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.

This update comes from Dale and Ann in Japan. This concerns their ESL teaching efforts in the country.

“The Tomioka community center shut down our classes in February 2007. We had made it clear in all our advertisements that we were connected with a Christian church and that we therefore have a ten minute Bible time at the end of each ninety minute class. The community centre knew about this from the time we began our classes and for almost two years had no problem giving us permission to use the facility. However, the reason given for denying use of the facility in February 2007 was that we were engaging in religious activities. Until we find a facility to use, Ann and Michiko Matsumura (pastor’s wife of Kodama church) hope to have monthly reunions with the English class ladies.”

It raises questions about why this happened at this point in time, and where they will proceed from here. We are hoping that relationships continue strongly, and that the program will resume very soon. This is such an effective way to share in Japan, as it breaks down barriers and addresses a pressing need in the country. Could you join us in praying for wisdom and provision?

These days, Christians put a lot of emphasis on the benefits and blessings of salvation, and very little about what they are actually saved from. I was reminded of that by Larry, who is currently working with us in Thailand.

There is a lot of misery that has been brought to us by what he calls “Hell’s Travel Agents”. They rattle off the attractive sales pitch, and hand out the glossy brochures, but what they’re advertising — alluring as it is — is Death. Our challenge is to show that reality, and to offer the choice for Life. And Larry’s new perspective is that that truth needs to be taken specifically to those travel agents, those who are actively ensnaring others in pain and suffering (you don’t have to look too far in Thailand), and show them that there’s a another way.

This new perspective entails a special boldness. Larry is asking for prayer in this. Pray for God-given opportunities to talk to new people, for the courage to stand up as a light in the dark, and for miracles in the hardest people’s hearts.

Larry and Diane in Thailand are earnestly praying for more workers to be raised up within the country, and for there to be a spiritual reawakening there. Oppression is so evident, with many people worshiping false gods and focusing on misplaced priorities. But there is some hope too.

Through on-campus ministries, some are finding hope in Jesus Christ. What better time is there than when youth are making such critical life decisions, and are in a place to be asking such deep questions! Larry requests prayer for more opportunities for conversations to develop with students, and for ways that the Lord would clearly reveal himself to them. There are also some that are expressing a desire to learn more about God and His word, perhaps even at a Bible College. Pray for the Lord’s wisdom, guidance and provision for those potential leaders for the Thai church.

Join us in praying that the Lord would continue to use this couple to make a lasting impact in lives in Thailand, and that their heartfelt yearning for a real revival would be realised!