About 20 years ago, I did a mission trip to a country in South East Asia. This was the start of my exploration of overseas mission work and the possibility I could be involved long term. On that trip I saw young Christians gathering in a church without a local pastor, studying the Bible, and praying together earnestly. After the trip that scene kept coming to my heart. In my home country, there are unlimited training resources, and well-equipped pastors and church leaders—a very different scene to the one I experienced on that mission trip. I prayed to God, “If it is your will to send me and to serve overseas, please allow me to stay in a country where I will not need to learn a language from scratch!”
God is humorous! Years later, I got married. My wife had studied Japanese at university and worked in Japanese companies for years. She also had a vision to serve overseas, but that country was Japan. These were not the terms I had told God!
Short term trips confirmed my calling
Before we got married, we applied to join a short-term mission trip to Japan. At that time (15 years ago), it was hard to join a short-term mission trip to Japan without some basic language ability (like me!) and at least two-week’s vacation. Yet nothing is impossible in God’s hands: my first two short-term mission trips in Japan did not impose that requirement. During my first trip, I distributed gospel CDs in a business centre during Christmas time, and this gave me the first taste of the urgency of mass evangelism in Japan. During my second mission trip I went to different local churches in Greater Tokyo area. I saw how they connected with the community through volunteer work and met a pastor who needed to supplement the family’s income through a part-time job.
The third mission trip that really drew us into applying for long-term missionary service was the trip to NakasatsunaiVillage in Tokachi, in eastern Hokkaido, where OMF and a local church were planting a church together. That mission trip was a seven-week summer placement with OMF during seminary. We stayed with a single missionary and helped in English classes, organized outreach events, and joined local community activities. The humble and faithful service of the missionary, the servanthood of the team, and their vision to plant churches and nurture families in rural areas stayed in my heart for a long time. I said to God, “If I can ‘survive’ these seven weeks, and if you provide me with opportunities to share your words and works, it is the sign that I need to step forward to respond to your love of Japanese people.” God answered my prayer.
God continued to lead us after we came to Japan
Three years later, as long-term missionaries, we started studying at the OMF Japanese Language and Culture Centre. Two years after that, we were sent to a small city in Hokkaido with a population of about 8,000 people. This was a church planted by OMF in the ’50s, but it had not had a local pastor for nearly 10 years. The scene of a church with a few Christians waiting for a shepherd’s nurture and his presence with them came to me again.
Now, we serve with a local pastor, who we met 10 years ago when he served in Tokachi. We’re planting a church together in northern Hokkaido. We did not know God’s plan at the very beginning, but surely he has put different pieces of the puzzles together form a beautiful picture. God is amazing!
By Ricky, an OMF missionary