by Laura Parker, missionary Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Junior and Senior High School
Greetings from Aomori, Japan! It has now been almost four years since I started serving at Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Junior and Senior High School, a school affiliated with Hirosaki Gakuin University, a private Christian school. My time here has had its ups and downs, but it continues to be a great joy to serve in Hirosaki and to share the gospel with Japanese youth.
I first felt God calling me to Japan when I was in high school. I grew up in the State of Maryland in the eastern United States. I knew nothing about Japanese language and culture, but I had always been curious about the different customs and values of other countries. US high schools require students to study one foreign language, and I thought it would be fun to study Japanese because it is the language that is most different from English. Looking back on it now, I know that this was no coincidence. I believe that this was the first of many events in my life that God used to direct me to Japan. While I thought I would only study Japanese for a semester, God had other plans for me. The more time passed, the more and more I fell in love with the Japanese language and culture. My studies continued and became more serious when I attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan. During this time I became involved in ministry to Japanese students on campus and to Japanese people living in Holland. There were times when I pursued other interests, but in the end I always felt God bringing me back to Japan.
After graduation, I felt sure that I loved Japan and that Japan would always have a special place in my heart. I considered coming to Japan as an English teacher because I had also studied English in undergraduate school. However, I wanted to be more involved in sharing the gospel than a full-time teaching job would allow. I made inquires about openings to work as a missionary at a Japanese high school and learned that a position was available at Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai High School. I felt that this was an ideal opportunity for me to use my English language skills while being involved in ministry to Japanese youth. I felt certain that Hirosaki was where God was calling me to be.
Hirosaki Gakuin Seiai Junior and Senior High School, where I now serve, is a Christian school founded by missionaries in 1886. Although there are few Christian teachers, the school continues to hold daily chapel services, have Bible classes, and celebrate events on the Christian calendar. At the chapel services, students sing hymns, hear a short sermon, and pray together. This is the first exposure most of the students have to a worship service or to the Bible. Not many students are Christians, but the school gives students the opportunity to hear the Gospel message for the first time and to learn about who God is. Many students keep their Bibles after they graduate and graduate with a positive, nostalgic view of Christianity. I pray that seeds are being planted every day at these services, and that if not now, some day in the future students will come to know Jesus as their savior.
My main responsibility at the school is to teach in the English department. Teaching English classes provides me with an excellent way to get to know individual students and to build relationships with them. When talking to students in the classroom, I can learn about their interests and beliefs, which helps me to understand Japanese culture better and how best to share the Gospel with Japanese people. For many students, I am the first foreign Christian they have had a conversation with, and every day I try to find small ways to share God's love with students, whether that be through giving them positive feedback on an assignment, praying with them, or just listening to what they want to tell me. I know that I am flawed in many ways, but I pray that students can see God’s love shining through me in these daily interactions with them. I pray that God will use the words I say to touch their hearts and to show them how much He loves them.
In addition to classes, I also assist with the school’s religion department. I help with a variety of tasks, but my main responsibility is to conduct an English chapel service once a month. At these services, I lead the students in an English hymn, deliver a short message in English with Japanese translation, and pray for the school and students. It is my greatest joy each month to tell students about how God is working in my life and about what Jesus has done for them on the cross. Students and teachers have told me that my talks help them relate to the Bible and are easy for them to understand, for which I am so thankful!
Another great joy I have is to teach some girls in a weekly Bible study. Each week a small group of girls comes to chat, sing hymns and praise songs, and read Bible passages together in Japanese and English. This has been a great environment to get to know students, to pray with them, and to look at the Bible more closely with them. Recently, two of these girls have even attended church with me.
Serving in a foreign country has been difficult at times, but I am so grateful to God for bringing me to Hirosaki. I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity that God has given me to share His love and to tell the young people in Japan about Jesus. Please continue to keep the teachers and students of Seiai High School in your prayers. Pray that although it becomes more and more difficult to do so, the Gospel message would still be preached. Please pray that God would work powerfully through the school to reach students and their families.