This past summer Michael* served with me in Japan. He came from the UK for a month with OMF’s Serve Asia program. It was his first time in Japan and he spoke just a little Japanese—which he’d learned from an app on his phone.
Michael, who’s in his 30s, helped out with the student ministry that I’m involved with in Sendai City. Despite his limited language skills, he helped out in so many ways.
- He tagged along when I went to talk with students in a university cafeteria; just chatting and making contact with people.
- He came to the open house dinner and students’ Bible study that we have twice a month. He joined in and talked to students that came.
- He helped out with the 20-member English class that I teach at my church. Michael lead one of the small groups during the Bible time.
- He did some puppeteering with Muppet-like puppets.
- Also, whenever I asked him to pray for something—a Bible study or sermon I was preparing—he’d pray right away.
What did Michael leave behind?
He left behind one really encouraged missionary—me! Having Michael there to pray for me and encourage me in ministry was great.
Having the extra help for the English class, was a big benefit too. Also, now the students know that it is not just me that comes every time to chat with them; sometimes, someone else comes too.
I think he has left the students he spoke to with questions. Maybe they are thinking—So you have a friend, who came all the way from England, to help out for a month. Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Why would he be willing to do that?
Challenges he faced
Michael found it hard to talk with people he did not know. But during the month he was with me, he pushed himself and was courageous. I could see it got a little easier for him over time.
I encouraged Michael to engage with students at an open house dinner and student’s Bible study. He asked: “What happens if the conversation just stops?”
But I challenged Michael to talk to a student that I know wants to practise his English, “Talk to him; don’t be afraid to talk in English to him. Just ask him something like ‘How is school?’”
And Michael did just that. It spoke volumes to that student that Michael was willing to talk, to ask questions, and to engage with him. When they met again at a karaoke night, Michael reconnected with him.
Maybe I left him with questions too. We chatted about Japan and Japanese culture. But I also said to him: “I know you’re 30 years old, you’re working back in the UK. But think and pray about if God might be calling you to long-term missions in Japan.”
I think everyone involved in Michael’s Serve Asia experience—me, the students, and Michael himself—came away from that month encouraged and challenged in some way. I think that is what Serve Asia is all about!
What about you? Is this a challenge you’re willing to take up?
By Aaron, an OMF worker
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray for the students that Michael met, that they will seek after God.
- Pray for more Serve Asia workers who are willing to go outside their comfort zone.
- Pray about whether God is leading you to volunteer to come as a Serve Asia worker.