Has God given you a prayer burden for Japan? Are you thinking about becoming a full-time missionary? Are you looking for more information to help you in your decision-making process? If you answered "yes" to all these questions, then please read on.
Here are four key questions to ask yourself while you are discerning God’s calling on your life.
- Is God calling me to full-time ministry as a missionary?
- Is God calling me to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM), or some other organization?
- Is God calling me to Japan, and if so, which city or region?
- What is God calling me to do as part of my ministry and mission?
There are many opportunities to serve as a full-time missionary in Japan. Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has teams in Tokyo, Narita, Osaka, Kagoshima, Okinawa, Nagano, and Kyoto. (See our YWAM Japan web site at http://www.ywamjapan.com/index.html.)
In addition to YWAM, there are other mission-sending organizations active in Japan. Many missionaries in Japan join the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA) (http://www.jema.org/joomla15/). If you are interested in other organizations, check out the JEMA web site under the JEMA Member Missions. You can also find information by searching the Internet, talking with your pastor about your denomination's missionary organization, contacting missionaries in Japan, etc.
Other Opportunities in Japan
There are also other ways for Christians to come to Japan and serve or volunteer, without becoming a full-time missionary. Some persons come to Japan as short-term volunteers or on outreach. Some seek jobs teaching English or seek other kinds of employment. Some schools assist their employees in obtaining a working visa and sometimes with housing, as well. You can search the Internet for job opportunities.
If you are still thinking about serving as a full-time missionary with YWAM Japan, the following questions and statements may help you in your decision-making process and in your preparation for service in Japan.
- Are you familiar with the YWAM Foundational Values? If not, please read the values on the YWAM International web site (http://www.ywam.org/About-YWAM/Who-we-are/The-Foundational-Values-of-Youth-With-A-Mission). If you join YWAM, you will be expected to uphold these values.
- Please read the YWAM Statement of Faith (http://www.ywam.org/About-YWAM/Who-we-are/Statement-of-Faith). Are these statements compatible with your own beliefs? If not, you may want to consider other missionary organizations or other ways of serving in Japan.
- Have you completed the YWAM Discipleship Training School (DTS)? This is the basic requirement for every YWAM missionary in any location in the world. If you haven't yet completed the DTS, please go to the YWAM International web site (http://www.ywam.org/) for when and where DTS is available. The typical DTS classroom period is 3 months, followed by 2-3 months on outreach. There is an English-speaking DTS in Tokyo (please email: email@example.com).
- If you've already completed the DTS, have you ever been to Japan? If not, it may be helpful for you to take an exploratory trip to confirm that God is calling you to Japan. On your trip, please visit YWAM teams that have ministries which appeal to you.
- Which ministries has God given you as a special passion? What is your vision for your ministry in Japan? How does your vision make use of your particular spiritual gifts? Of the YWAM teams in Japan, which seems to be the best match for your gifts, talents, etc.?
- Persons interested in joining YWAM Japan must make a commitment to learn the Japanese language. If you are not fluent, are you willing to set aside time to study the Japanese language? What current options do you have for Japanese language study where you are located?
- Do you know something about Japanese culture, customs, foods, and lifestyle? What can you do to learn more about life in Japan? Are you interested in learning about and experiencing other cultures than your own?
- What do you know about the Christian history of Japan? Many people are unaware of the centuries-long persecution of Japanese Christians and the many martyrs of the faith in Japan. Please do some research on the Internet, or read some books on the Christian history of Japan.
When you have confirmation of your calling to Japan, the next step is to contact the staff at one or more of the team locations. Names and email addresses are listed on the YWAM Japan web site for each location (http://www.ywamjapan.com/jp/ministry/mini-top.html).
The typical process involves your completion of all required application forms and requested documents, including completed reference forms, for the specific YWAM team. Once the application packet is received in Japan, the next step is usually a time of prayerful discernment by the team. If the team discerns that God is calling you to join them, they will notify you. The next step is typically for the team to submit a "Religious Activities" visa application on your behalf to the Immigration Department in Japan. If and when the visa is granted, you will be notified of the timeframe (window of time) during which you can enter Japan.
After you've been officially accepted as new "staff" by a team, you can inquire about costs of living, available housing options, required national health insurance, estimated local transportation costs, utilities, etc. In this way, you can estimate your total monthly living expenses. Because YWAM "staff" are not paid, but serve essentially as volunteers, you will be expected to raise your own support and to be dependent upon God for all your needs.
Remember, one of the YWAM Foundational Values is to rely upon relationship-based support. "YWAM is called to a relationship-based support system, depending upon God and His people for financial provision, both corporately and individually. We believe that relationship-based support promotes responsibility, accountability, communication, and mutual prayer. It involves the donor as a partner in ministry. As God and others have been generous toward us, so we desire to be generous. YWAMers give themselves, their time and talents to God through the mission with no expectation of remuneration."
Usually fund-raising begins by talking with family, friends, your pastor, etc. Pray for God to give you guidance on whom to ask and how to share your vision for your future ministry. Consider putting together an attractive brochure or single-page newsletter that describes your future mission. There are also YWAM resources on support-raising, such as Loren Cunningham's book, Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances (available at the YWAM Publishing site http://www.ywampublishing.com/default.aspx).
It is also important to have prayer support when you enter full-time missions. Which persons or groups will regularly pray for you and your ministry? If you had an emergency while serving in a foreign country, how could a prayer network be activated on your behalf?
When you have completed your discernment process, you will probably have more questions to ask. If you decide to apply to a particular YWAM team, then that team will be the one to answer your questions. Because each team has its own unique setting, staff, vision, etc., your team can advise you best.
(Updated December 10, 2014.)