Out of all the changes that come with becoming a missionary in Japan, this one hits me hardest: frequently feeling humiliated. The things I used to do well are now much more difficult because they are in a language that I’m not completely comfortable with.
After about eight months in Japan, I attended a Bible study. The lesson was from Habakkuk. After everyone had a turn to speak, the group turned to me and asked what I thought. I was completely lost for words. I didn’t know what to say at all! I was so embarrassed. Back home I led multiple Bible studies effectively every week, and now I couldn’t even make a single meaningful comment.
Some months later, I preached my first sermon in Japanese. I was quite nervous, and halfway through I forgot how to read one of the kanji characters in my notes. I had to stop in the middle of the sermon, step off the stage, and ask someone how to read it. I felt so mortified.
Expecting to go through times when you feel humiliated or ashamed will help you be better prepared to come to Japan. Unless you are cape-wearing missionary with superpowers, you will make mistakes, you will feel incapable, and you will be humbled. But that’s okay. It’s part of the adventure. And over time you learn to accept it and carry on regardless.
One of the benefits of being humbled is a deeper trust in God to use you and bless your gospel endeavours. Whenever I preach in Japanese, I lay out the pages on my bed and pray over each one. I feel an intense need for God to work because I am well aware of my limitations. I’ve never done this with my English sermons. What changed? Simply put, I was humbled. I am grateful for learning to depend on God so much more than I did before.
The theologian Augustine once said “If you ask me what the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ is, I shall reply: first humility, second humility, and third, humility.”
What you can expect when you come to Japan? Expect God to humble you. How you can prepare to come to Japan? Throw away any selfish ambition and clothe yourself with humility. After all, salvation belongs to the Lord and not to us.
by AJ, an OMF Missionary