by Patricia Lian
NTU Navigators Missions team to Utsunomiya, Japan
15-27 May 2017
For the third year running, the NTU Navigators sent a missions team to BEST club at Utsunomiya University. BEST (acronym for Bible, English, Sports and Travel) is a campus ministry of Japan Navigators.
In 2 weeks the team cooked, cleaned, weeded, hosted “Speak English” breakfasts, and Singapore themed dinners, met students everyday on campus, had Bible discussions, taught English…but all these would have been just a flurry of activities if the battle for unsaved souls was not first fought through prayer. It was in the quiet prayer walks on the campus, early morning time with God and listening prayer that the team learnt to be sensitive to what God wanted them to know and to do.
On a particular night, the team shared personal testimonies. Somehow, God led them to share about vulnerable aspects of their life that He had healed and restored. The expressions on faces changed as the Japanese students realised the depth and authenticity of what was shared. That resulted in an openness to talking about God in the days that followed. Read on for more detailed stories!
Kathleen Ho — Preparing the Heart
God who loves and compels us to love
In the first few days, I relied on my own strength and struggled to stay engaged and listen to the machine-gun foreign language, doubting the difference I could make in 2 short weeks. My self-centred and distracted heart was stirred as I witnessed the missionaries willingly love and serve the students despite their isolation and fatigue. Emi-san said that her sufferings are nothing compared to Jesus’ and she was glad she could better understand His love through suffering. As the God who loves and compels us to love, He knocked on the door of my heart. I prayed for the individuals I was meeting and God gave me His love for them as it dawned on me that these lives mattered to Him. I knew Christ died for all, but I realised that I have not been seeing people in this light. I’ve learnt that we should look past the person at present to see how the gospel can transform the person’s life, and how there can be generations after him. I became genuinely interested in their lives, prayed for their salvation, looked forward to meeting and knowing them personally and hoped for an opportunity to share God’s love. Matomi, Sayaka, Mitsuki, Mai, Sayaka, Nanako are just a few of the many friends that I have come to love. On hindsight, I was guilty of taking my eyes off Him and therefore allowing pessimism creep in. It was not solely about me doing what I can, but also about Him doing what He wants in and through me. I needed only to be faithful and to let His Spirit lead. Fruitfulness is God’s business, faithfulness is ours.
Grace Yeo — Faith and Work
In the silence, God is cultivating the ground and germinating seeds.
It was a privilege to know the missionaries. They were open in sharing their struggles even though we were new to them. I remember Rachel tearing and sharing honestly how she struggles with living in a foreign land, feeling the little she could contribute and the challenges she faces as a mum. It wasn’t easy. Yet amidst these struggles and difficulties, I saw a willingness to submit to God, to cling onto Him and not walk away. I see a beautiful work of faith that God is forming in their lives.
It was a highlight to be reading the bible passage and openly sharing our views with the students who were not believers. As we listened to their opinions, they were also willing to listen to ours even if we bring God in. One evening, I was quite amazed that a final year student, Miko, was really interested in the answers of the Christians in our group. She exclaimed that our answers with God in the picture made a lot of sense even though she had not experience this in her own life yet. Miko joined the club in her freshman year. She was eager to join in the bible discussion even though she ended her part-time job late that night. I was really encouraged as I recognize God at work in her life through these years being with BEST and reading the bible. It may take years to see fruit in the ministry. Yet in the silence, God is cultivating the ground and germinating seeds.
Joel Koh — His Strength in My Weakness
Before the trip, I was down with a bad cold, sore throat and cough. This extended into the trip. Moreover, my knee started acting up and my lack of Japanese proficiency was a barrier to communication. However, God is strong in my weakness. Psalm 139:17-18 says “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”
I was able to recover from illness and manage my knee injury due to my caring team and the staff there. In spite of my Japanese proficiency, I was able to serve the students through acts of service . I was very blessed to be able to share the gospel with at least three Japanese students and have spiritual conversations during the Bible discussions. Together with my team member Grace, we shared The Bridge to Life with Rina and Miyu over lunch and ice-cream. Additionally, Yuki invited me to stay with him at his home. God gave me the opportunity to wash his dishes and share with him the gospel message as well. May God’s truth continue to be at work in their lives.
The team may be back from Japan but God’s work continues. Two students whom we met have decided to meet regularly with one of the missionaries to study the Bible. Friendships with others are continuing through social media. Indeed, “Fruitfulness is God’s business, faithfulness is ours.”