We recently caught up with Erika Croft, who, with her husband, is an OMF Friend in the Tohoku region (northern Honshu). We asked her about their experiences of being foreigners in Japan.
My husband, Stephen, and I were able to come to Japan because he’s been employed as a JET teacher (the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program is a long-standing program that hires English teachers from around the world to teach in Japanese schools). I teach at an English conversation or language school, as well as some other local courses here and there, such as for young children, and teacher-training.
What it is like being a foreigner in Japan?
In recent years, it has been a more positive experience. I grew up in Japan as a “half-Japanese.” My dad is Japanese and my mom is American. Ten years ago, I heard more comments in public, saying “gaijin, gaijin!” [foreigner, foreigner]—mostly from children.
But now, living in Iwate Prefecture, which is comparatively rural compared to other places I’ve lived in Japan, my husband and I get to be the “gaijin celebrities,” because we naturally stand out. Because of this, we have been asked to perform at several music events, be interviewed for the radio and newspaper, and to join local festivals. We utilize these opportunities to point to the one and only God, by talking about our faith and church.
How and why did you become OMF Friends?
Soon after our arrival in Japan we became involved with the local OMF church in our city, Hanamaki Megumi Church. We already knew that we wanted to be committed to a church here in Japan, and shortly after starting to attend Hanamaki Megumi, we felt confident in our commitment to the church. We were invited to become OMF Friends by the local missionary team. This meant that we could join the regional meetings and be encouraged there in fellowship and prayer. Stephen and I also have partnerships with GLINTS (Global Intercultural Services), and JBF (Japan Baptist Fellowship, or World Venture worldwide). We are blessed with these networks that we can partner with, in supporting each other in our different roles.
What has it been like to be involved at Hanamaki Megumi Church as a foreigner?
Our involvement includes worship, teaching the children in Sunday School, and helping to lead an English Speakers’ Fellowship. This involvement is not very different from the Japanese believers, except for the English Speakers’ Fellowship. The English-based fellowship has been a great encouragement in our lives, it’s enabled us to have an intimate time of worship, devotion, and prayer in our heart language.
What are some joys?
An unexpected joy has been the open door of ministry to foreign workers. Because of the positions we are in, we naturally become friends with many of the surrounding English teachers. These friends are a mix of believers and non-believers. Among these friends, we have been able to initiate hubs for community, such as game nights at our house, and sharing meals together. Many non-believers have shown interest in the Bible, and we continue to pray and encourage their seeking. We have been able to encourage believers in their faith as well.
How can our readers be praying for you?
We have recently become registered as adoptive parents! We would ask for prayer for a placement with a child soon. In the meantime, we strive to be faithful in the waiting.
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray for more foreigners to come as English teachers who can minister to those around them.
- Pray for tentmakers in Japan: for wisdom in how they use their time and strength to do all God calls them to do.
- Pray that OMF would be able to forge good partnerships with tentmakers in Japan.