Reflections of God’s Grace During My Time in Japan

STORY
Ministry:
Date: January 14, 2021

Hello Lighthouse Family! My name is Cindy, and I am a worrier. I am often full of fear, and nerves. You know those people who love to take on challenges, adventure, and trying out new things? Yeah, that’s definitely not me. So when I felt the tuggings in my heart to go overseas to Japan for a year on a missions trip, naturally, I was scared. Don’t get me wrong-  I was excited too, because I love Japan and knew God was doing amazing things there that I wanted to be a part of, but I struggled a lot with fear and anxiety, and would worry about all the little things. 

But from the moment my plane landed in Nagoya, God was so good and kind. I had so many worries, and because everything was so new and I felt like I was very much out of my comfort zone, I really had no choice but to take everything to God in prayer. Even for tiny little things that I wouldn’t have thought twice about here in the states, I would pray and ask the Lord for help, because I knew I had a lot less control over things there.  And God really did help me. I was worried about the plane ride from Los Angeles to Nagoya and using my Japanese passport, and it ended up being a smooth entry through customs and immigration. I was worried about my living situation, which was initially really out of the way from where I would be commuting each day to do ministry, but God provided an amazing studio that was in a super convenient location where I could maximize my time more. I was worried about my language deficiencies and lack of knowledge of how to take care of living logistics, but God provided so many friends to help take care of various things for me. I was worried about how I could meet more Japanese women not connected to a church or who were believers, and very early on during my time there, God granted me opportunities to meet so many different people through various ministries and establish a few friendships that I could invest in.  And through all of these things, I was very aware that these were God’s provisions- I knew that these were all graces from the Lord that I didn’t earn or work for or deserve, but that were given to me simply because the Lord is so good. 

For the first half of my time there, I started to get into a groove. God gave me so many different opportunities to get involved: I served with an organization called CBI (Christ Bible Church), and my role mainly focused on children’s ministries like teaching missionary children how to read and write in English, and doing outreach events to Japanese moms through a “Baby English” ministry. I also got to serve with All Nations Fellowship, helping out with their children’s ministry- Sunday school, outreach English events, etc. When I wasn’t doing those things, I was spending time with new friends I had met through outreach ministries, and people from my church. Life was super busy (in a great way!), but I also started to rely more on myself again because I was starting to get “a handle” on doing life in Japan.

Fast-forward to January; I started hearing talk about a “new virus” that had made its way to Japan. All of a sudden, in the land of an abundant supply of masks year-round, masks were cleared off the shelves. In February, schools in my area were all shut down, and all of my team meetings began to take place over zoom. Our organization began creating contingency plans for what to do if any of us got sick, and we were encouraged to try to avoid using public transit (which was my main way of getting around). Ministries with any kind of gatherings were all cancelled, I began to cancel my in-person meet ups with people, and eventually a stay-at-home order was put into place. The topic of conversation with pretty much everyone was about the virus.

I remember feeling really worried again. My head was filled with statistics and numbers of people in my area getting infected, phone numbers of hotlines to call if we think we are sick, or how hospitals were filling up with Covid patients and were turning away people. This was a brand new virus, something none of us really knew anything about, and Japan was one of the earlier countries to experience it. I think what worried me the most was that I was experiencing it in a foreign country, in a place far away from home, where I wasn’t fluent in the language, and where I knew nothing about the healthcare system or how my traveler’s insurance even worked. I remember during a team call, someone reminded us all that IF we were to get sick and get hospitalized, no one on the team would really be able to help because it was so contagious. In the following days, a few teammates left Japan just in case the borders would close to travelers, and I was also faced with the decision of cutting my trip short and returning back home. I began to focus so much on my fears and worries (especially the part about being alone), as if thinking about it more would somehow give me more control over it, and I felt very stressed out. And aside from the physical health aspect of it, I worried about the social element. If I had to stop seeing all of my friends and all of my ministry activities were being cancelled, what exactly would I be doing? Would I just be spending the next few months wasting my time there, by myself?

Again, God, in his goodness and patience, continued to show me that He is kind and will provide above and beyond my needs. When I got sick in early March with a fever and started to panic about the “what if I have the virus, and what if I get hospitalized and be all alone without any help,” God sent so many friends and teammates to check in on me and remind me that I wasn’t alone, and that I wouldn’t be, even if something worse happened. (Thankfully, I felt fine after a couple of days.)  When we started going into quarantine mode and I began to wonder what ministry would look like, God graciously gave me opportunities to increase my tutoring time with kids in my building (who were home ALL day with school being cancelled) and use my background in teaching to help out where I could. When I was worried about possibly being isolated and lonely as a single person on the field when we had to stop physically meeting together and asked to stay at home as much as possible, God really surrounded me with missionaries who took me in as part of their family (who also lived in the same building as me), through which I was able to build deep friendships with, which I completely wasn’t expecting. And when I worried about not being able to see my new Japanese friends before I left because of our stay-at-home order, it was lifted a month before my departure, which gave me just enough time to spend time with these precious friends. I think because with the pandemic, things didn’t go as expected, and because things weren’t in my control, I was much more observant to see how God graciously provided, especially in the small, everyday things. I knew that every answer to prayer was not a result of my own doing, but of God’s kindness. And I knew that it wasn’t because I deserved any of it, but because God is gracious. 

I reflect back on my time in Japan with the fondest of memories. There are so many things I took away from this trip, but the one that stands out the most is that God is good, and that I can trust Him. He truly does provide, and He really is faithful. And I was able to really experience that and see that more clearly because I had less control, and had to rely more on Him. Though he doesn’t owe me any kind of proof or display, he continued to show me over and over again of his goodness, in a way where I couldn’t deny it even if I tried. Literally from the moment I landed and throughout my entire time in Japan, I was shown that He is trustworthy, He is good, and He will provide what we need, and so, I don’t need to worry!

Being back in the states now, and being in our present circumstances, I think there is a lot that can cause worry.  There is so much uncertainty, and our lack of control is more evident than ever. But I am so thankful for all the ways the Lord provided for me and showed his love for me while I was in Japan, and how these continue to serve as daily reminders for me of his goodness and grace. Thank you again, Lighthouse family, for covering me in your prayers and support before, during, and after my time in Japan 🙂

Psalm 100:5 “For the Lord is good;  his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”