By John Edwards in Japan — Japan needs more long-term missionaries. With less than 0.5 percent of the population of 126 million people known to be evangelical Christians, it is no surprise that many Japanese churches desire more missionaries to assist them in evangelizing the people of Japan.
Many young people seriously considering long-term missionary work want some sort of short-term experience to clarify God’s calling on their life or to form clearer vision for reaching Japan with the gospel.
SEND Japan asked my wife and me to design D (Discipleship) House with the above in mind. Our purpose is to give English speakers a realistic experience of what missionary work in Japan looks like. We invite these interns to live with us for 12 weeks — long enough to get beyond the “I love everything about Japan” stage and into the struggles missionaries face. By the end of 12 weeks, our goal is that all of our interns will have a clearer understanding of what next steps they ought to take in their involvement in world missions.
We focus on five specific aspects of missionary life during these 83 days with the D House interns.
1. We teach our interns living skills.
How does a foreigner with limited language ability survive in Japan? Grocery shopping, handling money, getting around on public transportation, house cleaning and meal preparation are just some of the skills we address with interns. We also take them to tutors to learn some basic Japanese language.
2. We introduce our interns to Japanese culture.
I find it interesting to observe how interns emotionally react to the idolatry they see when we visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. We take them to naturally beautiful places as well as historical ones. We translate as they interview the Japanese mothers in our neighborhood and learn about marriage, child-rearing, education and the working world. They hear Japanese pastors describe Japan from a Japanese believer’s point of view.
3. We make sure our interns spend lots of time with unbelievers.
Some interns come from a sheltered background and have little experience conversing with non-Christians. In this smart phone, social media age, some interns come with limited face-to-face social skills. Almost weekly the interns attend Sendai English Circle, a group of Japanese people who meet for a couple hours every week and just converse in English to maintain or even improve their English ability. Most who attend are not Christians and some know almost nothing about Christianity. Conversations can be about all sorts of subjects like travel, work, studies, relationships, interests, news, politics and even religion. By listening and participating, interns learn to naturally talk about themselves — including their experiences and faith — with people who have significantly different backgrounds.
4. We help our interns observe and participate in ministry.
They attend Japanese churches. They help with English classes or sports outreach or hospitality. They see Nozomi Project’s jewelry-making business and Megumi Project’s scarf-making business as ministry. They continue to see café and visitation ministry in temporary housing (even more than five years after the huge tsunami in March 2011). They meet not just SEND International missionaries but also workers with other organizations, and they learn about the passions and activities of missionaries in Japan.
5. We help our interns learn about SEND as an organization.
They become familiar with our procedures, leadership development and selection, and team dynamics. They experience the SEND Japan culture. At the same time, SEND Japan missionaries see the interns and gain insight in how to encourage them in their faith walk, especially as they consider long-term missionary work.
One of the great things about reading the gospels is observing how Jesus discipled the Twelve. He did so by having them live with him, learn from him and work alongside him. As much as possible, we are using that model with the Tohoku (northeast Japan) D House.
SEND is poised to offer another D House opportunity in Tokyo starting next year, and several other SEND fields are launching internships that focus both on practical ministry and on the intern’s spiritual growth and discernment. Perhaps God will use one of them to clarify his calling on your life? Click here to start exploring SEND’s internships.
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