About Us

The Evans Family

 After completing his studies at Moore Theological College and Queensland Theological College, John, who has always had a passion for church planting, was assigned to ‘re-plant’ a church with the Presbyterian Church of Queensland at Helensvale on the Gold Coast. This has been an invaluable training ground on which to gain experience as a church planter and as a pastor, and 2011 sees the Evans family in their fifth year of ministry at NorthLinks Presbyterian Church (as it  is now known). John is married to Rose, who spent time in Japan as an exchange student, and they have five children: Asher (1998), Isabelle (2001), Lily (2004), Ivy (2007) and Jairus (2010). With the support of Mission Partners and Acts 29, the Evans family hope to move to Chiba city at the end of 2011. There, they will complete two years of language study, an internship in a Japanese church, and planning, strategising and team-building for the Chiba CBD church plant, with an aim to launch the work some time in 2014.

Please partner with the Evans family in taking the gospel to the most spiritually needy nation in the developed world.

How We Got Here

For the last couple of years as we have attended a mission conference each January, God has been moving us to once again consider serving Him overseas. Finally in January last year, we felt a need to start investigating possibilities and so began some conversations with people ‘in the know’. Whilst Rose has said she would never go back to live in Japan (she was an exchange student there and studied Japanese at Uni), it seemed clear to us that Japan was the strongest possibility; especially since John has always been interested in Japanese culture.

The very reasons that Rose didn’t want to go back to live there are now reasons that compel us to go. The Japanese culture is beginning to crumble as Western influences gain more ground, and young people especially are starting to struggle with the many taboos that regulate conversation, social interaction and daily life in general. This is the largest unreached people group in the world with less than 0.2% of the population identifying as protestant Christians and even fewer with a living, growing, gospel-centred faith. It has the highest rate of suicide, depression, marital relationship breakdown, and child pornography in the world. These people need Jesus.

We had thought that for us, overseas mission would be some years away yet, but after more conversations, we realised that if we were to go, because of the flexibility of our current family circumstances, we should go soon. This was a real struggle because we had thought we would be here at NorthLinks for at least 10 years (we are coming to the end of our fourth year), and feel there is so much more to be done here. It was hard to imagine handing over the baton to someone else.

Still, we knew of a church-planting project in Chiba province (the peninsular east of Tokyo where the airport is located), and decided to go as a family and investigate, so in June 2010 we flew over and spent two and a half weeks with the Mission To the World (Mission arm of the Presbyterian Church of America – also involving staff from other mission organisations) church-planting team. We attended some of their church plants, talked to staff, observed outreach activities, spent time with Japanese Christians and pastors, and sampled life in Japan as a family. John preached a couple of times with translation, which was a new experience for him. We were also able to catch up with Rose’s host families. John even had an opportunity for gospel conversation with one of her host fathers (who speaks English).

After the initial assault on all senses that Japan tends to be (people, traffic, buildings, garish graphics on signage shouting at you from absolutely everywhere, crazy train station music, supermarkets smelling like dead fish), John found his way around very readily, and Rose was amazed at how much easier life in Japan has become for Westerners. Newer neighbourhoods are planned with footpaths, trees, etc, and there are western style toilets most places these days! People don’t stare and talk about foreigners (gaijin) as overtly as they used to, and life in general has grown more westernized in many ways. The children amazed us: it almost seemed that the change in environment didn’t profoundly affect them. They continued on as usual and met communication and cultural challenges with admirable resilience. It will be interesting to see if that continues into the long term.

On coming home, we decided to let the dust settle a little, while working hard to find answers to questions we still had, and really struggling with the issue of whether this was the best way forward in terms of using Kingdom cash to take the gospel to the Japanese.  Japan is the most expensive mission field in the world. In the end it just became very clear to us that, with the Japanese church as a whole slowly dying every year, the great lack of Japanese Christian leaders in training, and a real need for ordained ministers, God could use us there. Additionally there is a gap on the MTW team where John’s giftings seem to fit, and the team had been praying for staff enough to enable two or three new church plants to take off in the next five year window. Church planting has always been a passion of John’s, and within a month or so of arriving home, the MTW team sent us an official invitation to join them.

Unlike most Japanese churches, this cluster of church plants in Chiba has seen steady growth over the last decade or two, and their strategy for evangelism is to keep planting more churches – especially in areas that are growing ‘commuter’ cities for Tokyo workers. They find that Japanese people moving to newer areas don’t have ties to local shrines and temples, and are searching for a sense of community, and are therefore more open to the gospel. Unfortunately many of the older churches in Japan have either grown liberal/syncretistic or are legalistic (like the surrounding culture).

In late August, we decided to begin the process of applying to go, praying that God would make clear to us what we should do. There were, we believe, any number of things that could have meant a closed door, but we are now at the point of raising support and God still hasn’t closed any doors! We applied to go through Mission Partners (Australian Presbyterian World Mission) and the official hoops have all been jumped in order to raise support with a view to departing toward the end of 2011 some time.

While we were in Japan in June, a church-plant in the countryside not far from the east coast (a growing commuter city of about 50 000) was suggested, but John has just been back with the MTW team in November for a Japanese church planting conference, and it seems they are now keen for him to lead a team in establishing a church in Chiba City centre, targeted at the younger generation, and involving staff who specialise in college/university ministry. Before this can happen, we will need to complete two years of language study.

So, at the moment, we are spending our spare time trying to get support flyers and website up and running, and some semblance of language learning started. Clearly it will be easier to do that once we are there, but John is keen to at least have some basics under his belt before he goes, and Rose was horrified at her total illiteracy and has put Kanji (Chinese picture character) charts up on the wall in the loo (only grade 1 & 2 so far)! Isabelle is using the DS console for her language study, while the others are just content to pick up bits and pieces from the CDs John listens to in the car and our conversations as Rose tries to help him negotiate his way through basic grammar and vocabulary. The whole family did learn the basic phonetic script (hiragana) before going over in June. We are also trying to prune our possessions – a never-ending task for a family of seven booklovers, work-from-homers and home-schoolers!

So please pray … thank God that it is he who changes hearts and ask him that we will be faithful as we move into an incredibly busy season of life. Thank Him for the power of the gospel and pray that he will prepare the hearts of those living in Chiba city to hear His Word and turn to Him. Thank him for His constant provision of our every need, and pray that he will raise up willing supporters who are passionate about seeing the Japanese won for Christ!

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