The last time I went to Japan was six years ago right after I graduated from college. As all first-time tourists routinely do, I visited all of the main attractions, ate typical Japanese cuisines, and enjoyed what the country of Japan could provide me. Fast forward to 2018. I joined the Japan House church, not overly thinking about the possibility of actually flying out to Japan for missions, but thankfully, Bethel English Church provided that ample opportunity for me to go back to Japan for the second time not as a tourist, but as someone who can provide for the country I fell in love with the foundation to expand the Kingdom of God. I’ve never been on an oversees mission trip. I was excited yet anxious about my interactions with the locals. I didn’t know what to expect.
As we flew into Hiroshima without any flight hiccups, I felt a sense of peace and comfort in a foreign country that I’ve only set afoot for the second time. I knew the Japanese people were one, if not, the nicest people in the world—hard working, polite and very respectful. I thought I knew the customs and courtesies of greeting, but boy was I wrong. Jessica, our missionary, told us shaking hands and hugging were a foreign concept. As Americans, we immensely struggled with that concept throughout the week. We all resisted the urge to shake hands or give hugs to those we met, rather giving a slight bow. I, with others, sometimes reached out their hands only to receive unsatisfying shakes or awkward hugs, only to find so much joy and laughter from it.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this whole missions trip was showing the love Christ has allowed me to give to the people of Hiroshima. We went to two of Jessica’s English classes to help her students to speak English with native speakers. Small exercises triggered deep conversations about their families that they loved talking about so much. The English classes truly set a foundation and tone throughout the week as we routinely saw the same individuals over again in Younghae’s award winning Calligraphy class and Sunday’s church services. We were able to continually build a relationship and show the love of Christ every day.
We also worked tirelessly at the “Big Morning” farm to support Art and Darcy’s unconditional love for those stricken by Hikikimori. The Hikikimori people are those that are stricken with a deep sense of depression and hopelessness. This population in Japan is growing and it has become a major crisis affecting mostly young men. At the “Big Morning” farm, we cleared the path for a large vegetable garden by stripping away large amounts of heavy tarp, picking up an endless amount of tile and spikes and fought through harsh conditions of rain and mud. It was back-breaking work, but the results were priceless. We helped set the path for individuals suffering from Hikikimori to rehabilitate and find hope through Christ.
From talking with the students in Jessica’s English class to working hard in the mud and rain to help build a sustainable “Big Morning” Hikikimori farm to helping assist in a Calligraphy class to visiting local churches was by far the most rewarding and joyful experiences I’ve ever had. Even through a thick language barrier, it was so easy to love, laugh and build a foundation for the people of Hiroshima. Christ truly showed us what it’s like to love those without the ability to speak their language. They spoke as much English they knew but our hearts became so full. They loved talking about their families, but at the same time, they were so invested in our very own lives. Indeed, it is so easy to love those who are easily lovable. Christ has set a strong foundation in Hiroshima and we are so excited to see the seeds grow.