Our testimonies glorify God and demonstrate the life of the Spirit in the body of Christ. Because of that, testimonies have the power to inspire and encourage us.
The “God at Work” series features testimonies of those who have witnessed
God’s work or experienced spiritual breakthroughs in their lives.
In this “God at Work” series, Emma Kok
shares about her first EP Japan mission trip
and what the Lord had impressed upon her heart during the trip.
This is my first mission trip to Japan as part of the English Presbytery Japan Mission (EPJM) team. Prior to this, my only experience in cross-cultural missions was in Chiang Rai, as part of our church’s Northern Thailand mission outreach. Hence, I decided to sign up for EPJM this June as I wanted to expose myself to something different and experience ministry outside of what I was familiar with. Amongst our team of 6, I was the only person from PSPC, so there was even more of a challenge as I had to work with people I was unfamiliar with. Thankfully, God has really delivered me through the ups and downs of this trip, and I think the experience has been made even more enriching because of how I challenged myself to go out of my comfort zone.
In comparison to Thailand, Japan is a much more conservative country and the spreading of the Gospel takes a more subtle approach. We did not actively evangelise unless someone asked about our faith, or it was done within a church setting. Hence, much of our ministry revolved around providing care for the people, such as visiting the temporary housing of the victims of the 3.11 Tsunami. This form of outreach was new to me and I did struggle with it initially because I felt so distant from God when all the activities we engaged in were so generic. But in the process, I learnt not to rely on works to fuel my faith. Sometimes I get very caught up in doing things and I measure my effectiveness in ministry by how much I am doing, or how much I can contribute. But that is measuring God’s power by visual standards, and making the work the focus of our ministry. God works in many different ways; it may not be as direct as we envision, but as long as our hearts are one with His, we will find all work meaningful.
Every month, the local church organises an event called English Café, where people, mostly young adults and university students, gather to learn and practice their English. I was tasked to prepare and present an English lesson and icebreaker at the English Café. I chose to share about Jesus using John 3:16 - 17 as the text. We were then paired with a Japanese for a conversation segment that also allowed us to get to know our Japanese counterpart better. Unexpectedly, at the end of the event, one of the church workers came up to me to tell me that the lady she had a conversation with expressed surprise that I, a 19 year old, could talk about my faith and my relationship with God with so much passion and conviction. According to her, this was so different from the youth of Japan who never give much thought to such spiritual matters. Many of them are very indifferent to religion. This statement then allowed the church worker an opening to follow up with the lady and share her own testimony as well as share more about our faith. When I heard this, I was just amazed at the way God could use me for His work. This was especially impactful for me as during the trip, my unfamiliarity with the language and the culture left me feeling very lost and disheartened at times. Due to the language barrier, I did not know how to make conversation with the locals and I even felt inadequate compared to my teammates, who were more familiar with the ground and better versed in Nihongo (i.e. the Japanese language). It felt like a positive affirmation from God that despite my weaknesses, He can still use me for His purpose as long as I am willing to surrender to Him. With Him, no gift is too small. I am confident that God will complete the good work He has started in me (Philippians 1:6), and lead me further in my walk with Him.
Many people do not associate mission work with Japan. Japan is not a third world country; their people are educated and have a good standard of living. Yet, they need the Lord just as much. The ground there is hard, many people are not open to Christianity. But we take heart because as John 16:33 says: Jesus has already overcome the world.