In October this year I will be leaving the UK and moving halfway across the world to join a church plant in Nagoya, Japan. I will be serving GraceCity Church part-time as a volunteer intern, helping them to pioneer a year-long internship programme that can be used again in the future, meeting with young Japanese Christians, doing student outreach and developing new Japanese language resources.
My work with the church will be quite broad, but I’m looking forward to using both my creative skills and my (hopefully gradually improving) Japanese language ability to serve the church, as well as doing some things that are almost entirely new to me. In addition to serving the church, I will also be teaching English part-time for Connect, a small English language school set up by two friends from GraceCity about a year and a half ago.
The move has been a fairly long time coming. I first began to think that God might be calling me to Japan around ten years ago, when a love for Nintendo and Japanese culture grew into a love for the Japanese people and a desire to see them come to know Jesus.
Besides Nintendo, I love all sorts of things about Japan, from the varied regional food specialities to the kind, welcoming people, to the beautiful scenery and hot springs. As someone who has dabbled with illustration and worked in motion graphic design, I love Japanese design, animation and comics. These things would be a great reason for moving to Japan on their own, but there are other reasons for going too.
There is a real need for the gospel in Japan. As a nation it contains one of the largest unreached people groups in the world, with less than 2% of the population identifying as Christian. New Christians are often ostracised from their family and friendship groups, who see them as having abandoned their ancestors and traditional Shinto practices and values. Japan is also quite a painful place for many people: for example, it has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
But God has a plan. I know that God loves Japan even more than I do, and the more I speak to people from the churches there, the more I see that God is already working amongst the Japanese people. And the more I want to be a part of it.
So, much of the last ten years has been spent exploring and preparing for being part of what God is doing in Japan. I studied Japanese at SOAS in London for four years (one of which was spent on exchange at Nagoya University, where I joined GraceCity for the first time), and it was in my first year of university that I joined ChristChurch London.
Being a part of ChristChurch London had a massive influence on me in the formative years of my life. I learned lots of things, but perhaps the thing I remember the most is the importance of ‘everything’ – we can honour God and proclaim his Kingdom, whatever we’re doing, working towards the good of whatever place we find ourselves in. So when I go to Japan I can teach English to the glory of God, in the same way that I can do ‘church work’ to the glory of God, and I’m looking forward to doing so.
After graduating from SOAS in 2011 I spent a year volunteering as part of the media team based at ChristChurch London, and this gave me an opportunity to develop both essential theological knowledge, as well as practical skills in media production. I have since gone on to use these media skills in Oxford, working for UCCF as their media producer for the last three years, again honing skills that I can use in Japan but also helping to resource Christian Unions in the process.
The decision to move to Japan now was a relatively easy one to make. When I joined UCCF I told myself I’d give it three years and then see how God was leading me. When I started praying again about the move earlier this year and talking it through with people at GraceCity in Japan and at my church in Oxford, all of the doors that I tentatively pushed at opened. God further provided the funds that I needed for my visa application and CELTA English teaching course, and I went from having a vague notion that I might be going to Japan soon to having concrete plans with a visa, a job and a place to live in what seemed like a very short time span. God has been incredibly good to me, and seeing His provision come seemingly out of the blue these last few months has really strengthened my faith.
There’s still a bit of preparation to do before I go. I’ll be doing an intensive 4-week CELTA course in September, but that is essentially the final hurdle before I leave the UK and head to Japan. As I think about the coming year, and the probable further years in Japan afterwards, I can’t begin to imagine what God will do. But as I step out in faith, I hope that God will use me to bring people closer to Him and to make a positive contribution not just to GraceCity church, but to the city of Nagoya and the people around me.
If you’d like to follow me on my journey in Japan and partner with me in prayer, you can sign up for my prayer letter here.