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Trapped in Japan, but ministering in the Middle East 

K is a Japanese-speaking CMS worker in the Middle East who focuses on working with the Japanese diaspora community. 

The COVID-19 crisis has seen her caught in Japan, where she previously worked for many years. Here is a wide-ranging reflection on how God is using this time to both test her, and to give gospel opportunities online. This includes continuing to meet online with believers in the Middle East. 

‘If there is ever a challenge to believing in his sovereignty, this is it. I’m thankful that God does know what is going on and is in control.’ 

I am writing this in Japan. On a scheduled trip to Japan to follow up returnees (that is, people who had come back to Japan from the Middle East) my country in the Middle East suddenly closed its borders, effective immediately. This was a shock. But I have seen God’s abundant provision in many ways. 

I have a place to stay in Japan courtesy of C, another CMS worker who is for the foreseeable future in Australia on Home Assignment. I am so very thankful for C’s generosity. 

While in a sense I am ‘stuck’ in Japan, Japan is a very familiar and comfortable place for me to be given my former years of ministry here. I know how to do things, I can understand and know how to ask if I don’t. The air is fresh, the food is delicious, it rains and there is lots of green including flowers! 

Technology helps gospel ministry continue 

Because of technology, I am able not only to keep in touch but continue ministry with Japanese in the Middle East. This week I have restarted my English and Bible classes. Not everyone is able to join. But more than I expected have joined, including a new lady and a lady recently returned to Japan. Especially as the lockdown in the Middle East is strict, and many Japanese find it difficult to interpret information given out, just meeting together to talk and listen and pray is proving valuable. I am also able to do the Japanese Bible time with believers, and we have gained two new group members. 

I have joined a Bible study group in Japan, meeting online. I don’t know anyone, but am thankful for a support group in these unique times. 

These are all blessings and evidence of the God’s unchanging generosity. 

Personal challenges 

There have been other things which are more challenging to think of as blessings. 

As the situation has progressed here in Japan, I found myself having flashbacks to 2011 in Japan: an earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear disaster. I was surprised at first, but have realised that although the situations seem very different, the emotions they produce are similar. When will this end? What will happen tomorrow? Will it get worse? When will we get back to normal? The uncertainty, frustration, and fear were very real in 2011. Thankfully, back then I learned helpful hints in dealing with these emotions and ways to live through the months following the disaster. 

Recalling God’s unchanging promises to me has been crucial. If there is ever a challenge to believing in his sovereignty, this is it. I’m thankful that God does know what is going on and is in control. Remembering the promise that he provides everything we need, and that the ultimate end is already known have also been things to hang on to. 

Remembering that this is not normal 

The phrase ‘new normal’ has been going around, and it has been good to remember that this is not normal, but an emergency situation. ‘Normal’ produces expectations that are not very helpful. The high alert situation affects my mental and physical health too. Acknowledging that this is an ongoing high alert situation takes away the pressure to seek ‘normal’, which essentially means seeking control and security in the familiar and comfortable.  

Like many, I’ve had my first meltdown, and can recognise the triggers. I expect there will be more to come. But after a night’s sleep recall that as always, I am in God’s hands, and that nothing can separate me from his love. As I read the Bible, I am reminded that it is in times of difficulty that the gospel progressed and the church grew. 

I look forward to seeing and hearing how God will work during this current pandemic, because neither he nor the gospel are in lockdown. 

CARE 

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a time of upheaval and stress for many CMS workers around the world. Consider making personal contact, or sending an actual written letter or card, to give a reminder of God’s ongoing care.