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ព័ត៌មាននិងរឿងផ្សេងៗ

How Spending Christmas in Japan Changed My View of Missions: A Photo Journey

 

13 December

It’s peaceful but cold and almost removed – completely opposite to the interior bathed in a yellow glow and buzzing with warmth and love.

 

14 December

Café Iris in Itayanagi, conveniently located adjacent to the Chapel. Named after the mythological Greek god of the rainbow, the symbol of hope and promises kept, this quaint, cozy café is attached to Lighthouse Books, the only Christian bookstore in the prefecture. Both stand resilient and full of hope, just like its amazing owner.

 

16 December

This annual event serves as an outreach to the women and children of the community – a great opportunity to connect them to the church and portray Christian love. There’s something about home-made food that makes it more special to give and to receive.

 

16 December

Wonderful musical performances, followed by a short talk on the significance of Christmas. A great opportunity for the non-Christian performers and members of the community to hear the good news preached. Of course, the night ended with home-made goodies!

 

17 December

I love this group photo, taken after our first English church service. Short-term and long-term OMF workers; all here together because God has placed each one of us here, together. With so many ethnic backgrounds among us, it was a small but lovely snippet of God’s people praising Him from all nations.

I thank the Lord for the privilege of being a part of their lives and for their part in mine, albeit seeing them for a short time only. I take comfort in knowing that we will see each other again – if not on earth, then in heaven!

 

18 December

Serve Asia short-term workers walking home from dinner together on one of our days off. In between the intense blocks of ministry, we had opportunities to rest and to enjoy what Hirosaki offered – in this case it was Hirosaki Castle, shopping and sushi train! Moreover, by being immersed in typical daily life in Japan, we were able to better understand the customs, culture and general attitudes that flow into church life. Praise God that some outings and even grocery runs have allowed for gospel-related conversations!

 

19 December

On our last visit to a kindergarten for English class, we told the story of the angel appearing to the shepherds through a ‘kamishibai’ (storytelling using picture scrolls). I praise God that the students were attentive, and pray that this story – and indeed, all Christmas stories – will leave a deep impression on their hearts, that they might investigate further as they grow older and come to accept it as truth.

 

22 December

One of the ministries run by some members of Hirosaki Nozomi Church is the English Café for high-schoolers and university students. I quite enjoyed this ministry because the attendees were my age, and English was spoken as much as possible; but more importantly, the discussions generally revolved around mature matters and prompted conversations about Jesus and the Christian faith.

It has also led to many meaningful friendships between the missionaries and the attendees. During this Christmas party, two missionaries explained the meaning behind the nativity story and the songs Joy to the World and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Praise God that the students responded with interest and joy at their new understanding!

 

24 December

Just before Christmas, two major events were held in Hirosaki and Itayanagi respectively. Many were invited through English classes and the English Café. There was a lot of carol singing, the sermon was received well and many were touched by it, the children’s performances were adorable, and the food was delicious as always!

Best of all, many of us had several meaningful conversations with non-believers that we pray will be stepping stones to further investigation of the gospel truth. It seemed like these events were the culmination of all the cooking, baking and relationship-building that took place over the two weeks that I was there. I loved seeing the fruit of everyone’s labour, and look forward to seeing what mighty works God has in store for all.

 

After Returning Home

I’m thankful for the long uni break (3 months!), during which I can enjoy plenty of rest and reflection. The turn of the new year was a time to look back on 2017 and praise God for His grace and mighty acts. After that I took part in a local mission run by my church annually.

It was a very different experience of mission compared to my time in Japan, but it was exciting to be able to continue God’s work in different ways. Now, with the school term resuming, preparations are underway for another year of various church and university ministries, and for university itself.

Processing the Trip to Japan

Having returned home before the new year, I consciously spent the last four days winding down without the company of others. Part of this was to settle back into my own slower pace, to prepare for my church mission, and to catch up on housework!

Within this period I also completed my recounting and journaling for the trip, and spent time in deep reflection of what I learnt about myself and about mission in Japan.

As someone who needs time to formulate a cohesive response, I drafted various lengths of possible responses to the anticipated question of “how was your trip?” to prepare for conversations occurring in different contexts. This was especially helpful for carefully recounting my mission experience while being sensitive of others’ situations and experiences.

 

How the Trip Changed My View of God’s Mission

While I have long been convicted to partake in long-term mission work in Japan after I graduate from university, I feel that through this trip, God gave me a nod and a gentle push to pursue this goal with more intentionality and assurance. As my coordinator said, Japan has such a big influence on the world that if it was to become a Christian nation, the impact would be huge and amazing things could happen. I share that vision and I yearn to be a part of it!

By talking with other missionaries, I developed a broader sense of what mission life entails. On one hand, I discovered many practical and personal needs that I hadn’t previously considered, which I will need to explore further before acting.

On the other hand, I learned that mission isn’t as complicated as it may appear. The fact that simple, everyday tasks can become ‘mission’ was quite liberating, from sharing Bible stories at the end of English classes to door-knocking with cookies and a conversation.

It has also shifted my attitude when conversing with others to be more purposeful and meaningful. I try to remind myself that “there is nothing to lose, but everything to gain” by boldly, thoughtfully and appropriately questioning and responding in ways that point towards Jesus.

These attitudes and practices are relevant regardless of the country I’m in. However, God has placed Japan on my heart and I believe He will continue to lead and equip me to serve in that country. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing how these plans will align with my career and relationships.

 

How the Trip Changed Me

  1. I learned firsthand about God’s grace and sovereignty – about how all situations are for our good and for His glory. He is a powerful God with great plans that we may not understand, yet still take part in. The fact that He chooses to use us, in our weaknesses, to fulfil His purposes is inconceivable.
  2. This trip opened my eyes to the desperate need for a knowledge of Jesus in Japan. It’s one thing to read the statistics about Christianity in Japan, but another to live among the people and sense their longing for the hope and fulfillment that only Christ can satisfy. In that vein, it also taught me much about what prayer is, how to pray, and the power of prayer.
  3. One phrase that has really stuck with me is when the pastor said, “most people think that the Japanese are hard and resistant to the gospel. But actually, the opposite is true. Japanese people are extremely open to hearing about it… They’re just slow to change.” Believing this to be true from experience, with faith I now hold on to a vision of Japan becoming a Christian nation.
  4. My experiences also taught me relational approaches and attitudes (such as flexibility, boldness and trust) that I hope to apply in my various ministries and evangelism opportunities back home.

 

Will you pray?

  • Myself: for continued boldness and growth in my evangelism; for God to reveal His plans for my life as a missionary; for my stories and experiences of this trip to touch the hearts of others, that Christians might consider how they can be serving and spreading the Word, and that non-Christians might respond to the gospel.
  • Japan: that God would work mightily to reveal His glory and riches in that country; that the Japanese would overcome any cultural barriers and seek the satisfaction they crave by turning to the cross; that the Christians there would be encouraged and strengthened to proclaim the truth with courage and zeal.
  • Christians: that we would all share in the deep desire to see Japan, and indeed all nations, grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus; that we would boldly take large steps to reach out to many, that they might call on the Lord Jesus and be saved.

Thank you for partnering with me in prayer.

May all be for His glory and for

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