Lessons from the training designation

After finishing full-time language and culture study, new OMF missionaries start their first ministry placement in a “training designation” where they serve and learn under a more senior worker or Japanese pastor. The learning curve can be steep. One new worker – we’ll call him Roger – found he had to rethink his approach to ministering in a Japanese context.

Roger realized he shouldn’t judge how the Japanese church does things, especially when their methods differed from his expectations. Instead he learned to ask, “Why do you do such and such?” —and to ask with the right humble attitude.

In their training designation, his family had to “re-invent the week”. By that he meant that he had to organise it: one day was rest, one day for mission stuff and the remaining five days split between the church plant and the mother church.

He and his wife were running a children’s club at a church centre. Soon they began to see the barriers and issues that caused people not to come to the club. For example, the church had to work around periods of holiday by handing out flyers a week earlier. And some parents wouldn’t let their kids attend because it was connected to a church.

Roger loves board games and joined a club. Eight friends from the club came to the autumn event at the church, and now the club meets for events in the church building. His aim is to show them that the church is not weird and to help them make a few connections with church people.

Along the way he experienced the frustration of forgetting words in Japanese and ended up comparing his language level to other people’s great Japanese. No doubt he never heard the mistakes they surely made! And his family struggled often when their one-year-old was not sleeping well.

Roger learned humility, some scheduling skills, and differences in local culture. He experienced barriers to sharing the Good News and made connections with people with a similar interest. Language was still challenging, and family affected everything.

Please pray for new workers, that they will indeed learn what it means to minister in a Japanese context, and for the Lord to use their struggles for his glory.

By Peter, an OMF Missionary

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