I had a clear sense of assurance of my church’s support when I left for Japan. Still, I knew that the support was mainly through personal relationships I had with members of the church; rather than from a clear vision that mission is a part of the call of the church. So, one of my prayers when I left for Japan was that this would not be just a journey of faith and growth for me, but for my sending church too.
The body of Christ
God calls his church to be involved in global mission. I believe that God has not called me as an individual, he’s called the church of which I am a part of. What I’m doing in Japan is a part of the role God wants my sending church to play in the work of his kingdom. After all, if the church is one body, then a small finger is not chopped off when one member serves as a missionary in a foreign country. God calls the whole arm to stretch out so that the finger can reach Japan.
Recently, I had the joy of receiving the first short term team from my sending church. I have received short-term workers in the past. I’ve enjoyed them and are very thankful for their service. But it was a special joy to have a team from my own sending church, a church that I have grown to love and still feel very much a part of, despite working in Japan these last few years.
After eight years in Japan, I am now beginning to feel more at ease living and serving in Japan. I’m more functional in the language; I understand the culture, the church, the people better; and have a clearer sense of how I can serve and reach out. I have also seen God working in my own life—teaching me humility and patience, and showing me what it means to love and walk alongside the church in Japan. It has been a long journey, but it has begun to show early signs of bearing fruit.
I can also see growth in my sending church: our understanding of mission and the role we can play in Japan have become clearer. Through supporting me, the church has grown to see God’s heart for Japan. I pray that this wider understanding of the kingdom of God will bring about a greater commitment and passion for the work we are doing. Not just in Japan but at home too.
The necessary long haul
To “reap the rewards”, sending churches need to stay the long haul with the workers they support. Jesus often speaks of the work of the kingdom in agricultural terms. I believe this is not only because the society was agricultural then, but because the work of the kingdom is like farming. It often involves long periods of sowing and tending the crops, and a short, urgent period of harvest.