My current job, as I mention in the “About Me” section, is as an assistant English teacher at a couple of junior highs in rural Japan. Throw in an occasional elementary school, a few pieces of private tutoring and night classes, and you get my schedule.
In this post I want to specifically talk about the work I do at the junior highs. Depending on my schedule, I spend 28-45 hours per week inside those walls. There are classes to teach, tests to grade, lessons to be planned, photocopies to be made, etc. Here is the catch: I’m not the head teacher. I’m the assistant. The decision to delegate work belongs to the Japanese English teacher, and, depending upon the teacher, we are assigned varying levels of responsibility. At one junior high I am allowed to grade. At the other, I’m not, but I am allowed to run the review game that begins class.
I, and some others, came to Japan under the impression that we would teach. I do some teaching, primarily in those after school activities and at the elementary school I teach at every other week. But at primary job, the junior high, I don’t teach. I’m ignored a lot, by both my students and the teachers. The language barrier is a HUGE barrier, and if anyone had told me that after a year and a half of studying 2 hours a day, six days a week, that I would still be unable to have simple conversations, that I wouldn’t have any Japanese friends who don’t speak fluent English, and that I would have yet to share the gospel with even ONE person in Japan, I’m not sure I would have come.
Except for this one thing: that I know I am called to be here to pray.
And that is the solution to everything. In the past month I’ve stopped thinking of myself as a teacher and started thinking of myself as a missionary. I’ve stopped looking for ways to pack my schedule with private tutoring and after school work and I’ve started looking at who and what I need to pray for. I’ve stopped asking my teammates how their day was, because I know without asking them that they experienced loneliness, boredom, frustration, and disappointment. That’s life as an assistant in the junior high. I’m not exaggerating to say I experience those EVERY SINGLE DAY, even on the days that have four or more wins. Instead, I ask my teammates, “How were you able to love the Japanese people today?” because that is an answer by which we can both be encouraged.
Teacher? No, my profession is not teaching. Teacher’s frustrations are mountains of grading, how to inspire students to learn, and classroom management. I’m a missionary. My challenges are prioritizing my prayer list, discovering how to be a better witness in the brief moments I have to shine in the classroom, and discerning how to inspire others around me. It’s not easy, but I never read a single missionary account that said it was. Some people eat bug larvae and relieve themselves in a hole in the ground. I pray against spiritual darkness and fight to stay encouraged and overflowing with God’s love.
Hi, my name is Jilida, and I’m a missionary.