STSM Highlights // JAPAN

STSM Highlights // JAPAN

STSM Highlights (Part 4 of 7)

Today we continue with part four of our seven-part series called STSM Highlights! Check back every week for new mission testimonies from each of our STSM 2K18 teams as we prepare for the STSM 2K19 season!

This week’s highlight is from the Japan team, featuring Paul Ji and Melissa Cho. Check out the article for their testimonies. If you want to access the rest of Japan team’s testimonies, click here.

Paul Ji (Junior, UCR)

My name is Paul Ji and I had the privilege of going on STSM to Japan this summer. In Japan, the ministry that our team took part in included a lot of missionary encouragement, babysitting, and relational ministry. Through this trip, God taught me a lot of things and I believe that this trip has truly changed the direction of my life through the lessons I learned and the things that I experienced. Here is my STSM 2k18 testimony.

When I picked Japan as a preference, I was expecting this trip to be a comfortable and easy one. Although I had mid-term missions in mind, I was not expecting this trip to be the trip or experience that convicts me to go mid-term or long-term. Everyone associates missions in Japan as easy or comfortable because there are many similarities in Japan and America, but just because there are comforts from home in Japan does not necessarily mean that it is easy. Only 0.25% of the population is Christian (Evangelical) and the people there are so broken and in need of the Gospel. God broke my heart for the country of Japan so many times, and as Jonny, a missionary that I met in Japan, told me “Japan is a highly developed country but we need help to make it a reached country.”

When we arrived in Nagoya, we did a lot of cleaning and helping out the missionaries and it felt like the things that we were doing were not necessarily ministry. Although I knew that I have no power and that I could not save these people, I wanted to do ministry where I could impact the people of Japan and not just help the missionaries. But I was rebuked and was reminded that as short-term mission trainees, we are not the ones that change the people, but we must help the missionaries there in any way possible so that they could more effectively share the Gospel to the people in Japan. He also said that no matter how well we package the Gospel in our own words, or no matter how good of a preacher or evangelist you are, God and the power of the Gospel message are the only things that can really change people’s hearts. Through that, I was really questioning why I even came to Japan and whether I was there to serve God and the missionaries there or to earn something out of STSM. Was I there to earn blessings or was I there to just serve in any way that I could? In Nagoya, I was really stretched and because we were able to hang out and serve so many missionaries there, I was able to see what a missional lifestyle truly looks like. Missionaries are not necessarily these gung-ho, on-fire Christians doing Kingdom work 24/7, but they are people too and they struggle with the same sins and struggles as we do back at home.

One of the main missionaries that we worked with was Paul Kang and he taught me so many things about missions and what missions in Japan looks like. He said that being a missionary is merely just being a disciple of God, just in another culture and I think through him, God was softening my heart towards missions. And at this point in the trip, I was asking God for a calling or just something so that I could know if I am called to long-term missions. But He quickly rebuked me because missionary Paul said that if I ask for a specific calling, I am not trusting God because I am trying to figure out what my life will be like. I need to trust God in every step because there will be times where my future may seem dark but that is where I need to cling to God the most. Just seeing so many missionaries and talking to them gave me hope that Japan could one day be a country that serves God and follows Him.

I believe that God has given me a heart for Japan and I do not know what that means for me and my future, but just being in Japan and serving the people there for a month was not enough to really portray the Gospel to the people that I talked to. Ministry in Japan requires dedication and time and the outreach that many Japanese churches use is different compared to what we are used to using. They host events and dinners for Japanese non-believers and because they are so longing for community, they come out. Many times, the purpose of these events is not to explicitly share the Gospel but to provide the Japanese people with fellowship and with the hope that they would eventually become curious as to why these people are pouring so much onto them. Through that, they share the Gospel through their actions. This is too hard to do as a short-term mission trainee and that is why missionary Paul said that although short-term missionaries are not effective in Japan and that just sending money would be more beneficial, he hosts them with the hope that some will be convicted to come back and serve long-term.

How could I not go back after all the people that I met and all the experiences that I had? How could I live comfortably in America where we have thousands, maybe even millions, of churches when people in Japan are living comfortably without even hearing the name of Jesus and walking straight to hell? I was having dinner with a couple of Japanese college students and they both could not attend church regularly because they live 2 hours away from Grace Harbor Church. Another person I was talking to had a genuine interest in God but could not go to church because he lived so far away from a church. How could that not break me? That people that are so close to knowing Him and experiencing His goodness but simply cannot because of the lack of Christian communities. These people are the ones that make me want to go back and invest my time into this nation. I am not saying that God is leading me to be a missionary per say but I do feel a conviction and that is something that I will be praying about for the next 2 years as I finish college.

Melissa Cho (Senior, UCR)

Before getting placed on Japan, I actually dropped out of the STSM program because my responsibility and burden with family seemed far greater than going out on another missions trip. God had been pressing family on my heart for the past few years and I felt that God was calling me to stay home and minister to my family – that I would be able to do more for my family if I stayed than if I left for missions. I realized that I was placing more faith and trust in myself and my capabilities and was giving into my anxieties rather than trusting in God’s ultimate sovereignty. I decided to go back into the program because I knew that a month away wouldn’t be as detrimental as I thought, especially if I surrendered everything to God and went with an open heart to anything that He wanted to teach and reveal to me. Before going on my trip, I prayed and asked God to teach me practical ways to minister and love on my family – to grow my heart for them and to take on the responsibility of sharing the Gospel with them.

One significant thing I learned from this past month was what true ministry is. Japan is significantly different from the other countries KCM sends teams to; we don’t have consistent ministries like week-long VBS/English Camps, but we often did tasks that seemed purposeless and made me question whether these things could truly glorify God, like cleaning houses and babysitting for hours. Although I came into the trip knowing that the ministry we would be doing would be different from other countries’, it was hard not to be discouraged and wonder if God was really moving and working in this lost and dark country.

On one of the days, I was able to have dinner at Mieko’s home, who is a local Japanese person our contact was building a relationship with, slowly but surely trying to share the good news by being consistent and loving on her children. Mieko’s husband was there when we arrived but was quick to leave and towards the end of dinner, she received a call from him asking if we had left yet so that he could come back. Our contact shared how religions others than Shintoism and Buddhism are often seen as cults and that the topic of religion is sensitive again, due to the recent execution of the cult leader that was responsible for Japan’s subway bombing years ago. She said that men are often suspicious of religions in the minority because of the possibility of it being a cult and how they don’t want to go out of the norm that exists in Japan – prioritizing work and family. Knowing this fact broke my heart and discouraged me. How was God going to bring the people of Japan to Him when Christianity is such a minority (less than 2% of its population identify as Christians) and when the locals are hesitant to trust and listen?

But God humbled me by revealing to me that He is perfect in His timing and plans and that He doesn’t need me to do His work. God doesn’t need us to bring people to Him; He has the ability to bring people to Him with the snap of His fingers, but He graciously gives us the opportunity to be a witness to the great things He’s doing and to experience His goodness. He taught me that typical missions work won’t work in Japan but that the most effective way to do ministry is to love on its people. God was teaching me that I must surrender and set aside my pride and desire to love people the way I believe they should be loved but love them in the ways they desire in order to gain their trust and have faith in His sovereign timing that they will one day become curious about the Gospel. As Christians, the most loving thing we know we can do in our eyes is to share the gospel, but to the locals, it isn’t. Ministry isn’t only about the ways that we serve and evangelize, indirectly or explicitly, but it’s ultimately about the good and gracious God that is behind our actions and how He chooses to use them to glorify Himself all the more.

Throughout my trip, God truly answered my prayers and redeemed my past pains and burdens to remind me that He is mighty and gracious. He grew my heart for my family by placing moments that calmed my anxieties and worries that I once had – it being too late for my family members to accept Christ, regret of not sharing the gospel to specific loved ones, etc. He taught me what loving others really looks like and how I can do so back at home. He broke my heart for what breaks His and He’s revealing His heart and plans for the nations to me. Right now, I’m unsure of the future and what He has in store for me. But, when I think of how good God has been to me and how I’ve experienced His boundless love and provisions, my heart breaks for those who don’t know the name of Jesus. God is growing my heart for the lost and constantly tugging me into the possibility of career missions. If, how, and when He calls me to go mid-term or long-term is all up in the air, but I know that He is faithful. I’m learning that career missions doesn’t have to be for the rest of my life and that mid-term trips can be answers to my “what ifs.” Whatever His plans may be for me, I’m learning to have an open heart and to have faith in His sovereignty – in my future, my family, and whatever He wills.

Also, applications for STSM 2K19 are LIVE! Please visit to access the applications! #GO

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