The following story was written by one of our 2+ families serving in Japan. Please take time out of your day to read and pray for the people of Japan who are living as silhouettes in darkness. They are lighting a path with materialistic and traditional lanterns instead of understanding who the true Light is.
As I walked home the other night, I passed a family in the dark carrying a paper lantern. Long before we passed, I could see the silhouettes of the family members from the glow of the paper lantern as they walked side by side down the road. It was the eve of “Obon” (Oh-bone), the festival of the dead, and this family was lighting the way for their deceased loved ones to know which road to take home.
During Obon, Japanese people welcome the return of their ancestors by hanging lanterns outside their home, displaying vegetable offerings on their household god-shelf, and visiting the graves of their loved ones. Much like Thanksgiving, Obon is a time to gather with extended family and eat a meal together. On the last day, the lanterns are released into the water or burned at the temple, symbolizing the return of the deceased to the spirit world.
Interestingly, Japanese people say Obon is mostly “just tradition” and not a religious act at all. Yet most would be ashamed if they have to miss out on Obon.
Obon reminds us of how hard it is to share the gospel with the Japanese because of their belief in the afterlife. Japanese believe heavily in the spiritual presence of their ancestors and the importance of staying connected with them. To become a Christian would mean separation from their family now and eternal separation from loved ones after death.
Please pray for Japanese people to come to realize the weight of sin and eternal separation from God. Pray for entire families to accept Christ so that they can truly be together forever, with the God who loves them and created them.