Babienco Missions

Stories and Updates from Michael and Caitlyn's mission service to Japan
-June/July 2023-

More Difficult Than It Looks

Two wheels? Check. Pedals? Check. Seat? Check. For all intents and purposes, the item in front of us trainees was a typical bicycle. Well, except for one small detail: to turn right, you need to turn the handlebars left. To turn left, you turn the handlebars right. Does that sound easy? Conceptually, it’s simple! You could take a paper test on how the bike worked and ace it. But now, think again—your ability to ride a bicycle relies on muscle memory and careful, learned balance, relying on a system where turning left turns the bike, well, left. It can take days, weeks or even months to re-train your brain’s muscle memory to learn a backwards bicycle, and then it may take additional time if you want to switch back to an ordinary bicycle!

This bending of the brain and re-learning of core ideas—even down to your muscle memory—is one of the big ideas of AFM’s training program. What we are used to doing on a day-to-day basis, how we react in certain situations, the language we speak, and more will all change when we are in another country and another culture with an entirely different worldview. The backwards bicycle is just one way of many that the training team emphasizes the need to rethink how we, as Christians and Seventh-day Adventists, operate in order to successfully move to another country and share the gospel.
Training Program Tidbits
It would be impossible to describe in full the things we have discussed in and out of class the last two months. Our schedule is very full—6-7 hours of class a day, five days a week, plus assignments, everyday life, and two speaking appointments! Here are a few short tidbits from training:
  • The “main course” of training is a series of classes on how we can church-plant while in Japan. Our goal is more aptly called a disciple-making movement. This movement is based on the idea that the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is a call to make disciples who obey what Jesus says in Scripture—including going and making more disciples! In other words, we aim to help people become disciples of Jesus, who will then help their friends and networks also become disciples of Jesus. These disciples meet together regularly with other believers in what we might call a house church or church group, even if that group is small. The ”movement” part comes in when the disciple groups start multiplying as people begin to share with their relational networks. All of this has to be done in a culturally-sensitive way—easier said than done!
  • We also had two weeks with Dale Goodson, former AFM missionary to Papua New Guinea. In these classes, we discussed how we would need to help people have a worldview transformation from their current culture and beliefs to a Christ-centered culture. To do this, we will need to understand their current culture so that we can help them understand the gospel in a way that makes sense to them. These classes equipped us with a vast amount of materials that will help us perform the culture study in Japan that is a necessary prerequisite to gospel and discipleship work.
One benefit of being at the training center is seeing other missionaries you love. This was Michael’s first time seeing the Nicholaides family since leaving Cambodia in 2019!
  • The student and short-term missionary (SM) trainees arrived on July 16. Their training coincides with the last month of our training. Along with the other career families, we got to help run the Frontierland experience, which is the SM’s first initiation into cross-cultural work. Frontierland is a way that AFM simulates what arriving in a foreign country might be like, including language barriers, visa problems, currency conversion, and confusion. It’s a lot of fun!
  • We have a group of student missionaries, all of whom will be serving at the Pnong project in Cambodia, now meeting with us for morning worship. Our goal in this time of worship is to teach them a simple, reproducible Bible study that is easy to remember and perform, even in areas where people have no prior knowledge of Scripture. One added bonus is that we get to have them over to cook several times and have a fun time getting to know one another in the process.
We are now in the final phase of training, with graduation Sabbath in just a few weeks on August 12. To say that these last few weeks will be busy is a vast understatement. Onward to the finish line!
We enjoyed making a meal with our group of student missionary trainees.
Praises & Prayer Requests
  • Please continue to pray for all of us in training. With everything going on, stress levels are quite high for everyone, including the other career missionary families in training with us.
  • We are thankful to be here at training, learning and growing in knowledge and as individuals. Between our notes and the digital files we have received from teachers, we will hopefully be able to remember a good majority of what we have learned so we can do our best to put it into practice.
  • Please pray for our strategic planning and timeline planning. We are still dealing with language learning opportunities, the timeline to launch, and various related items. Pray for AFM’s Japan project to start successfully—not just for us but any future workers.
  • The weather here in Michigan has been beautiful. We have a garden outside of our lodging at the training center, and we have recently been enjoying some of the vegetables and flowers.
We would love to hear back from you. You can call or text us at ***.***.**** or email us at adventure@shoesatthedoor.net. We would also be happy to pray for any prayer requests you might have.

Thank you so much for your support!
Michael & Caitlyn Babienco
Volunteer Missionary Candidates
Adventist Frontier Missions