In Season and Out:
Overcoming Barriers


August — the month of summer holidays in Japan — is normally full of festivals and travel. But this was not a typical August. Festival gatherings were canceled. Tokyo residents especially, who would normally travel to ancestral homes to visit relatives and family gravesites, were discouraged from doing so. Despite COVID challenges, however, Japanese worked hard to overcome barriers in order to maintain their long-held Buddhist traditions. For example, because the Japanese Obon holidays are for both the living and the dead, some entrepreneurs stepped forward and offered grave visitation services to bring prayers and offerings on behalf of distant family members unable to travel this year. An online video of their visitation service on behalf distant relatives helped to overcome the pandemic travel barrier.


Buckets for washing gravesites


I thought I had spotted another barrier on a recent walk with Dan. We were approaching the three-hundred-year-old neighborhood Shinto shrine when my gaze landed on the bamboo “X” appearing to block entry to the shrine. “COVID-related” was the first thought to cross my mind. Dan had me cast my vision a little higher to quickly dispel that notion. “Oh, the Japanese flags! I see. . . ,”  slapping my forehead with the palm of my hand. It was a Japanese national holiday at the beginning of the holiday season, and—because the Shinto religion with its Shinto customs is inextricably woven into the Japanese culture and identity—they would, of course, be flying the Japanese flag on this national holiday. For the Japanese woman walking in front of us, it came naturally for her to momentarily pause, turn, and bow in front of this shrine before continuing on her errand.



But the Shinto shrine itself, along with Buddhist temples and gravesites, is a barrier for the spread of the Christian Gospel in Japan. Why? Because the thought of giving up Japanese ancestral traditions, including the custom of worshipping or venerating the dead, is virtually equivalent to asking a Japanese to give up their “Japanese-ness,” a huge barrier to overcome, indeed. 
Besides the deeply embedded cultural and religious barriers that the Christian faith encounters in Asia, your LCMS missionaries are also facing new COVID-related barriers. Presently, access to project funds, including those for translation work that Dan is eager to coordinate, will not be available, if at all, until September at the very earliest. As for missionaries carrying out congregational responsibilities, just today I heard that South  Korea has once again banned public church worship services because of a surge in infections. We pray for
Pastor Carl Hanson serving a congregation in Seoul as he negotiates  this challenge.
Furthermore, we recently heard the sad news of nineteen positions eliminated at the LCMS International Center, three of which were in Missionary Support. We sorrow along with all those affected. It is only by God’s grace that, because LCMS missionaries rely on a network of partner churches and individuals like you who generously and specifically designate their support for our specific mission work, that no LCMS missionaries have had to leave the field. In the midst of numerous barriers, we continue to ask for your prayers, even as we continue to hold you in our prayers as well.


Thanks, Praise and Prayers

We would like to give special thanks this month to South Dakota, Minnesota North, and Minnesota South Districts for your support. 


We Praise God for:

  • God’s  blessings of His clear teaching as witnessed in our Catechism.
  • Concord in doctrine and practice as we work with various partner church bodies.


And ask prayers for: 

  • The continuing diligent work of St. Louis Executive Director Daniel McMiller and his staff in LCMS Missionary Support, and Asia Regional Director Charles Ferry.
  • Patience and strength for accomplishing long-term goals for Asia Lutheran resources.


With God’s love and grace,
Dan and Joan



Thank you for your prayers and support ~Joan and Dan Jastram


More than ever, the world needs the saving Word of Jesus Christ.  With your partnership we can continue this work. We encourage you to support, continue, or increase your financial support  online through our secure LCMS website:

As a congregation, you can also support us by adding us to your congregation’s mission budget as a Together in Mission partner. (Call 888-930-4438 for details.) 



 Tax-deductible gifts can also be mailed to:

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis, MO 63166-6861

Make checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod or LCMS. Include “Jastram–Asia” in the memo line.

Connect with us


Rev. Dr. Daniel Jastram





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