Which part of Japan did you go to?
I was mainly in Shiga prefecture and stayed in both Higashi-Omi and Kusatsu City.
Why did you decide to go?
Basically, I wanted to see how the gospel has taken root in Japan over the past century and the extent of the work done and what more can be done, especially after 3/11. I was also partly inspired by this book called, “On Giant’s Shoulders” that was written by a pioneering WEC missionary to Japan, very touching and uplifting, I encourage all to read it. It was also a well-timed “coincidence” after my graduation.
What did you do there?
It is hard to summarize everything I did but the main things were to help the missionaries there with their ministries and being a helper at the summer camps organized to reach out to the Japanese. For example, I sat in for the English conversation classes that involved studying the bible and shared my personal testimony as well as initiate conversation topics. At the summer camps, I was predominantly a kitchen helper, where I cut, cooked and cleaned which was really fun because I learnt how some very simple and traditional Japanese food were made! I also carried out some of the games for children. The remaining time was spent distributing tracts and visiting the local churches and field workers to encourage and be encouraged!
What struck you the most about the country?
When I first got there, it was the rice fields! I have never seen so many in my life, and even cycled amongst them. Culturally, it is the orderliness in all things. However, the most impactful thing that stuck with me was how during door-to-door tracting, there were so many people who said they have not heard of who Jesus is. It was a little shocking because I thought that such a developed country with sophisticated communication systems would have helped in evangelism.
How was the experience different from what you expected?
That there were so many cultural differences to overcome. I thought I would be able to adapt quite well but it was trying for me in some ways. I also thought it would be a very intense trip but it was very balanced; meaning I got to do both intense and relaxing things, such as spending time talking to the locals or visiting churches.
I wanted to be an encourager but I was so much more encouraged, like 100 times more. I also thought I would burst my budget but in fact I had leftovers! It is possible to survive happily in Japan without a lot of money, at least in the rural area.
What was the biggest lesson learnt?
This is a hard question. I think it would be listening to others with an open heart and never underestimating what God can do through the small and insignificant things. You know, the churches I visited were really small and there were times I thought my sharing in a small church wouldn’t really make a difference or impact in any way. God forgive me for thinking that way but each time I shared my testimony, there would be a newcomer in that church. Praise the Lord! A chance to sow gospel seeds!
What more do you think can be done in Japan?
One article that I came across in the newsletter, Japan Harvest while there, was the great need for mission workers and more church planting to be carried out in the rural areas of Japan, which is where WEC Japan’s work is based and headquartered. Basically, there’s lots to be done in the whole of Japan but the youth and children are two groups that I particularly felt for because they have the huge potential to be influencers within their communities. And there seems to be a missing layer of youth within the churches in the rural areas, which is quite sad to see because a certain kind of vibrancy is lacking and there are no successors to the leadership.
What do you feel are the needs there?
A need for Christian witness as the culture does not encourage one to be too vocal or ‘visual’ about faith, as it is really about fitting into the system or bigger picture.
Did anything strike you about the children there?
Nothing in particular but they are very kawaii (cute)! Actually I think children there are much protected and lack nothing materially. Parents place a lot of emphasis on developing the child holistically. However, I think there could be a rise of child abuse cases in Japan, noting how campaign posters on anti-child abuse were seen everywhere in public. But this is just a conjecture.
What would you tell people who are considering short term mission trips to Japan?
Firstly, have a basic grasp of the language. It helps to break the ice and I think demonstrates sincerity and humility. Go with an open mind to want to learn about the culture and people. Always prepare your personal testimony. Finally, as with all other trips, pray!