Tall and lanky, Captain Chris Marques greets you with a slight deferential bow. It’s second nature now since he’s served nearly eight years in Japan. “It will take a while to assimilate back,” he quipped. But he’s happy to be home again in the Central Territory and believes God’s timing is right, just as when he went to Japan in 2011.
He was there barely four weeks before a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the country. When most foreigners evacuated and friends and family begged him to come home, Chris fleetingly wondered if he should. But the needs were immense, and people were relying on him. As the only fluent English speaker, he was thrust into answering all inquiries and offers of assistance in English that poured into territorial headquarters. His coworkers didn’t doubt Chris’ presence was
God’s providence. For nearly a year disaster relief swallowed up his appointment in youth work, but eventually he got back to it—and found it quite challenging as well.
During his first three-year term, Chris was part of a department of two: himself and the territorial youth secretary. The workload was immense, but daunting as well was finding a way to reach youth with the love of Christ in a formal society with little free time. He also searched for a way to support young Salvationists in their faith. “In Japan young Christians can feel very alone,” said the captain, explaining only one half of one percent of the population is Christian.
Chris himself felt lonely at times, being a young, white Christian who didn’t fluently speak Japanese. He was perhaps most keenly aware of being “odd man out” on his daily commute when packed into the train like a sardine. (More than 8 million people take the subway each day in Tokyo!) “It has really given me empathy for minorities,” said Chris. “I’ve been in their shoes.”
He came to see relationships as a key to reaching people in Japan with the gospel. “There are not huge physical needs,” Chris explained. “But many people are hungry for authentic friendships and people who care.”
At the beginning of his second term when perhaps he needed support most, an Australian officer couple was appointed to the youth department, delightfully doubling the staff with English speakers! Chris spotted God’s provision. He also recognized how much God used English in his ministry. He often taught English at corps which offered classes to attract many Japanese who wouldn’t otherwise walk through their doors.
In 2016 Chris was given the additional appointment of assistant corps officer at the Suginami Corps where he especially enjoyed getting to know older adults and was encouraged by their faith, joy and peace.
“The very things we crave—grace, compassion and encouragement—are often what we need to give first,” said Chris. “It’s not as much about being plugged into devices as each other.”
Drawing on his experience and spiritual growth in Japan, his current ministry as assistant territorial youth secretary for the Central Territory is enriched.
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘going deeper’ in our relationships with each other and in God’s Word. ‘Thinking higher’—not only purer thoughts but thinking more of each other and giving encouragement. And ‘reaching wider,’ shattering walls and reaching more youth with the gospel,” said Chris. “If people know who they are and Whose they are, then they understand their value. And isn’t that the heart of youth work?”