-0868

For more giving opportunities, visit the FMI World Missions Map.

Interview conducted by: Amy Swanson, a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministry at New Life Church (Santa Barbara Foursquare Church) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

is a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Calif.