Just the Beginning

Author: Michael Babienco

April 2023

“Are you a missionary?”

My mind froze — should I just say yes? Should I try to come up with some other reason for carrying a Bible out the front door while wearing a shirt and tie? Are missionaries accepted in this country? How could I respond in an acceptable way in this culture and to these people?

Caitlyn and I had been in Japan for a little over two days on our two-week exploratory vision trip. The trip’s purpose was to scout out a potential project location, do budget research, figure out how to navigate around the country, and learn as much as we could about the culture and religions of Japan. Our first stop was the city of Kamakura, where there was a small SDA church that we planned to attend for our first Sabbath.

On my way out of our guest house on Sabbath, however, I was asked whether I was a missionary. The answer was obvious, but I didn’t want to offend our guest house owner. Lacking time to formulate a politically safe answer, however, I ran with the first one that came to mind. “Yes, that’s why my wife and I plan to move to Japan!”
Our guest house owner replied, “Oh, that’s great! I was baptized two years ago. I am a Christian, too!”

We had a short conversation, and then I left for church, marveling at how we had ended up at a guest house owned by an English-speaking Christian out of all the hotels and places we could have stayed in Japan. After church, some local members walked us back to our guest house. When they found out our guest house owner was a Christian, they invited him to attend church on Sabbath in the future! Later that evening, Caitlyn and I had a long conversation with him about Christianity and the SDA church, which he had never heard of before.

This story is just one of many from our two-week trip to Japan. We spent a few days in Tokyo, doing budget research and having a language school interview. Then we headed west to Kyoto and Osaka, where we traveled to many religious and cultural sites. From there, we traveled to Hiroshima and viewed the Peace Memorial Museum and surrounding parks, all memorializing the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945. Our last major stop was Yamaguchi Prefecture, where the first Catholic missionaries worked in Japan.

Going on this exploratory trip has excited us about the possibilities of living and working in Japan. We still have plenty of information to learn: the language, the ins and outs of the culture and religion, and what community to move to long-term. But, we are even more confident in God leading us to Japan, and we are excited to share more stories from our trip over the coming months. Hang on to your hats — the journey has just begun!