My husband and I came to Japan in early March 2020, just as the world was becoming concerned about COVID-19. On our flight there were only about 10 passengers and over 200 open seats! It’s been a strangely uncertain and challenging time to start living in a new country. And with our limited language ability, I’ve often felt stuck trying to figure out life under constantly changing COVID restrictions.
Recently, after more than a year and a half of intense classroom study, we had the opportunity to participate in two months of Practical Culture and Language or PCL training (affectionately nicknamed “pickle”). Each week of pickle involved one day of language school study, and the rest of the week, my husband and I visited churches, classes, shops, sports clubs, museums, and Bible studies. Even though I was a bit nervous, I was eager to spend my days outside the language school. What new things would I experience? What would God teach me about life and ministry? God, there so much I don’t know, but I’m excited . . . I’m ready to be trained!
Early on, I got the chance to visit a ladies’ Bible study led by a missionary friend at a nearby church. In advance I was given a book chapter about Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 1 & 2). In preparation I spent several hours trying to read the chapter with the help of my Japanese teacher.
That day several ladies attended, including a long-time church member and a seeker. We discussed how Hannah humbled herself and poured out her heart before God in trust, and how God responded graciously to her prayer. During the study, one Japanese sister also shared how significant it is that there is no need to pray at a shrine. We can pray anytime, anywhere to the one true God, our Creator, who was not made by human hands. What a powerful proclamation of who God is! I was moved and blessed by our sharing time. However, shortly after, it struck me that I had put a significant amount of effort into reading the material, but I had spent little time trying to understand and apply the spiritual lesson. Maybe I hadn’t been as ready as to learn as I had thought.
During those two months of pickle time, I faced a variety of interesting and often challenging situations. But perhaps, the most personally significant lesson was not about language or culture, but about the posture of my heart. Over and over, I felt God gently pointing out my pride, correcting my attitude, calling me to look to him because he is the one who will prepare me and train me (Heb. 13:20-21).
So even though I still have many questions and uncertainties about how to do life and ministry here in Japan as a new missionary, I am asking the Lord to teach me, trusting that he knows what I need and will prepare me.
By Jessica, an OMF missionary