A Missionary Testimony from Shizuoka, Japan
My name is Faith, I’m twenty-four and I’m currently in Japan. I’d like to share a little of how God brought me to this place in life. I truly hope it can be an encouragement to you in your journey!
I grew up wanting to go to Japan as a missionary. I became a Christian at a young age and several years later heard God tell me very clearly that He wanted me to share the gospel with Japanese people. I hesitate to even say that I, “heard God,” it’s not something that happens to me often and it wasn’t audible. In fact, I think it’s important to note that Christians can easily say they, “heard God’s voice,” as an excuse to do all kinds of things that may actually go against His word. For me, I knew it was God because what He told me didn’t go against His word and I knew it didn’t come from my own head! Being a missionary was something I never wanted to be, it was totally God’s idea. When He spoke, He spoke in my heart, not my ears, and I knew without a doubt that it was His plan for me to share His love and truth with this people group.
Going to Japan as a missionary truly became my identity overnight. I thought that God would be paving the way for me to fly to Japan as soon as possible! I was only around ten years old, but I assumed I would be heading there right after high school. I was wrong. More than truly caring about the salvation of the Japanese, I just wanted to go on an adventure. God had to teach me a lot over the years and by His grace, He has helped me grow and change through all my self-righteousness, my judgmental attitude, my depression and my fear. He has changed me in a lot of good ways and is still doing so in many more ways.
Flying to Japan definitely did not immediately follow finishing high school. I spent several years of being discontent and wondering why I was still in Ohio. Finally, I woke up one day and realized that I didn’t need to ever go to Japan. God had already led me to teach an ESL class to Japanese women in which I was sharing the gospel and teaching God’s truths every week. I finally admitted to myself that I needed to find my identity in God and stop stressing over my idea of what His plans were for me. I gave it up. I decided that I might never go to Japan and surprisingly enough I was completely fine with that. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt such peace and contentment like never before!
I happily purposed to do what I could to be involved in ministry to Japanese in America. I went to a Japanese church as often as I could, started discipling a Japanese lady, took an online course about Japanese ministry and attended a conference for ministry to Japanese. All these great opportunities practically kept falling in my lap and I felt so full. It was wonderful to be part of reaching the Japanese in even the smallest ways. Then, out of the blue, God really surprised me! Through Facebook, of all places, I came in contact with an American missionary family in Japan. The wife was looking for American teachers for their international Christian school. I highly doubted they would want me as a teacher, but I was wrong. I cried the morning I got the email with the final word saying that I was accepted to teach at their school. I cried at my foolishness and all my impatience. God knew and had planned all along for me to go to Japan. The truth is, though, that it had become more important to me than Him, so He waited until I gave it up and put Him first. I hadn’t trusted Him fully. I am so thankful that He was faithful through all my unfaithfulness.
There are many, many, more details that I could write about in how it all came together. It was so evidently God orchestrating it. As crazy as it still seems to me, my sister and my cousin also came to teach at the school! I am so thankful for them being here with me, they’ve made it feel like home! We’ve been here for three months now and I’m loving it! However, I love it for reasons that one may not immediately guess. It’s not the Japanese culture, beautiful scenery, cuisine or rich history. Although I enjoy all those things, the truth is, I also enjoy my own country in all those ways as well. The real reason that I love Japan so much is because of the people I’ve met here and the many opportunities I’ve had to share the good news of Jesus with them.
I had heard that Japan was one of the most difficult places for Christian missionaries to live because it can be an extremely discouraging place. Not many people come to faith in Christ and it usually takes a long time of sharing the gospel again and again before someone finally decides to do so. Knowing this beforehand, I’ve been very surprised in my three short months here. Although I haven’t seen multitudes of people come to Jesus, I have witnessed God working mightily in many lives! I’ve loved the chances I’ve had to share about Jesus. I am truly humbled that God would choose to use me, through all my weakness and failures, to speak on His behalf and work alongside His sons and daughters here.
My stay here is temporary and I’ve no idea what the future holds, but I know that God does and that’s all that matters. If nothing else, I hope that in my sharing this, I can encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t make the mistake I made for so long in pursuing whatever your idea of what God’s plan may be. God has you where you currently are for a reason and He wants you to be His missionary right there! Ultimately, He wants you to find your contentment in Him alone and if you stay close to Him and wait, He will make it clear when it is time to move!
Top 15 Differences between Ohio & Shizuoka, Japan
Just for fun, I want to share some very random things that surprised me about Japan! It may be a good heads up for anyone traveling to Japan for the first time! :). Please keep in mind, however, that I’ve only experienced a small part of Shizuoka prefecture, so I’m not sure my observations can count for the whole of Japan. Here goes!
- Paper towels and soap. Public bathrooms rarely have paper towels to dry your hands with. I found out that most people carry their own small hand towel with them! On top of that, some bathrooms don’t have soap…. no idea why. Very strange coming from America where there’s always plenty of paper towels and soap. Although I finally bought myself a Minnie Mouse hand towel at the 100 yen store, I’m not in the habit of carrying it with me and I usually resort to wiping my hands on my clothes.
- Menus. Most restaurants I’ve been to only provide one or two menus for the whole table to share. Works fine for me since I can’t read it anyways.
- Tips. A great thing about eating out in Japan is that they don’t do tips here! No one ever tips in Japan.
- Smoking. It’s completely normal for people to smoke inside restaurants. It’s been against the law in Ohio for many years now, so it was a surprise the first time I saw it here.
- Double dipping. It doesn’t really seem to be a concern here. If you’re family or friends especially, but sometimes even people who aren’t close friends double dip and don’t seem to mind. Haha.
- Public trash cans. These are indeed hard to find! Whenever I do see a public trash can it’s not for your everyday trash, but for specific recyclables, such as plastic bottles or cans. The crazy thing is though that I rarely see litter on the ground. When Japanese have trash to throw away they literally carry it home with them and throw it away there!
- Trash in general. While I’m on the subject of trash let me tell you, getting rid of it is quite different from America! You have to separate it into very specific types: clear plastics, plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminum and steel, cardboard and paper, etc. There are very specific rules for each category like you can’t recycle the bottle caps with the bottles or the steel can lids with the cans and the cardboard has to be laid out as flat as possible and tied with paper string. For each of these, there is a specific day that you can take it to the trash cage down the road. For some, such as cardboard, there’s only one day a month you can take it! Better not miss it because it really piles up when you do. Beyond the recyclables, they call everything else, “burnable garbage,” which has to be put in special trash bags that are from the city and you buy at the grocery store. These bags are clear and if you put something in them that isn’t actually “burnable” then they won’t take it.
- Candles. They are hard to find! We’ve seen them at the 100 yen store, but they are super small and don’t last long. They aren’t readily available in all shapes, sizes, and scents like they are in the States.
- Barbershops and hair salons. They are EVERYWHERE!! I’m really not sure how they all stay in business. People around here really must like getting their hair cut.
- Envelopes. Guess what… they aren’t pre-glued! I literally use a glue stick when I send a letter.
- Gambling. I came out of the store one day to find a long line of people waiting to buy lottery tickets. It was even cold outside, but they didn’t seem to mind. It was a little strange to me, not that people in America don’t buy lottery tickets a lot, they do, but I’d never seen people lined up to buy them. From what I’ve heard lottery tickets and gambling are really big here. There are a few huge gambling places full of slot machines close to us.
- Ambulance. A little while back an ambulance came into the neighborhood to go to a nearby apartment building. We were coming home from the store and walked by without thinking much of it, but many people immediately came out of their houses and went to see what was going on. I asked our host family what the big deal was and they said that it’s super rare for an ambulance to come into their neighborhood.
- Phone cameras. There’s no sneaking a picture on your Japanese smartphone! It’s actually the law to have the camera shutter sound on and Japanese phones don’t allow you to turn it off. I have an American phone, so I can still sneak pictures!
- Police cars. The first time I saw one the lights were flashing and I wondered why in world no one was pulling to the side of the road to let him pass, everyone seemed to just ignore him. I found out later that police keep their lights flashing all the time! Thankfully it’s just the lights going constantly and not the siren too!
- Hot drinks! Maybe one of the best things about Japan is their hot bottled drinks! They have drink vending machines everywhere and most of them have hot drinks! It’s so nice on a cold day to get a hot tea. It’s always the perfect temperature!