Before coming to Japan, my wife and I prayed that we could serve alongside Japanese Christians and learn from a Japanese pastor. After language school we were placed at a Japanese church under the supervision of the pastor and his wife. Soon we had teaching and other ministry opportunities, which helped us feel that we were participating in a meaningful way.
Once a week we met with the pastor and his wife to talk about ministry and pray together. This became a space to ask cultural questions, share our personal struggles, receive prayer, and talk about Gospel matters. They also shared openly with us and we prayed for them. As the months went by, we started doing things outside of church. We shopped together, barbecued, played golf, and enjoyed each other’s company. God provided wonderful mentors!
About three weeks after our son was born, my wife had to go to hospital in the middle of the night. Who could watch our newborn at midnight? I messaged the pastor, and immediately he and his wife came and took our son for the night. It was a solemn moment when I realized that I could trust them with taking care of my precious baby boy. They now refer to him as their grandson, even though they still way too young for that.
The relationship has also helped us grow in our usefulness in Japan. I got to preach the Sunday sermon about every other month. During this time, the pastor and I met for discussion and feedback. I really felt helped in sermon preparation and grew in ability to preach in Japanese, and to Japanese people.
Although missionaries come with the expectation to teach, there is also much that we can learn from many faithful Japanese Christians. In fact, we must learn humbly, without insisting that our way is correct. This is one way missionaries build trust with Japanese leaders.
Our relationship with the pastor, his wife, and the church, grew to the point where we returned there after Home Assignment, and we’re looking towards planting a church together. We are praying for many years of fruitful ministry together. Ultimately, building the kingdom of God is a community project.
By AJ, an OMF Missionary