I came to Sapporo as a short-term missionary in 2013. For three months I looked after preschool-aged missionary kids while their parents, new to the mission field, studied Japanese. It was a short time, but also very intense.
As I’d trained as a kindergarten teacher I was worried about how the kids would deal with so many changes of carers – getting used to one person only to see this person leave again and a new person coming. I was impressed, though, with how well the kids coped and got used to me in this short period of time.
I realised how strong kids are. I think missionary kids are especially made strong by God—they not only survive, but often thrive in difficult situations. And their situation is, in fact, difficult.
I remember taking the kids to parks and playgrounds. Every time the Japanese kids would stare and their mums would say how cute these foreign kids look and touch their blond hair. I could see the missionary children react strongly against this and saw how hard it was for them to have strangers focusing on them so often. Of course each child is different, but I realised how much harder it is for kids in a foreign country where they already look so different that they are always going to stick out.
I also saw how challenging it was for their parents in language school. They needed to focus on language learning, but they knew their children needed to adjust to their new environment also. I was glad I could help in such a simple and practical way—by taking care of their kids.
I thought about how I could bless these families, and decided to create little diaries for each child—with pictures of them, or drawn by them; and entries of what we did in a day, what the kids learned, or anything I thought might be nice for the parents to know. In that way, their parents would get a glimpse into the daily life of their kids during the time they were studying.
I’m now back, four years later, as a long-term missionary. It’s been great to see all the kids again and how they’ve grown. I was surprised at how they still treasured this little diary. Though it was such a short time, I’m pleased it’s become a good memory for them. They’re great kids and I’m happy to see how they’ve made it through that tough time of adjusting to a new country and learning a new language. Compared to us grown-ups, they’ve picked up language and other cultural things so fast.
Even though in the beginning I did want to do more “real” mission work, not just babysitting, I’m grateful to have had this experience of helping missionary parents with their kids. It changed my view of mission and I value support ministries much more.
By Jessy, an OMF missionary.
Will you pray for Japan?
- Praise God for short term workers who help missionaries settle into Japan and learn the language and culture by helping to look after their children.
- Pray for children to cope well with all the often unwanted attention they may get as foreigners.
- Pray for more workers to come to help in these support ministries and be a positive impact on the lives of these children.