Children on Mission
Posted on: 23rd March 2020
CMS missionaries Matt and Jen Lim are working in Japan. They find having children brings special opportunities for mission in their local community.
It’s 5:30am and two year old Theo has woken the rest of us up. He is already running around our apartment with footsteps that probably sound like elephant thuds to our downstairs neighbours. We are frantically ‘whisper-yelling’ at him to quietly lie back down. We are exhausted, in a bad mood and not ready to face the day ahead. And so another day begins.
Children in Japan means hard work
This has been an almost daily experience over since we moved to Japan. Repent, rinse and repeat. Before we moved to Tokyo in September 2018, we were involved in ministry and were able to serve and care for others. But here, we are helpless. We’re the ones needing as much service and care as we can get. We are desperate to learn Japanese language and culture, but our time and energy is so often taken up with our boys (Obadiah ‘Obi’ – 4 yrs, and Theodore ‘Theo’ – 2 years): applications for preschool and daycare, notes, bags (don’t forget those infamous meticulously-packed bento box lunches!), bathing, toilet training, getting home for naps and the list goes on. ‘This would be so much easier without kids’ is a thought that has honestly crossed our minds a few times.
“…our boys have … given us many exciting opportunities for relationships and ministry in our specific context that would not exist otherwise.”
Children in Japan means opportunity
But…our boys have also given us many exciting opportunities for relationships and ministry in our specific context that would not exist otherwise.
As a family with young kids we already have many inbuilt connection points in our new community: youchien (preschool) and hoikuen (daycare) staff, Sunday school teachers, countless forms to be lodged at our local council office, etc. It’s meant a lot of challenges – from the very outset (even with no Japanese) we had to be out and about, and didn’t have the option of staying at home in our safety zone.
Workers in Japan work long hours, so it can be hard to make friends. The main exception seems to be mothers of young kids. Even early on, Jen was able to meet mums in local parks and strike up friendships.
Ministry of vulnerability
As new missionaries we rely so much on others. We often feel like a burden, but Japanese friends have been happy to help. After any important letter comes home from preschool, Takako-san, another mum, hands Jen a beautiful handwritten summary note in English. Shizuka-san, our church pastor’s wife, organised a babysitting roster (four mornings a week!) so that we could have language lessons.
Being foreigners with children has benefits. There’s the novelty factor. Shortly after he started at youchien, we used Obi’s 4th birthday as a chance to invite friends to our local park for an ‘Australian birthday party’. It was a great opportunity for our Christian and non-Christian friends to meet and mix together. We’ve invited friends over to our house for a meal or coffee, and play dates. Many people don’t do this in Japan as apartments are small. People can feel embarrassed if things aren’t tidy. But our friends have really appreciated it, and have even reciprocated! We’re planning on giving Christmas presents to some of our closest youchien friends – a small Australian gift plus a Jesus Storybook Bible (in Japanese).
Moving to Japan with children has often been hard. But through and even because of the challenges, God has opened up doors of opportunity for both relationships and the gospel.
When you think of CMS missionaries with children, thank God and pray for the unique opportunities for evangelism to other families.