Senior // USC
Having never been out of the country, I felt excited and nervous to experience another part of the world and to see how God is moving in the nation of Japan. Our team was highly aware of the infamous statistic: 99% of Japan is non-believers and less than 1% is evangelical Christian. While the statistic is saddening news to a Christian and creates a sense of urgency to share the Gospel, I think God used the whole STSM process to help me realize that everyone—my team, the few Japanese Christians, the many Japanese people who have never heard about Jesus, friends and family back in America, and myself—are all broken and in desperate need of Jesus. This summer has left me with the realization that I all I want in life is to be with God and that I need Him more than I could ever imagine.
During the trip, a pivotal moment for me was when we were tasked to do Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Bethany Yochien, a Christian kindergarten in Nagoya. At Bethany, I met a little 3-year-old girl who kept crying during our VBS praise songs. When I saw her, I felt compassion for her, and so I sat with her, sang praise songs to her, and tried to comfort her. Even though the room was loud and full of happy kids, I felt as if it was just us sitting on the floor and my singing turned into prayer. I looked at her round, teary eyes and sang, “Never give up, ‘cause He’s always there,” and, “I won’t worry about tomorrow, I’m trusting in what You say.” Strangely, as she sat in my lap and kept crying, I was reminded of myself, because I too cry a lot. In this sobering moment, I wondered how she would get through the hardships of life without knowing or believing that she has a God who is real, who heals, who loves her despite her sin, and wants her to know who He is. She may be part of the 99% who never believe or hear the Gospel after her kindergarten days, and at first, that realization left me feeling a little lost. When she got up to go sit with her classmates again after the songs were over, I was left to feel sad and stunned by such a short, yet deep moment.
This moment wasn’t pivotal because I had received amazing revelation, insight, or blessing. It was actually a moment that led to many messy thoughts, questions, and emotions about God’s sovereignty, His will, my purpose, and what our team was even doing here. Like this moment at Bethany, other experiences and emotions in Japan have also resulted in consuming or confusing thoughts that I chose to think about individually and sometimes with others. However, after encountering more people through ministry, having new experiences with the team, and self-reflection, these thoughts turned into moments of prayer and realization of God’s faithfulness. This growing desire to be with the Lord was not self-induced, but was truly a seed that God was growing in my heart. And if God can grow this seed in my heart, how can I not trust that He has the power to grow seeds of faith in the hearts of those who don’t believe?
Looking back, I can only fall on my knees in gratefulness. God used this month to grow a greater desire for Him in my heart and to rekindle the genuine desire to just dwell in His presence once again. Part of me wanted to go on this trip to receive an opportunity to be transformed, or in other words, to be blessed because I assumed it would be a great experience. While desiring blessings aren’t inherently bad, Jesus doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t love Him because He blesses me. Even though I came to Him expecting to be transformed, He loved me deeply, humbled me in unexpected ways, faithfully answered my prayers, and allowed me to fall in love with Him more and more each day in Japan.
To the world, this summer might have seemed like a good memory with new friends or a great “you do you” self-discovery trip. But to me, this one month in Japan was a powerful reminder of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness in my life. He is alive and working in Japan, and while it is difficult to not always witness the fruits of our labor, we are honored to serve Him because He is our precious Savior and His gift of salvation is more than enough to ever satisfy. I am blessed to have met the faithful Christians in Japan, to share life and faith with non-believers, and to witness how He is moving in this nation. I hope to maintain and grow in this joy in Jesus Christ every day, trusting in and remembering who He is.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food… yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18