|PIC1|Unlocking the Gospel message among Japan’s 127 million people is a daunting challenge. Half a millennia has passed since the first missionaries arrived in the country, yet today less than one per cent of Japanese consider themselves Christian.
The greatest obstacles to sharing God’s love – the language and cultural barriers – are well documented. However, OM workers based in the country are thrilled to have a new resource that might make all the difference.
Published by New Life League, the Manga Messiah is a 300-page comic book that depicts Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection.
Unlike their Western counterparts, young and old Japanese alike love comics, and it’s not unusual to observe a train full of commuters in the Tokyo rush-hour with their heads buried in the latest manga.
“For reaching Japanese, this book is far more effective than showing The Jesus Film,” stated one long-term missionary based in the country.
Once details of a website for readers to request more information was stamped inside, OM Japan partnered with The Evangelical Alliance Mission to distribute the Manga Messiah far and wide.
Over 80 short-term volunteers from a dozen countries spent two weeks in festive costumes handing out the comic to shoppers in the town of Karuizawa. The idea of dressing up as an elf or Santa Claus might seem a strange way to communicate the real meaning of Christmas, but Joel Kaufman, a TEAM worker from the US, immediately saw the benefit.
“When a child receives a copy of Manga Messiah from Santa, that is something they are going to cherish and keep,” he noted.
With adaptations of the books of Genesis and Acts now published, the comics are certain to travel further than Japan’s shores. English-language translations are also available, and interest in these international versions is expected to be huge.
For now though, the Manga Messiah is one Christmas present that every Japanese person who received it is unlikely to forget.