Mountains near Black Bear Falls
I have wanted to go to Japan as long I can remember1. As a sophomore in college I went to China with InterVarsity on a similar six-week trip and I distinctly remember choosing China because it was the closest thing they had to Japan. Discovering anime after I graduated did nothing to abate this desire and several years ago I decided that I wanted to spend a year in Japan. Unfortunately, it had not occurred to me to do a study-abroad program while in college and that sort of low-cost opportunity is kind of non-existant after graduation.

I looked into several of the standard ways of going overseas. The most obvious way was teaching English as a JET, but the idea of teaching full-time did not excite me (largely because I did not enjoy teaching corporate classes with my first company). For a Christian, one of the logical ways is through a missionary organization. OMF immediately came to mind, since the work of Hudson Taylor to the Chinese is celebrated by my (Chinese) church. I did not think I would be interested in full-time missionary work, either, so I asked OMF about opportunities to use my computer skills for a year. There was an IT need, but IT really does not excite me, nor did the idea seem to excite God very much. And since I could hardly ask people for $50,000 (or thereabouts, I figure) if God was not clearly telling me to go, I stayed. So I contented myself with praying for an opportunity.

Edo-period house in the back of a
sake shop in Hirosaki.
I had ruled out short-term missions since I had discovered in China that short-term missions mostly change the person who goes (this was later confirmed by a missionary who spoke at my church). My personal desire was to spend a year or so and if I went in God’s name, I wanted to have some impact on the people. However, my church invites missionaries to speak during the month of February, and each year I found myself more and more convicted that I needed to go. Finally, this year we had a missionary panel and the question was asked about determining if God wants you to be a missionary. The answer was that, for short-terms missions at least, God had already made his desires known in the Great Commission and that the answer was almost always “yes”. Still, I was rather surprised when I somewhat accidentally heard about OMF’s ServeJapan program and found God leading me to go.

When I heard about the opportunity I was out of work, so I applied. This was in the aftermath of the Internet Bubble, so I was not expecting to find a job (software developers being overabundant), nor did I care too much since I was planning to start graduate school in the fall.  However, God found me a job which, even given the buyers market, let me take six weeks off shortly after starting. So, it was pretty clear that God wanted me to go to Japan as a short-term missionary.

Background on Japan >

1  I attribute this mostly to the fact that my parents spent 10 months in Japan as part of a professorial exchange program when I was six.
2  “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18 - 20)