As a young man, Johann had dreamed of working among the North American Indians and, at the age of thirteen, tried to enroll in seminary. The school informed him that he would have to wait until he was seventeen before they would allow him in. So the next four years involved the young Johann impatiently working on his father’s farm, reading any book on missions he could find.
Finally, the day came when Johann turned seventeen. With great joy, he entered the seminary, eager to commence his missionary work among the Indians. But when he was half way through the program, he heard about the desperate need for some young men to work at a mission station in Australia. His heart was stirred by the appeal and he decided that day to give up his dream so he could help this struggling work.
Johann spent seven years working at the Australian mission. While here, he met and married Louise Auricht, the daughter of German immigrants. He was also able to transform the struggling mission into a strong work that was reaching both the immigrants from Europe and the native Australian people.
In 1885, the Germans started a new colony in New Guinea. Johann decided to go to this new colony and start a mission there. On his way to New Guinea, Johann was held up at the northern most part of Australia because the German New Guinea Company refused him passage to their new colony. While the diplomats and bureaucrats argued over technicalities for over a year, Johann simply set out where he was and started a new mission while he waited.
Finally, it was arranged for him to go to New Guinea. Throughout his time in New Guinea, he founded several churches along the coast and then moved inward, starting churches and missions along the way.
Over one hundred missionaries attended this week long meeting, along with numerous Japanese pastors and evangelist. The purpose of the meeting was threefold:
First, it was for the Japanese missionaries to get together to encourage and strengthen each other.
Secondly, it was an attempt to unite the different works under one focus and direction, so they could work united for common goals.
Thirdly, it was going to be a time for the missionaries to discuss the best way to create independent, indigenous Japanese churches free from foreign support.
The meeting was started off by J. H. Ballagh, who preached on “The Need and Promise of the Power of the Holy Spirit in Our Work as Missionaries” from Acts 1:8. This theme, the need for God’s power to do the work ahead, became the dominating theme throughout the entire conference.
Among the acts of the Conference was the preparation of a letter addressed to the Convention of the Japanese Churches, which was to meet the next month in Tokyo. It told of the unity of spirit and harmony of opinion that had prevailed among the missionaries in their meeting, expressed sympathy with the Japanese workers, and prayed that a blessing might rest upon them during their deliberations, and in all their work.
The meeting at Osaka did much to unify the churches, foreign missionaries, and national pastors. It filled them with a desire to see the work done and a realization of the need for God’s power. This meeting would also serve as a stepping stone for several other meetings in the years to come. But for the next five years (1883-1888), the Japanese church saw great growth, both numerically and spiritually. Dr. Maclay wrote:
A spirit of religious revival, bringing times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, is spreading in Japan, both among the foreign community and among Japanese Christians. I have not before seen anything like it since coming to Japan, and trust we are about to witness signal displays of divine mercy in the conversion of souls.
History of Christianity in Japan
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