It is everywhere in Japan. Huge, rather ugly constructions, with catchy English names. Pachinkos. The name comes from the sound that these game machines make, “pachin”, combined with the diminutive “ko”, which means child in Japanese. 

When I think of Pachinkos, bright shining lights, everything glimmering and glittering , with a cacophony of noises from blaring music and little pinballs, usually not rolling into the winning holes, come to mind. And of course people glued to their screens, hoping for that magical 3 matching images. Pachinko is a hybrid of pin ball and slot machines and the player basically only has to push a starting button and pull a lever. Actually, gambling is illegal in Japan, but Pachinkos have found a loophole somehow. You never receive any money directly. It is a system based on little balls exchanged for tokens, which in turn you can exchange for cash in a round-about way and at an off-premise site. But it is obviously still addictive.

On my early morning jog, as I “free” down a blessed hill, I notice again the conspicuous sign of yet another Pachinko in our nearby vicinity (within walking distance from our house there are quite a few pachinko parlors and nationwide there are more than 11 000!). This one is named The Chance. Big in neon red. The chance? To beat the odds and actually win some balls, to be exchanged for cash if you have the will power to stop? The chance? To escape from the daily mundane, to another world? Or to find release from a personal tragedy? After all, the famous American naturalist Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” And people have always tried to escape from some kind of desperation – whether it be a sudden tragedy, or from a slow lapse into meaninglessness.

You might wonder why Pachinkos are so popular in Japan? Why millions waste their time and money on something as mindless as this. These days, avoiding distractions and enhancing mindfulness have become buzz words in our Western culture, and we all probably know that we should try to limit distractions and choose to not waste our time and lives.  But at least, we might be comforting ourselves, while we stare at our little screens, we are not also wasting a lot of money (hopefully).   Well, actually we might be all holding little pachinkos in our hands. How many of us try to grab any opportunity (chance) that comes our way to forget, or to pacify ourselves, or to distract ourselves.  Or to think that if we can only attain THIS CHANCE, oh surely then, we will escape our desperation.

Forgive me, but while I was struggling up the hill back home, this crass Pachinko name started to change into something very positive for me. The Chance…to listen to the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit daily.  Especially, when we feel we are in a desert of desperation, where things we have treasured before have lost their attraction, and activities and our daily rhythms feel meaningless. Or we are in the dark grips of unexpected pain. The Bible and the history of the Early Church, and its church fathers, as well as the lives of Christians who have emulated the Christian life for us, have all told us the story of the desert.  We humans need deserts to sometimes really hear God’s voice. In the desert we realise yet again that we have been holding on to false gods, just like the Israelites.   Just like people who have never had a personal relationship with Jesus. The desert gives us a choice to turn back to God and the only Way of True Contentment. 

And when our friends and life mock us with, “So where is your God now?,” then we should grab onto the chance,  to listen attentively. When circumstances seem most desperate, or most unexpected, this is when the Holy Spirit can work powerfully in our lives and through our lives.

Makita sensei is 78 years old, still full time pastor, and travel monthly on a 6 hour train journey to the seminary here in Kobe to come and lecture. This month in the sermon Makita sensei gave, he said these following words, which I’m paraphrasing: “If you are sharing the gospel, you have a responsibility to be filled with joy. Your life should testify of the greatest Hope inside of you. And this joy should be here, in whatever circumstances you are.”

Isn’t this an amazing chance that have been given to us all? It doesn’t matter what age you are, 80 or 8, or what your circumstances are, Jesus Christ has given us this chance to commit our lives fully to Him with joy. I pray that I in the first place, but also you, our dearest supporter, will not let this chance go by when the Holy Spirit prods us today.

By Carina van der Watt

Carina presents the wordless book as means to evangelize (at RCJ Kita Kobe Sunday School)
Firework advertisement (read below in prayer requests)

Please pray with us for:

Our local church, Kita Kobe Church, although small and frail, are continuously trying to attract newcomers from the neighborhood. In July we will have a summer firework festival, with singing, Bible message, a Mexican Pinata (I will share photos if the pinata has not failed), as well as fireworks of course. Please pray that local children will attend this event. See Poster about the firework festival. 

We will also go to Sendai in the Tohoku region for our annual leave, where we will stay at a 133 year old facility in which missionaries from all over Japan have been going as an escape from the oppressive summer heat, but also to find encouragement and fellowship from fellow missionaries in Japan. Please pray that we will be able to encourage each other and to find renewed energy and fervor for Christ.

Please pray for the many churches in Japan who do not have pastors. And especially for the Reformed Church of Japan who are struggling with few members, limited resources, and few missionaries to help the pastors looking after their own flock as well as doing evangelization work. In the 1970s the Reformed Church of Japan professed that evangelization should be foundational in their daily life as church.


Dis orals in Japan. Groot, onooglike konstruksies met Engelse name wat lekker rol op die tong. Pachinko’s. “Pachin” is die klank wat die dobbelmasjiene maak en “ko” is ‘n verkleinwoord daarby.

Binne is dit helder verlig, glimmerend en blink, met ‘n oorverdowende gedruis van musiek en balletjies wat gewoonlik die wengaatjies mis. Mense staar emosieloos na skerms en hoop vir die betowerende 3-in-‘n-ry prentjies wat beteken: jy het gewen. Pachinko’s is ‘n kombinasie van pinball en ‘n slotmasjien waar die speler basies net ‘n knoppie hoef te druk om die spel te begin en dan trek hy/sy ‘n hefboom. Eintlik is dobbel onwettig in Japan, maar pachinko’s het ‘n paar skuiwergate gevind om die wette te omseil. Wenners ontvang nooit direk enige geld nie. Balletjies kan omgeruil word vir speel-munte, wat jy dan weer kan ruil vir kontant, by ‘n kantoor wat nie op dieselfde perseel is as die pachinko nie. En natuurlik is dit taamlik verslawend.

Nou die dag gaan draf ek vroegoggend en terwyl ek bult-af ‘free’, sien ek weer die opvallende advertensiebord van nog ‘n pachinko. Binne ‘n radius van enkele kilometers rondom ons buurt is daar ‘n hele klompie en – glo dit of nie – landwyd is daar meer as 11,000 pachinko’s! Hierdie een se naam is baie gepas: The Chance. Bloedrooi en lewensgroot. Die kans? Om moontlik ‘n handvol balletjies te wen, en dan om te ruil vir kontant, indien jy wel die wilskrag kan vind om te stop? Die kans om te onstap uit jou dag-tot-dag se gesloer? Of om afleiding te vind midde-in ‘n persoonlike tragedie? Die bekende digter-filosoof, Henry David Thoreau, het immers lankal reeds gesê, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Mense het nog altyd probeer ontsnap van een of ander desperaatheid, of dit nou ‘n skielike tragedie is, of die afsink in ‘n stadige spiraal vansinloosheid.

Miskien wonder jy: hoekom is Pachinko’s dan so gewild in Japan? Hoekom sal miljoene mense, nie net hulle geld nie, maar ook hul tyd absoluut vermors op iets so nutteloos. Deesdae is mindfulness, vermindering van afleidings en groter gefokusheiddie in-ding in die Weste. Meeste van ons weet (mos) dat ons eintlik nie so ongefokus behoort te lewe nie, en dat ons nie ons lewens en ons kosbare tyd moet vermors nie, nie waar nie? Terwyl ons na ons selfoonskerms bly staar, troos ons onsself daaarmee dat ons ten minste nie ook ons geld vermors nie (wel, hopenlik nie!). Kan ek dit waag om te sê dat ons dalk almal klein pachinko’s in ons handpalms koester? Hoeveel van ons gryp nie na enige moontlike kans om net te vergeet, of onsself te troos, of om ons aandag af te lei nie? Of, ons dink: as ek net hierdie goue geleentheid (kans) kan aangryp, sekerlik sal ek dan kan ontsnap uit my hopelose bestaan.

Vergewe my maar asseblief, maar terwyl ek die volgende opdraend terug huistoe blaas-blaas sukkelend uitworstel, verander hierdie geykte pachinko naam na iets baie mooi vir my. The Chance: om daagliks te luister na die Heilige Gees se stil fluistering in ons lewens. Juis miskien wanneer ons onsself in ‘n woestyn bevind, en dit wat voorheen so kosbaar vir ons was, nou so sonder waarde voel … en ons aktwiteite en dag-tot-dag ritmes leeg en vervelig. Of miskien is hierdie woestyn (vir jou)gevul met onverwagse pyn of hartseer.

Die Bybel, die vroeë kerkgeskiedenis, die kerkvaders, sowel as duisende Christene wie se lewens ons aanspreek, vertel ons almal van die woestyn. Ons, swak wankelrige mensies, het woestyne nodig om soms die Here se stem hard en duidelik te hoor. In die woestyn besef ons dat ons toe andermaal aan valse gode vasgeklou het – net soos die Israeliete. Eintlik, soos mense wat nog nooit ‘n persoonlike verhouding met Jesus gehad het nie. Die woestyn gee vir ons die opsie om terug te draai na God. Terug te draai na die engiste Weg na Ware Vervulling.

En wanneer jou vriende of die lewe jou uitkoggel, “So waar is jou God nou?,” juis dan is dit jou kans om fyn te luister. En die kans is volswanger. Want binne-in die omstandighede wat die onmoontlikse lyk, of in die mees onverwagse tye, werk die Heilige Gees kragtig in ons lewens, asook deur ons lewens.

Makita sensei, 78 jaar oud, werk nog voltyds as RCJ predikant, en reis gereeld 6 ure per trein na die kweekskool om hier te kom klasgee in Kobe. Nou die dag in ‘n preek sê hy: “As jy die boodskap verkondig, as jy getuig, kan jy dit nie anders doen as met vreugde nie. Jou lewe moet wys dat jy die GROOTSTE HOOP in jou het. Te midde van watter omstandighede ookal.”

Wat ‘n kans is nie aan ons almal gegee nie?! Dit maak nie saak of jy nou 80 of 8 is nie, of in watter omstandighede jy ookaljouself bevind nie, Jesus Christus bied jou hierdie kans om jou lewe volkome en radikaal aan hom te wy – met vreugde. Ek bid dat ek in die eerste plek, maar ook jy, liewe ondersteuner, nie hierdie kans sal laat verbygaan wanneer (nie ‘as’ nie) die Heilige Gees jou vandag saggies aanpor.

Lees hier wat Stéphan onlangs gedeel het in ‘n ander nuusflits.

Bid Asseblief saam:

Vir ons plaaslike kerk, RCJ Kita Kobe Gemeente , wat te midde van min lidmate en finansies, allerhande pogings aanwend om mense uit die buurt te nooi na die kerk. In Julie hou ons ‘n somer vuurwerke fees, met liedjies, ‘n boodskap uit die Bybel, en selfs ‘n Meksikaanse Pinata (ek sal verseker fotos deel as dit NIE ‘n mislukking is nie), en natuurlike vuurwerke. Bid asseblief dat die kinders van die buurt wel hierdie geleentheid sal bywoon. Sien asseblief die poster van die vuurwerkfees – als in Japannees natuurlik.

Ons gaan weereens na Sendai, in die Tohuku area – vir ons jaarlikse verlof – na ‘n 133 jaar oue plek van rus, vir sendelinge van regoor Japan. Sendelinge gaan soontoe, nie net om die oorweldigende tropiese hitte van die Japannese somer te onstanp nie, maar ook om bemoediging en geselskap by mede-sendelinge in Japan te vind. Bid asseblief dat ons ook hierdie geleentheid (20 Julie – 13 Augustus) ten volle sal benut om mekaar te bemoedig en om opnuut met energie en passie vir Christus te herlaai te word.

Bid asseblief vir die talle kerke in Japan sonder predikante. Veral die Reformed Church of Japan sukkel met min lidmate, beperkte bronne, en bitter min sendelinge wat die predikante kan help in die versorging van hul lidmate, asook evangelisasie. In die 1970’s reeds het die RCJ baie duidelik haar verbintenis tot evangelisasie verkondig as ‘n fondasie vir die kerk se daaglikse lewe.