Who I was . . .
Growing up as “one of the twins” in a pastor’s family I quickly realized two things.
One, if I wanted to be known for who I was, not for who I was related to, i.e. the “pastor’s daughter” or the “other twin.” I would have to do something unique to make people remember me, for me.
And two, growing up as the pastor’s daughter it seemed we were always at church so I might as well enjoy being there. Even before I accepted Christ as my Savior I remember church being a place for friendship, games, and learning.

How I met Jesus . . .
At age 9, after a conversation with my mom, I took what seemed like the obvious next step of faith and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life. While I don’t remember much about the sermons that my dad preached, (Sorry, Dad!) I do remember snippets of the lessons I learned from my Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders and the faithfulness of the elderly prayer warriors of our church.
Life in a small town as the pastor’s daughter often felt like living in a fish bowl, with our lives open for view to anyone who wanted a look. While I understood that God had saved me, I still felt like I would get extra points by being especially good. I focused on doing what people expected of me and took pride in being a “good girl”.
My family was always supportive of me in trying new things and taught me to accept people withdifferent backgrounds. In fifth grade my eyes were open to the life of missionaries and their children as our family visited Baptist General Conference missionaries in Mexico CityDuring my high school years our family hosted three international exchange students, which increased my curiosity for understanding other cultures.
I was blessed to be part of an active church youth group and was introduced to Short-term missions in Junior high school when we participated in missions trips to Braziland Mexico. My understanding of the magnitude of God increased because of these 10-day trips. My stereotypical view of missionaries as super spiritual (married) people with super serious lives was replaced with a view of (single and married) missionaries in blue jeans having a lot of fun doing what God had given them a passion for and a planned for them to do.

A Time of Challenge
Jeremiah 29:11
 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
But what had God planned for me to do? I knew I enjoyed teaching and I had a deep interest in special needs children. Therefore I decided to go to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I could teach children who were deaf and hearing impaired. Along with my freshman level classes, I took a few classes in American Sign Language and enjoyed learning this new language. But my focus changed after the summer of my freshman year of college, when I participated in BGC’s short term missions program in Japan teaching English as a means of outreach and evangelism in Japanese Churches.
Two months in a new land, surrounded by a new language, and developing friendships with Japanese people stretched me beyond what I had ever experienced in my 19 years of life. For the first time I was questioning why I was a Christian. Was it because I really believed all of these things I was teaching my students or was it because, unlike my Buddhist students, I grew up in a Christian home? Throughout the summer I continued to take steps outside of my comfort zone, and I was forever changed.
The following year I dug into the Word searching for answers. I was beginning to learn that God wanted me to know Him and be real with Him. That with Him I didn’t need to distinguish myself from my others – he knew me inside and out (the good & the bad) - and loved me. I still needed to be diligent in doing what God desired me to do but it was no longer about me but about Jesus doing through me. I also learned that He didn’t want me to see the church as a building I should enter every time the doors opened, but a living community of people that stretches across the world. I realized that God had allowed my eyes to be opened to the need in Japan - for teachers ministering to third culture kids and that this was just as important as ministry to nationals.

A Time of Preparation
After returning from that summer missions experience in Japan I was asked by a friend,

“If you could do anything in the world and time, money, and education were not an issue what would you do?”

My answer in college is the same as it is today “Go to Japan.” I’ve had the blessing of going to Japan many times since then, twice as an English Bible teacher, once for a semester as a college student, and for 2 years as a teacher to missionary children in a one room school house. My passion for ministry with third culture children had not diminished although the distance and time away from Japan had increased.
Although I only intended to stay in the states for 2 years before returning to Japan, God's timing was different as 2 years became 7 years between my short term and career missionary positions. I had run into the reality that time, money, and education are valid issues. Feeling called to return to Japan as a missionary teacher, I decided I needed experience in a large classroom setting before returning. I worked as a third grade teacher for two years and then realized that I was not satisfied working in a monocultural setting and that I personally needed more understanding of world religions, the Bible and missions history to be effective in ministry. So I quit my job as a teacher and began my Master’s degree in Inter-cultural Studies by distance education. To pay for rent and school I took a part-time job caring for people with physical and developmental disabilities.

Gradually a position opened at Bethel University where I used my cross-cultural skills advising students who participate in study abroad programs. In a roundabout way only God could have directed I have been involved in various jobs, and studies that have helped me prepare for returning to Japan. I believe the skills and knowledge gained in all of these areas will be valuable to me in my future ministry but even more significant will be the spiritual growth and lessons learned.
After almost four years working at Bethel University in Minnesota, and completing my master's degree from Hope International University, in California, I began a journey of developing ministry partners full-time. Visiting various churches and individuals God has taught me more about the interdependence of the Christian community, the unfailing love of God and intimate plans for each individual he has created.Who I am becoming . . 

I am excited to be back in Japan - to pouring my life into the lives of TCK's through teaching and discipleship. I'm anxious to learn more Japanese so that I can actually communicate in the heart language of the people among whom I'm living. I'm learning more and more about God's amazing love for me and consider it a blessing to share about His love with the children and adults I meet in Japan.

1 comment:

katiecook said...

Just found your sweet blog through Sue Driscoll's blog. I know the Driscolls from the church I grew up in:) I've loved reading about some of your experiences in Japan:) and you went to husband and I live right down the street from there and have many friends who went there! Blessings:) Love Katie