Learning and Growing in Missions
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” – Romans 5:3
Ashley Boutte is an OMF missionary who entered the field in the Spring of 2022. Her time in northern Japan has been wonderfully exciting in many ways, but there are many challenges she has faced as she adjusts. Each challenge, though, has always presented an opportunity for her to move forward and grow closer to Christ.
(Listen to the audio version of this article:)
By Hannah Porter
In her early months of ministry, Ashley Boutte expressed, “I often feel quite useless in the time I’ve been here. I don’t feel like an adult anymore but an infant who doesn’t have a grasp on reality yet and is completely relying on the kindness and grace of others.”
We know that God does not call his believers to be useless. The beginning stages on the mission field may feel that way at first. There is a lot one’s mind needs to adjust to – language, culture, and a new community. The overwhelming amount of information the brain needs to process can leave anyone in a state of uncertainty and with a sense of inadequacy.
This immersion phase, however, is a time of refinement and development. It’s where the Lord prepares the hearts of his followers for a road less traveled, and it builds a foundation in their hearts and character to develop a life conformed to Christ and His work.
Facing Challenges with Love
“I prayed that God would give me the courage to talk to one person at church each Sunday.”
Boutte shared many joys of her new life in Japan: “There’s amazing food, places to enjoy a coffee as you chat with friends, and a great community of other OMF missionaries and locals who are welcoming and hospitable.”
But along with the sweet joys and beauty of her new community, the growing process can be difficult. Boutte shared that the hardest part of her adjustment has been learning the language, “Japanese is often described as being the opposite of English, and it doesn’t come naturally to me!”
The ability to communicate is so important, not only for ministry purposes, but also for daily life. Going to the store, reading road signs, and greeting a neighbor are daily occurrences that can become much harder when you lack understanding. When you can’t follow a conversation and its nuances, it’s hard to feel connected or part of a group. As a result, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the community.
Though frustrating at times, Boutte continues to push through in her language studies. She remarked, “It doesn’t matter how good my Japanese gets if I don’t have love.” Her Japanese may be limited, but her desire to show Christ to others is overflowing. As her mind expands in her knowledge of the Japanese language, Boutte focuses on reaching out to that one person each Sunday.
“I was amazed. I wasn’t talking to just one person, but several. People have just wanted to talk to me!”
In Ashley’s faithfulness, God has brought more than one person to her each week to talk to. These opportunities have opened ways for Boutte to become more involved in her community and have given her the much-needed space to practice her Japanese.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” – 1 John 3:1
In his mercy and great love, Christ walks with us. During trying situations, he blesses us with simple gifts that remind us of his care for us. Boutte’s days can be overwhelming and the Lord has revealed areas in her heart that need to be surrendered and nurtured in Him, but He has shown his provision and faithfulness throughout her journey.
One of Boutte’s earliest prayer requests was to find a non-OMF language partner with whom she could practice conversational Japanese and learn more about Japanese culture. She didn’t have to wait long. In less than two months, the Lord provided an opportunity for Ashely to join a kimono class with a very welcoming teacher.
In Boutte’s words, “I really like my sensei (teacher)! She has been so hospitable to me. I’m often invited to dinner and other outings with her and her husband outside of our classes. I’m very thankful for their willingness to open their home and time to me!”
The class not only filled Ashley’s need for language practice and cultural learning, but it also opened an opportunity for her to show and share Christ’s love with her teacher. The family members are not believers, but, in time, who knows how God will use Ashley to plant the seeds of Christ in their hearts.
Growing Rooted in Christ
“I’ve been able to learn about Jesus in ways I know I wouldn’t have in the States. If I’m not walking and depending on him daily, then I can’t do anything.”
Boutte has seen a lot of transition and change in her character in the past year. However, her reflections stated above show that her trust is in Christ. She knows whom her soul and heart need to stay rooted in for her life of ministry.
When God puts any of us, his followers, into a new role or place, there’s always an adjustment phase. There will be a lot of challenges in our lives. These challenges bring us to a place of understanding that we need Christ to fulfill our calling as a child of God.
When we are pulled out of our comfort zone and into uncomfortable situations, we become like children just learning to speak. As adults, we realize that we must walk with childlike faith trusting in Jesus. The more we feel out of the place, the more it’s a reminder that we need Jesus and that we need to keep our souls rooted in Him.
If you’d like to stay updated with Ashley’s ministry in Japan, you can visit her partner page for more information: https://partnerhub.omf.org/AB1.
About the Author: Hannah Porter was born in Nanchang, China, but grew up in Morrison, Colorado. She studied at Colorado Christian University and graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. The command of the Great Commission to go into the world and share the Gospel has always been a presence in Hannah’s life. She’s had the opportunity to spend multiple summers on short-term missions in the Philippines and Cambodia. Currently, she resides outside the United States with her husband. Together they volunteer with the ministry Josiah Venture at their local church in Eastern Europe. Because of Hannah’s experiences, East Asia still holds a place in her heart, and she enjoys using her free time to volunteer with OMF.