One of the joys I had serving at our church in California was teaching high school Sunday School. I was part of a great team of teachers and we all agreed that the goal was not simply to feed our students Bible stories and tales of morality, but to equip them to explore their faith on their own and know what they believe in. We taught our students inductive Bible study as well as inviting them to ask difficult questions and explore the Bible for answers.
Leaving California for Japan, that ministry was one I thought I was going to have to leave behind. After all, we were teaching some very complex lessons of faith that were difficult in English; how I could I possibly teach those same concepts in Japanese, a language I barely even had a basic grasp of?
As I have consistently found since moving to Tokyo, God makes ways to use whatever gifts you can offer Him. After becoming good friends with our pastor’s son whom I have been mentoring in photography, I learned how there was a thriving high school ministry at our church not long ago, but when some key people moved away, the momentum was lost. Still, there were people in the church who had a heart for high schoolers and when I talked to our pastors, they agreed it was a ministry they would like to see revived. Though I couldn’t dream of teaching the class in Japanese, many of the students have very good English skills and for the ones who don’t, the others are willing to translate.
So six weeks later, here I am, teaching high school Sunday School, in English, again. I was hoping for three or four regular students but so far God (and the students) have been gracious to me and we’ve had a pretty consistent group every week with some curious students who aren’t fluent in English dropping in every once in a while. I also have a few college aged people who have been helping me.
Early on, I asked the students what kinds of things they wanted to study, and I was surprised to hear that they wanted to learn more about many of the same difficult topics that my American students wanted to learn about. I was also very encouraged that when I challenged them with difficult questions, some of them knew the answers already, demonstrating they had already been taught some solid fundamentals about their faith.
I have been trying to balance the challenging stuff with fun and relationship building. While many of the kids know each other pretty well, my son Jeremy is new to the group and I am hoping when word gets out, we’ll have more and more new students coming in to join us.
Though there is nothing remarkable about what I am doing, given the circumstances: an English speaker at a Japanese language church, I have no idea how I got to be doing what I’m doing. But God honors the things that we are passionate about and if we are willing to lay what little we have at His altar, He will likely take whatever it is and bless it. This is how it has played out every time I admit to God I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing here.
I have no idea where this ministry will lead, but I love the students I am working with and as long as they are willing to come and learn, I’m here to teach them. Please pray for this little ministry seed to grow into something big for the glory of God.