“…And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”

Date Posted: 
Monday, January 25, 2016

[Nozomi Brownell, right, teaches adults in Japan to lead Children and Worship. Photo courtesy Nathan Brownell.]

Discovering the importance of Children and Worship for adults in Japan

Nozomi Brownell first met Dai in a church in Yokohama, Japan. Dai, who is in junior high, had been known all of his life as a troublemaker who could not sit still in the classroom. His family struggled to know how to deal with the boy.

“Dai was rather rough and loud usually,” says Brownell, who has been ministering to the people of Japan as an RCA mission coworker with her husband, Nathan, since 2007. A significant part of her ministry is the Children and Worship program, a Montessori-type approach to Christian education that allows children to hear, see, touch, and respond to Bible stories.

Brownell’s classes often involve children from preschool to high school, but Dai stood out to her in particular.

“Whenever he attended Children and Worship, I could clearly see that the process of getting ready to hear the story of God really helped him focus. He would be drawn into the story and then after the program, he would say, ‘I understood!’ with joy. It was wonderful to see that the word of God reached into the heart of the boy.”

But Dai’s story doesn’t stop there. The next time Brownell led Children and Worship, she noticed that Dai had brought his mother, Tamao, to the lesson. No matter that this was a class for children—Dai wanted his mother to understand the Bible story in the same way he did.

Two years later, Tamao was baptized. Now, she’s the one bringing others to church, showing other young mothers the powerful stories of the Bible.

“As a mother of four children, Tamao has genuine empathy for other young mothers who are struggling to raise a family,” says Brownell. “She introduces church to them as a place of support and care—a safe place where they can be themselves. The mothers then come to talk to other church members and they start to realize what makes these people so caring.

“It is so wonderful to see how [Tamao] was changed by God’s grace. It is so natural for her to minister to others, because she was changed.”

Although Children and Worship is intended as a program for children ages three to eight, the story of Dai and Tamao demonstrates its effectiveness across generations. Brownell, who helps lead the GreenHouse Youth Center in Yokohama, is thrilled to see the ministry taking in root in Japan.

“Everyone needs a sacred space and time to meet God—not just children, but also adults. When we are quiet, we start to hear God’s talking to each one of us clearly through the Bible. In the sacred space, we wonder and ponder what it means to us in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Children and Worship intentionally provides that space and time.”

As part of the GreenHouse ministry, the Brownells host periodic training events to introduce others to the principles of Children and Worship and teach them how to lead classes. In Japan, where less than one percent of the population is Christian, not many people have the opportunity to hear Bible stories. Dai’s story is just one reason Brownell believes the program is effective for both children and adults.

“Many Japanese Christians have the desire and urge to spread the good news, but often they don’t know how,” she says. “We can provide a concrete tool to reach out to others through Children and Worship. Now the people who attend training seminars are thrilled about the possibilities to bring the stories to older people, mentally challenged people, and even to prisons.

“Even a very young child can have a good relationship with God—and through that, God can reveal himself to others.”

Discover the potential of Children and Worship for your church: www.rca.org/childrenandworship.

Follow the work of the Brownells with young people in Japan. Visit www.rca.org/brownell.

Pray for Tamao and the women she is bringing to church.

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