“Would you be my friend?”
Bryan and I had only been in Japan a couple of weeks when I first met Sachiko* and her toddler daughter at a local park. I understood very little Japanese and spoke even less, so was thankful when Sachiko introduced herself simply in English, as she knew very little English at the time. “Hello, my name is Sachiko. Would you teach me English? And even if you cannot, would you be my friend?” So began our friendship.
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(Audio version of this article:)
By Jan Thompson
I did teach English to Sachiko, using a Bible study guide designed for teaching English. Over time, our conversations were spoken more and more in Japanese.
Through these Bible lessons, the Holy Spirit guided our conversations, providing opportunities to share the gospel with her. When I shared with her about the need for Christ in our lives to be Lord and Savior, she would tell me, “I have a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a nice home. My life is full, what more could I need?”
Our friendship continued to grow over the years while Bryan and I lived and served in Sapporo. One day Sachiko asked if she could attend the women’s Bible study group at the new church plant where we worked. She mentioned that even though she was still interested in studying English, she was now more interested in studying the Bible. I praised God for the working of the Holy Spirit in her life.
One day, as I finished facilitating the Bible lesson in the women’s small group, I asked the women how I could pray for each of them. Sachiko shyly asked for prayer for a situation in her life, and as a group, we prayed for her.
A couple of weeks later Sachiko excitedly called to tell me that God had answered our prayer for her, and to share with me that as a result she had prayed and asked Christ into her heart to be her Lord and Savior as she realized that He loved her and cared about her. Sachiko also mentioned that she wanted to be a member of God’s family and my forever sister-in-Christ, knowing that Bryan and I would soon be relocating to the Tokyo area.
Ten years after first meeting Sachiko at the park, she was baptized and I had the joy and privilege of praying over her in Japanese during the special baptism service. God, in His grace, brought Sachiko into my life at a time when I felt so useless in Japan.
I thought I had come to Japan to share the love of Christ with the Japanese, yet in those early years of language learning, I could understand so little, much less carry on a conversation. I learned that God uses us even when we don’t feel very useful. And I was reminded that God is doing so much more than we can ever imagine…in our lives as well as in the lives of others we meet.
If you feel God is calling you to get involved with East Asia missions, we can help you get started.
About the Author: Jan Thompson served in Japan with OMF International along with her husband, Bryan and their three children for over 20 years. Her ministry experiences included evangelism, discipleship, and women’s ministry. Since 2016 she serves at the OMF (U.S.) office providing member care to US-sent workers.
Beautiful testimony of how God works through His faithful servants. How did you learn Japanese?
All OMF missionaries spend the first couple of years in Japan studying Japanese language and culture at the OMF Japanese Language & Culture Center. The teachers are Japanese which helps students to learn proper pronunciation. After completing studies at the language center, most missionaries continue learning the language as they are able throughout their time in Japan in order to continue to improve.
such a lovely story! thanks for your faithful service, Jan. reminds me of so many of my experiences in Thailand!
It is so nice to hear from you Janet! We haven’t met in so long! How is your whole family? Loving greetings, Francoise
Such a good reminder that God can use us no matter what. Thanks for sharing this memory and message, Jan!
Janet, such a great testimony! Reminder for all of us that God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips those He calls! And you allowed God to work in HIS timing. You became her friend and she knew you cared for her. Beautiful.
Thanks for sharing this. I needed a reminder. I would appreciate prayer for a young girl I’m meeting with periodically. I’m not sure how to share the Gospel with her but this was a wonderful reminder that God is working through the relationship I’m building with her.
Jan asked us to post the following in response to recent comments which we’re happy to do!
God truly is gracious- He not only calls us to serve, but empowers and encourages us along the way!
So true, Lisa. We can be so thankful that God does equip us as He works in and through us.