From Pagan Rituals to Christian Worship

A common zeal for the people of Japan led Ray and Shelley to the mission field.

From Message magazine issue "To the Ends of the Earth"

Ray felt out of place when his family began bowing down all around him.

He shouldn’t have because this was the normal routine he’d practiced for years when performing Chinese ancestor worship.

But as a newly professed Christian, Ray refused to bend downward for these pagan gods.

A couple of years had passed since his high school friends invited him to a Bible study. The teaching of mankind’s inherent sinfulness struck a sensitive chord in Ray, one that he didn’t completely come to terms with until his freshman year of college when he became a believer.

He began attending Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and joined a team traveling to Japan for a short-term missions trip in 2002. Ray focused on college evangelism and was distressed by the amount of misconceptions many Japanese students held about Christianity. He entered seminary upon his return to the U.S., determined to strengthen his faith and love the Lord with all of his mind.

In 2007, toward the end of his seminary education, Ray met a woman who shared a similar passion for ministry—especially for Japan.

Shelley, born and raised in a Christian family in California, completed a three-week homestay in her grandparent’s native country of Japan during the summer after her freshman year of college. She was dismayed by Christianity’s sparse presence when she couldn’t find a church one Sunday morning. The experience burdened Shelley to return and share the gospel with the people of Japan.

Ray and Shelley married in 2009. Two years later, elders of their church approached them about embarking in full-time ministry to Japan.

“We took it in a heartbeat,” Ray said. “Well, we prayed about it first of course.”

Their first few years in Japan consisted of language school. After getting more comfortable with the language, they both jumped into various roles, with Ray teaching at a local church and Shelley leading a single ladies group. Ray, along with three other seminary graduates, serves with the Japan Bible Academy, a traveling Bible institute for nationals to learn scripture.

Ray and Shelley’s newest project includes a church plant in Tokyo. They were recently stateside for ABWE prefield training but have since returned with their son, Masanobu, to continue their work in Japan.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Kwans’ ministry here.