The following is an interview that I conducted by e-mail with Anna, one of our soon-to-be-returning ESL teachers in Japan. If this sparks something in you, why not contact our office? Maybe you could join our ESL teachers in Japan.
How long have you felt the nudge to get involved with international outreach?
Outreach has always been to the ones around me. It wasn’t until I actually got to Japan that I realized the importance of sending missionaries across the world so God’s Word could be heard by all. After living in Japan and encountering my students here, it really hit me that some people are really hearing the Gospel for the first time and that they know nothing about Christianity!
What drew you to this opportunity in Japan?
Ever since I was 6 years old, I knew I wanted to teach; and I knew that I wanted to go back to Japan. Being born in Himejj, Japan, I’ve always had an interest in this country and the desire to return. However, as I was finishing University, I had some reservations about this goal; I was scared that it was my own desire to do this and not something God wanted. However, when I heard about this opportunity to serve God in Japan and doing what I love to do, I prayed for confirmation. Time after time, in my devotions, the theme of not being afraid but walking in faith jumped at me. So you can say that this direction to Japan began a long time ago.
What did you find it hardest to adjust to?
The language barrier was very difficult for me. At times I felt really out of place because everyone at the table would be speaking Japanese and having a good time, but I wouldn’t understand a thing. However, God provided me with an amazing housemate in February, and she really helped me in the area of fellowship.
What’s something you wouldn’t tell your mother about while you were there?
I actually tell her everything. Being apart for so long increased our conversational topics! I guess at first I didn’t want to let her know how much I missed home, knowing that it would only worry her. But the homesickness only lasted for a couple of weeks before I began to adjust to life here.
What part of this process took the biggest leap of faith for you?
Asking for my parents’ blessing to come to Japan to serve. My parents are non-believers, and it was only recently that my mother came to accept that I was a Christian. I was afraid that she would not want me to go, especially if it involved serving God. But, in fact, she was more relieved to know that I was coming under the church and knowing that there was an organization taking care of me.
How did you see God moving in your own life while you were there?
God showed me more than I could possibly imagine! Having left my comfort zone, my home in Toronto, I was very alone in this foreign country. I’m thankful for this solitary experience, because I’ve learned to depend on Him more and more each day. Recognizing my inadequacies in teaching and sharing the Good News effectively, I could not help but pray for wisdom and strength, and for the Spirit to guide me. He allowed me to see how hungry this country, and the whole this world, is. Seeing that there is less than 1% of Christians in Japan, there is urgency and reflection on my part as a follower of Christ to do more and carry out the mandate of making disciples of all nations.
How did you see God moving among the people you were working with?
There is a particular gentleman who told me that he was very thankful and at peace every time he heard the bible message! With this ministry, many people are hearing the Gospel for the very first time, and I’m glad that they do have the chance to hear it.
If I was heading out in a similar ministry, what advice would you give me?
Enjoy sharing your life as well as the Good News with the people around you. I had such a wonderful time teaching English and building relationships. Relationship-building is key. It’s a big step for the people to be stepping into the church for the very first time (to learn English), so the impression we give them is important. Learning the language wouldn’t be a bad idea, either! It would be good to be able to communicate with them even if it’s in broken Japanese/English—it actually makes it more fun to laugh at our mistakes and to make the effort to understand each other.
Would you do something like this again?
I would definitely do something like this again. Global missions is in my heart, the rest is in God’s hand.
What’s the next step for you?
I’m starting teacher’s college at the University of Toronto in September 2007. Upon graduation, I’m hoping to work with under-privileged children or in inner-city schools.