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A Handheld Bible School

When the Japanese Fire Bible was released it was an immediate game changer.

Mayumi lived for many years in Yokohama, Japan. She grew up within a Buddhist-Shinto community, firmly believing in many deities, spirits, ghosts, and apparitions, and in their influence on daily life.

But in the 1960s, Mayumi heard from a local pastor and some AG missionaries of a new concept — a Man named Jesus Christ, revealed in the Christian Bible as the Son of God and the only way to the one true God. The concepts of the Bible were hard to understand in current Japanese translations, yet Mayumi was hungry to learn more. The Holy Ghost was one idea that felt easier to grasp. After all, Mayumi had believed in many ghosts before. Yet none of them had been holy. The idea of a Holy Ghost intrigued her, particularly when she heard the mistaken translation “Clean Spook.”

Upon accepting Jesus as her Savior and being water baptized, Mayumi was given a Bible, which she began to read voraciously. It overwhelmed her, and she did not understand much of what she studied; but every year for the next 40 years, Mayumi persistently read her Bible from cover to cover.

In September 2016, Bible reading was forever changed for Mayumi and many more like her. After more than a decade in the making, the Japanese Fire Bible was released.

The Pentecostal study Bible was produced by a partnership between Life Publishers, AGWM’s multi-platform publisher, and New Life Ministries (NLM), a Japanese publishing company that serves the area’s small evangelical community.

Mayumi quickly obtained a copy of the Fire Bible. “As I read, I discovered explanations, word meanings, cultural information, maps, references, footnotes, and study features which had never entered my mind! I feel now that I am holding a Bible school in my hands!” she exclaims. “Oh, how rich I feel, after 40 years in God’s Word, to feel His Holy Spirit leading me along new pathways for my life. How precious is the Lord, and how valuable is His Word!”

Mayumi’s story is not unique. Now in its second year of release, the Japanese Fire Bible has ignited hungry hearts, spirits, and minds in ways previously impossible, and many enthusiastic readers are celebrating its completion.

“Amid revivals happening in many other countries, Japan remains known as a graveyard for missionaries,” says Chihaya Lucena, creative director at NLM. “I believe this Bible will help uncover spiritual eyes of Japanese believers and raise them up as strong soldiers of God. I hope the Fire Bible will cross denominational borders. And when the Rapture happens and we believers have all been taken, the Fire Bibles we leave behind may still be one of the books of light that can bring those left behind to true faith.”

Yoshiko Narafu, director of NLM’s missions department, agrees. “I believe the study notes and articles based on Pentecostal faith will open many Japanese Christians’ eyes, bring their faith to a higher level, and encourage them to renew their hearts for evangelism. I trust this Fire Bible will be a common tool for generations and among all denominations. Many people around the world are praying for revival in Japan, and I believe this Bible will be one of the elements to make it happen.”

Fifty copies of the Fire Bible were donated to Central Bible College (CBC) in Tokyo in response to the urgent need for trained Japanese ministers and laypersons.

CBC president Koichi Kitano rejoiced at the gift, saying, “This has been a long-awaited study Bible, especially among our students. Its contents will surely enrich their sermon preparation, hermeneutical skills, and personal devotions. Then, we expect the Spirit’s fire to ignite Japan!”

Only about 1 percent of Japan’s population are evangelical Christians. Toshikazu Iwaoka, NLM associate director, refers to the other 99 percent as “125 million searchers.” He shares the belief that the Fire Bible is critical to the redemption of those searchers.

“In the Fire Bible even ordinary people can find the treasures of God’s kingdom,” affirms Akei Ito, former general superintendent of the Japanese Assemblies of God and managing editor of the Japanese Fire Bible project.

Warren Flattery, a veteran AGWM missionary of 52 years who has served the past eight years with Life Publishers, and NLM director, Roald Lidal, believe the Fire Bible is a revolutionary turning point for the small Japanese Christian community as it faces many struggles. Lidal comments that there is a distinct need for a fiery passion for God’s Word to lay hold of Japanese hearts. Believers who feed on, understand, and act on Scripture will be empowered to passionately reach out to Japan’s lost.

“In Japan,” Flattery says, “the church is small, and resistance to it is very high. Yet there does seem to be a small opening to the gospel. And, just in time, the Fire Bible has come. What a tool it will be.”

Kristel Zelaya

Kristel Zelaya is a freelance writer and editor with global experience. She served as marketing manager for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions and as a writer and editor for Assemblies of God World Missions. These experiences have led her to numerous countries and cultures — far from beaten paths — on behalf of many who did not know how deeply their stories matter. Zelaya is also a licensed Assemblies of God minister.