Tag Archives: missionary

I’m Over Here, but I Still Want to Hear

Yesterday I found out that someone I know is no longer a Christian. I’ve known since last fall that he was struggling, but I wasn’t too worried. Wrestling with the faith, after all, is a key component to owning beliefs, and though my friend has gone through some rough stuff the past couple of years, Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross, and the suffering that goes hand in hand with that, would argue that difficult passages are a normal part of the Christian life. I prayed for this guy every once in awhile, but on the whole was committed to leaving the whole situation in God’s hands. 

How did I handle the news that he was no longer calling himself a Christian? Well, conveniently there was quite a bit of snow outside, so I got dressed, grabbed a shovel and spent the next two hours taking out my anger on thick frozen stuff. There’s nothing like catapulting 20 pound ice balls into the river to simultaneously wear oneself out and engage in community service. I’m not mad at my friend, truly I’m not. He has looked sad in recent pictures, and whatever he says, I don’t truly believe this is what he wants. I am mad at Satan for the ways he lied to this guy and got him to exchange Christ for that which is nothing.

As I shoveled and chucked, shoveled and chucked, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, I realized I wished I had known more earlier, before it got this bad. The reality is, I’m really not that close to this guy. If I made a list of my three hundred closest friends, he’d be hard pressed to be on it. He’s more of an acquaintance. A friend of a friend. And there is no reason why he should have let me know more of what was going on in his heart. We don’t have that kind of relationship. 

Yet, as I pondered on, my mind went back to last August when I spent two weeks in the States. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people who I hadn’t seen since I’d left. Most of those people I had barely talked to in those 16 months. It wasn’t from lack of trying on my part, but I came to the conclusion that my friends were busy with their lives and had other relationships they needed and wanted to invest in. It wasn’t that they didn’t love me; it’s that they do a lot better with friendships when the person is right there in front of them. I’ve moved too often in my life to be really offended by this. At the same time, I made an effort to check in every few months with my closest female friends. I heard the big news: engagements, births, moves, etc., and I figured if that was all I heard – even when I pushed for more – that everyone was doing fine. It was a little shocking, therefore, to sit down and have conversation after conversation after conversation where my friends were refreshingly honest with me and covered not only the joys of those months but also the struggles. They all had struggles in some capacity. Not one of them had a perfect year. And the things they shared with me weren’t minor grievances but major issues that they will remember for years. Over and over again, as I heard some of my closest friends describe how MUCH they had been struggling, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” And time after time I heard, “I didn’t want to bother you!”

So I say this, to my friends, to my acquaintances, to the person I barely know: you’re not bothering me. Just because I’m here, not there with you, doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear. You still very much matter to me, and I still care about you deeply. I know I can’t be everything to you that I could be if I were there. I can’t give you a hug from way over here, I can’t hunt you down in church to ask how you’re doing, I can’t read your face to see how stressed you are, and I can’t watch your kids for a few hours so you can get some time with God. But I can pray and I can listen. Whether you have emailed me in the past five months or not, I still think of you almost every day, and I pray for quite a few of you on a regular basis. We are miles apart, but I still carry you in my heart. 

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Hi, my name is Jilida, and I’m a missionary

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.

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