Acts 1:8: Creating conduits of gospel growth at Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Lauren Pratt | October 01, 2019
In the summer of 2020, millions will gather to watch more than 11,000 athletes compete in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. For Daniel and Tara Rice, International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries to Japan and affiliates of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), this is a prime time for national and international believers alike to bring the light of the gospel into a country that is less than .5 percent evangelical regenerate believers.
If the Rices have learned anything from their time overseas, it’s that nothing in ministry is accomplished alone.
“That’s why the word partnership is such a huge word for me right now… God has been taking our question marks and giving us an answer,” said Daniel, who served with the IMB as a Journeyman before moving back with his wife, Tara, in 2017. Tara also felt called to serve in Japan after serving previously with The Evangelistic Alliance Mission.
While they saw themselves serving among the Japanese, they never envisioned how administrative their roles as missionaries would become. As the Summer Olympics in Tokyo quickly approach, the Rices have been tasked with coordinating teams across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It’s a responsibility they acknowledge would not be possible without the partnerships God has placed in their path.
Connect 2020, the IMB’s official plan for the Summer Olympics, aims at three goals: connecting Japanese people to Christ, connecting Japanese Christians with other believers and connecting the Japanese church to the world in order to make disciples. Opportunities abound to engage millions of people from around the world during the Summer Olympics. Viewing parties will be held in the community for neighbors to come together to watch the games and hear testimonies from athletes and Japanese believers. Teams will engage in gospel conversations through the ECHO Project, which provides Christian entertainment, coffee and tea options and booths for traditional Olympic pin-trading.
The Rices have four primary partnerships that are making Summer Olympics ministry possible. To begin, they are partnering with local churches, such as their local congregation, Tokyo Baptist Church, which is part of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention of the SBC and an international church.
Next, Open Crowd Festivals will provide community events throughout the summer. These block parties will host a wide range of activities, including food, face-painting, inflatables, carnival games and much more.
Additionally, the International Sports Federation (ISF) is the primary organization handling logistics for sending SBC teams to serve in Japan during the 18 days of the Olympics. ISF provides all-inclusive packages for teams that include round-trip airfare, meals, housing and in-country travel.
Finally, Japan International Sports Partnership (JiSP) is working with Connect 2020 to reach Japanese communities. JiSp partners with Japanese church and para-church organizations to see the gospel proclaimed in Japan.
The Rices believe that these partnerships will make the gospel impact most effective during the Summer Olympics and long after short-term teams have come.
The Rices have learned during their two years serving in Tokyo that the spiritual needs of the Japanese are great, but the workers there are few. Underneath this economically progressive country often lies internal societal pressures that lead to depression and anxiety.
Daniel and Tara Rice believe the gospel can change that.
While busyness creates obstacles in ministry, the communal aspect of Japanese culture is one area that allows for deeper friendships and gospel proclamation.
The Rices believe that the gospel does more than just transform the heart. It also changes cultural norms. For the Japanese, knowing why a process happens is less important than the desired outcome, Daniel noted. Oftentimes rituals at temples and shrines stem from family tradition. He and Tara want to encourage people to consider the heart behind their customs. They also want to empower national believers to share their faith with others.
Daniel noted that when some of his coworkers have asked why they don’t witness, their response has been, “I’ve never been told that.”
“They’re responsible for the spread of the gospel,” said Daniel. “So even just a simple modeling of these types of things is pretty revolutionary for many Christians.”
The Rices are excited for ample opportunities the Summer Olympics will provide for national believers to practice sharing their faith.
As it became clear to both Daniel and Tara that they were called to serve in Japan, they knew that theological preparation would be necessary for the road ahead. They decided SEBTS would be the best option to get them where they needed to go. Daniel is currently pursuing his Master of Divininty in International Church Planting, and Tara earned her Biblical Women’s Institute certificate in Spring 2015.
For Daniel, SEBTS has given him the training he needs to lead, preach and teach in a variety of settings. Likewise, Tara has found her training in the BWI courses to be beneficial as she seeks to exemplify a Christ-centered marriage in a culture where the state of marriage is abysmal.
“Southeastern gave me a better understanding of my role as a woman and why that’s a good thing, and how to actually express that to someone who doesn’t understand,” she said.
Through their experience at their sending church at North Wake, as well as their training at SEBTS, they know that they are the recipients of those who modeled healthy discipleship and church planting for them. It’s a privilege they don’t take for granted as they seek to use their training to equip Japanese believers to be healthy disciple-making disciples.
“For both of us, North Wake is a church that has modeled a legitimate, healthy church for us,” said Daniel. He also noted how SEBTS had a hand in training many church leaders who invested in them.
“The things that were being taught a decade ago to these church leaders that came through Southeastern — we’re benefiting from that even now.”
To learn more about Connect 2020 and ways to serve, visit connect2020.net.
From our local community to the outermost parts of the world, Southeastern students and alumni are reaching people with the gospel by fulfilling the Great Commission. Using the model of Acts 1:8, we want to highlight these stories of how our Southeastern family is serving in North Carolina, North America and around the world. Acts 1:8 Stories create a collective and consistent way to tell the story of Southeastern, one person at a time. From local pastors to missionaries among the unreached, God is doing a great work among students and alumni. Where are they now and where are they going? We can’t wait for you to find out!