Mei Yan (Kennis) Lam is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving as youth minister of the Okamoto Church in Kobe City, Japan. She was commissioned in October 2013. The appointment is in partnership with the Methodist Church of Hong Kong.
This mission placement seeks to address the need for a focus on ministries to reach young people in Japan, where the Christian one percent of the population is aging. Okamoto Church is an 80-year-old congregation of the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan), a good base for this initiative. It runs a kindergarten and is close to many high schools. The Kyodan is a denomination with an ecumenical background, including the Methodist tradition.
Kennis is from Hong Kong, where she is a member of the Epworth Village Methodist Church. She holds a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy degree from the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong (2002) and a Master of Divinity degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2010). She has worked at the Macau, Shatin, and Epworth Village Methodist churches in Hong Kong.
“I am a third-generation Christian in my family,” Kennis says. “I always went to church with my parents as a child. When I became a junior high school student, my eldest sister left the church. I started to understand it was not my parents taking me to church that mattered, because I am the one who decided to participate. I confirmed my faith in Jesus, who was no longer a second-hand experience from my parents.”
Kennis worked with junior highs in her church during her college years. “I was encouraged to see transformation in the lives of young people who could connect with Jesus. It made me decide to serve as a full-time church worker with young people.”
In 2005, she took part in two mission trips, to Cambodia and Japan, and found the cultures very different. “Cambodians were happy and willing to accept Jesus. Conversely, Japanese looked worried and under stress on the street. They were reserved in talking about religion. I found hardly any young people in Japanese churches. I could imagine that it would be very difficult for teenagers to stay in church and grow in faith. It made me worry about the future of Japanese churches.” She is now working to address that situation.
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