My summer has been an extension of my spring semester at university. During the fall semester, I signed up to participate on a project and I learned I would be going to Japan for three weeks in June, 2014. I could not have been more excited! But at the time, I had no idea the amount of amazing things God would reveal to me about Himself and His kingdom.
Throughout the spring semester, my team as well as every other team were put through training sessions that lasted three hours at a time. During these training sessions is when God took the time to show me how many of His wonderful qualities I have overlooked all my life. In the last five years of my life, I made myself believe I was more important than God Himself. My life became all about finding the perfect career path, the perfect school, and ultimately someday getting married and having kids. I never stopped to realize that the only thing God desires for me is to be obedient to Him. As long as I am obedient to Him, I am doing His will and everything I do becomes about how I can just be an extension of His love.
In addition to learning that life is about how I can glorify God in heaven, I realized that God’s heart is truly for the nations. Every single nation on earth is in God’s heart and He wants to see every person come to Him.
After training for four long months, the day of my departure finally arrived. Mexico is the only other country I have ever been to, and I went for family vacation rather than the purpose of evangelism. Some of the other girls on my team were worried about culture shock and going to temples and shrines, but I was not worried at all. All throughout packing and going through airport after airport and sitting on a plane for ten straight hours I had absolute peace about the three weeks to come. I was not worried about anything.
Being in Tokyo, Japan, was unlike anything I expected or could have anticipated. Every day held something new for my team, and we were all learning new things. But there were times when some of us wondered why we were not experiencing extreme cases of culture shock as some other ISP teams were. My heart, as well as the other hearts on my team, changed during our second week when our fieldworkers took us first to a shrine and then to a government tower.
As we walked down a long and wide gravel path to the shrine, the mood was solemn and heavy. We had no idea what we would see once we entered the inner courtyard of the shrine, and the heaviness increased when we finally got there. We stayed at the shrine for thirty minutes, watching and praying. We prayed again when we left the shrine.
The shrine broke my heart. Watching people, tourists and natives alike, go up to the offering box and throw coins in and then bow and clap in their cultural traditions. I watched as people took time out of their workdays and some stopped by while they were out for a jog just so they could make an offering to this god. I wanted nothing more than to shake them and tell them, “The god you are giving money to does not exist. All of this is temporary and won’t get you anywhere!” But I held back.
Heartbreak took on a whole new meaning when we went into Shinjuku, one of the biggest parts of Tokyo, to go up forty-seven stories in a tower to look at the huge city at night. None of us thought it was going to be anything serious, nothing beyond taking a few pictures of the biggest city in the world. But as we stood in the center of the top floor of this tower, the lit-up city surrounding us, our fieldworker began to speak. He gave us the facts about the state of the church in Japan. The truth is only .33% of people confess to be born again Christians. He went on to tell us that the need for Christ manifests itself in such different ways in Japan than it does anywhere else in the world. Poverty and homelessness in Japan do not look the same as in India. The need for Christ is seen in the tired and depressed faces of the people riding on the trains who do not talk to anyone around them, who fall asleep after spending sixteen hours at their jobs. He told us at that point that we were in fact experiencing culture shock, but it was “underground” culture shock. We were all being confronted with facts and statistics about what it is really like in Japan, and how the reality there can be even more spiritually taxing.
The one thing he said that broke my heart was when he told us to look out at every single light in the city and know that each of those lights represented one or more lost people. There were lights everywhere. After our fieldworker spoke those words, our hearts changed forever. He told us we would be staying for a little while longer, and he wanted us to walk to each window and pray for every single light we saw.
Going from window to window, looking out and knowing I was surrounded by people who do not know the deepest love of Jesus, made me realize how hopelessly dark Japan is.
I went to Japan with a question in my heart. My only prayer was this: Lord, am I supposed to be on the mission field in another country? On the last day we were in Japan, I got my answer. I know with one hundred percent certainty that I am meant to serve on the international mission field someday. I do not know when it will happen or how it will happen, but I am remaining faithful to God as He takes His time revealing my next step.
Throughout my summer, I have learned repeatedly that what Jesus said to His followers about the harvest being plentiful but the laborers being few is true. I have been set on fire for Christ for the purpose of furthering His kingdom. Every day I am determined to answer the call that has been placed on my life to reach out to the poor and powerless from all walks of life to share the love of Jesus with them. And I want all of my brothers and sisters in Christ to answer the call, too.
God is in control of this world and His children’s places in it. He will never leave us, He will never forsake us. He is right beside us, and the only thing we need to concern ourselves with is obeying Him in what He is calling us to do.
Uttermost Summer Intern