What am I doing? Why am I here?

Anna, Sun 13 January 2019, Posts

Hello, again! It’s been a while since the last post I made. At the time, only months after arriving, I was still adjusting to differences I had not anticipated but experienced every day. The best reflection of my feelings about life in Japan then, broadly speaking, was the photo collection I made of some of those things back in March. Now that I’ve been here for close to a year and a half, I thought I should not only talk about recent events but fill in the blanks for some of you by sharing some things about what I do here and why.

What am I doing?

Playground outside the kindergarten

This is where I work. I took this picture on a weekend. During the weekdays, this playground is usually full of children anywhere from age two to six and of teachers trying to find a balance between engaging with the kids and scouring the area to make sure they are not hurting themselves or each other. When I’m not on the playground, you can find me teaching lessons, helping with crafts, cleaning, writing in the children’s message books, and leading a long line of 34 five- and six-year-olds up and down stairs (our room is at the top of the building). I have other responsibilities, too. However, I can’t wear quite as many hats this year due to the size of the class, and another teacher who now co-teaches with me does a lot of the work as well!

Audra teaching her class

My favorite parts of the day are the parts where we’re sitting down and I know no one is about to hit anyone else. Really, though, I enjoy our lesson times, and being with the kids while they learn and communicate their ideas in English is a lot of fun. I definitely never have a boring day at work! And yes, sometimes I get to wear sweatpants. I wish I could share pictures of all the kids so everyone could see how cute they are. Of course I can’t for privacy reasons, so my dad took this picture from the back while I was teaching, and you can just imagine all their little faces.

On that note, my parents both visited for a little over three weeks in December. We were working for most of that time, but anyone who knows our parents may correctly guess that they spent a lot of time helping out at the kindergarten with us. April and I made sure to take some time off so we could do some fun things and show them around the area. Anna, who was taking a Japanese class, beginning her Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics, and doing teaching/tutoring side-jobs, didn’t have any vacation days to use but was able to do a bit of traveling with us anyway!

After dinner with our parents, Noriko, and her kids Us and our parents at Takachiho Gorge Everyone (except Dad) in kimonons After dinner with the Toshimasu family

Why am I here?

Our MICF group

The short answer is that I’m here to teach. For a long time I had been interested in spending some time teaching overseas--I even seriously considered moving to Korea with a friend right after college to do just that. I don’t know that I was too particular about it, although I’d always seen myself teaching somewhere in Asia. Based on my previous knowledge of Japanese culture and from my experiences getting to know Japanese students at university, I really thought I would have fun teaching here. It wasn’t a very difficult decision for me. Perhaps moving one’s life across an ocean in order to simply continue doing something very normal isn’t so unusual for my generation or the next. The above picture shows many (but not all) of the regular members of the Bible study we attend, Miyazaki International Christian Fellowship. In this group, there are Japanese people who grew up here, foreigners who came to work, to study or to obtain graduate degrees, and others who came to be with their husband or wife. I believe the only members who would describe themselves as missionaries on a regular basis are the great couple who lead the group (far left). However, although the short answers to why we’re here may sound routine, I don’t think any of us believes they are the only reasons we’re here.

At our last MICF meeting, we took time to reflect on the year. Many of the stories shared went back to God. Some involved experiences reaching out to Japanese people. Others were moments of personal growth from the year or of thankfulness. Thinking of that Sunday night now, one thing I remember was something a friend and fellow kindergarten teacher said. She told us that just as a result of her being here, she always knows that there are people from her community back home praying for Japan. Japan is a first world country that we may not often think to pray for, even though there are few Christians here and though many of those believers feel isolated and ineffective. But I know that because I am here there are people praying for Japan. And because people are praying, I don’t believe that I am only here to teach. Last month we helped with MICF Family Christmas (below), the biggest event of the year for the presentation of the gospel and one that our group prayed over a lot. At least 140 people came, making it the largest Family Christmas to date. As small as our steps may be, we will continue to pray for opportunities like this, and I believe more opportunities will follow.

Thank you, as always, for your prayers and for keeping up with our lives here in Japan. I hope everyone has a great start to the new year!

Us three and another MICF member singing at the Christmas event


Prayer Requests

As always, we post a slightly more detailed version of our prayer requests / praises to our Things Hoped for Facebook group, and members can check the page for more details.