The Mission Field Is…

As I ponder over this question, I realise this question would have evoked different answers at different stages of my missionary journey. Currently, I am a missionary-returned-home for a season.

I have been back in Singapore for more than a year. It hasn’t been easy to transit back; I am still very much in the process. The reverse culture shock still goes on, and the comparing & grumbling about how things can be better hasn’t stopped.

To me, the mission field is like the family I got married to (not that I really understand that in its full essence!), and I am currently experiencing separation from her. Singapore is the family, the home I was born into. Everything (almost!) I know came from it. Japan, however, is like the family I chose to marry, the home I had to learn to know, set up and love.

It was through a long process of praying, waiting and consulting before the decision was made to go to Japan. Then there was the whole entourage of family, friends, co-workers, supporters who made it possible to actually step out. There in Japan, I had to learn not just a new language but also a different way to talk and communicate; I didn’t just learn about their perspectives and way of life, but also grew to understand and embrace them; I discovered and came to see beyond the externals & into the heart of the people, and also learnt to work and live together with them with joy and love.

But I also had to learn to give up what was important to me, sometimes my culture and identity as I live with her; I struggled with the sometimes incomprehensible idiosyncrasies and exasperated repeatedly over why things were as they were; I anguished over the not so lovable parts of hers and had to repeatedly make conscious decisions to love without expecting change or returns; I even had to learn how to be loved by them.

Through all that, I learnt the Lord’s great love for Japan and her people. I saw, if only a tiny little sliver of it, the pain He sees when so many suffer through the many disasters every year; so many suffer the pain of loneliness and living without hope; so many seeking for meaningful relationships; so many living lives turned away from Him. I felt the pain He feels when churches are hurting, not united, and when so few answer the call to serve Him.

But I also felt the joy He must feel when one person turns to Him, acknowledging Him as their Creator, Father, Saviour and Lord. The joy when He sees how faithful His servants, how resilient His Church; the joy when young people rise to express their hopes & dreams for the church; when broken lives are transformed and redeemed by the Gospel; when foreign missionaries and Japanese churches put aside differences to love one another and work together; and when endless streams of prayers for Japan are offered by people both in and outside Japan.  I could go on. 

So, what does the mission field mean to me?  It is a piece of God’s heart that I have been privileged enough to be given a glimpse of, and that is now a piece of my heart too.

This story first appeared in Go Asia, May-July 2024.

Written by CH, former missionary to Japan

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