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A Reflection on Faith by Justin Mitchell

Ken and Bola Taylor, Filipino Americans, were living the dream of jazz musicians performing in nightclubs across Asia. But, God saved Bola through an invitation to a nearby church. Similar timing yet different circumstances, Ken professed faith in Jesus through the testimony of a friend. This all took place before God would join Ken and Bola in marriage soon after.

How would God repurpose these talented musicians for His purposes?

After marrying, God took them to California for a season of local church ministry and careers in business and physical therapy. All the while, God was putting the need of global missions on the Taylors’ hearts. They surrendered their lives to gospel ministry in Japan and arrived in Tokyo as WorldVenture missionaries in 1997. After language study and young family adjustments with three young children, the Taylors launched into ministry. Initially they were part of two church plants with area missionaries. But, a new fad came on the scene in Japan that intersected perfectly with the Taylors’ gifting – Black Gospel Music. Inspired by the famous 90’s movie, Sister Act, Ken reflects: “you have non-Christians who didn’t give a care about Jesus – wanting to sing just like the nuns in the movie. People wanted to experience singing in a gospel choir, and dance to the music with abandon…”

Gospel choirs began all throughout local churches in Japan. For two decades, black gospel ministry has provided new outreach opportunities for local Japanese churches. 80% of choir members are non-Christians yet are singing gospel lyrics at the top of their lungs – Gospel transformation. Amazing! Only God.

The Taylors hit their stride in ministry when suddenly God presented the Taylors a new calling – cancer. Bola was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February 2015. After many cancer treatments and hospital stays, it was revealed that Bola’s cancer was incurable. Bola graduated to glory in October 2015. During her 8-month cancer journey, Bola boldly documented through social media platforms her struggles that “peace that passes all understanding“. The timing was such that the Taylor kids were all in college or soon entering.

Where did that leave Ken?

Ken writes on September 20, 2016, to his supporters following Bola’s home-going and initial season of grieving:

“As I return to Japan as an empty nester, I am all the more convinced of God’s call to share the good news of Jesus Christ. 19 years on the field does not make it easier. Now is the time to dig deep and persevere by faith. After all, this is God’s work, and I can stand by His promise. (Hebrews 10:25-12:2). Please pray as I dig deeper in faith, in God’s presence, prayer, in His Word, in trust and dependence in the Lord, and in the mission, God has called me to Japan.”

Six years into our church planting work in Yokohama, Japan, we are inspired by Ken’s faith. The longer we live and serve amongst the second largest unreached people group in the world the harder it gets. We want to persevere like Ken and Bola to the end! The Taylors are heroes to me because of what God did through their surrendered hearts to Him. I pray the same for my family as we seek to see God’s Glory in Japan!

Much of the Taylors’ journey written above was taken from Bobby Caingles’, Sukiyaki, Gospel and Jazz: When God Calls Your Family to Japan and Cancer. No matter where you are in the world, in the cities or urban Japan or Europe, in suburban America, or even in the most remote parts of Africa or Southeast Asia, Caingles’ work will touch your heart and inspire your faith in Jesus. It is a moving account of Ken and Bola Taylor’s story. It covers their early years as professional jazz musicians and singers, their personal transformation in Jesus and their recent years of journeying through cancer, ministry highs and lows, and all with a focus on inspiring faith in God’s people.

The Taylors’ story, in many ways, is our story. 

  • Will we follow God no matter what?
  • Do we really believe that Jesus is our ultimate joy and treasure?

You won’t regret this powerful read.


Discussion Questions: 

On your social media or in the comments, share the link to this blog and an answer to one or both these questions. 

  • What are you most afraid God will ask you to do if you “leave your nets” and follow Him?
  • What verses in the Bible help you find the courage to serve the Lord in your community?

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Header Image by kimura2 from Pixabay

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