Babienco Missions

Stories and Updates from Michael and Caitlyn's mission service in Japan
-January 2024-

Ready to Rock Climb

“Ummm…すみません!英語が話せません.” (Sumimasen! Eigo ga hanasemasen.)

The restaurant worker looked at me (Michael) blankly, clearly trying to comprehend what I just said. I thought for a moment, then realized that I had just said I couldn’t speak English rather than saying that I didn’t speak Japanese.

Oops. What a great way to start an order right before looking at options on an English menu.

Our Japanese language learning adventure has started in earnest. We are going to a language school in downtown Yokohama City, and we have currently completed one out of six Beginner classes, each of which is four weeks long. Coto Language Academy has proven to be an excellent choice for language learning thus far. The teachers are kind and open to questions of all types, the other students have been friendly, and we noticed a definite improvement in our vocabulary, grammar and speaking skills in just a few short weeks. We believe it has been well worth the investment in time, energy and funds.

We praise God for His blessings in our language learning and believe He is making a difference in our studies. I feel as though I am able to absorb the voluminous amounts of information and vocabulary very quickly — much quicker than I recall learning things in college or high school. For an example of this blessing in action, one day in class, we were given around 35 new adjectives to learn in both present and past tense. (In Japanese, you conjugate adjectives much like you might think about conjugating verbs in other languages.) We knew a few of these words ahead of time, but most were new. Despite this, we had them all memorized by 10 p.m. that evening. Clearly, God is blessing our memory banks!
Here are our classmates and one of our teachers from our Beginner 1 class.
During one of our Beginner 1 classes, the teacher began warning us about our upcoming Beginner 2 class. “Right now, class probably feels like a small uphill hike. It is work, but it isn’t too difficult, and it’s fun. Beginner 2 is much more difficult. It is like rock climbing! You will learn six new verb conjugations and a lot of new grammar. Many people quit Japanese language school after Beginner 2 because they think it is too difficult. But, when you get to Beginner 3, you are back to the nice hike again. Good luck!”

The more time we spend here, the more we see that learning Japanese effectively and thoroughly will be key to our work here in Japan. Google Translate works wonders in a pinch, but it will also be a beautiful day when we can converse and get to know people in their native language. It’s time to start rock climbing!

Please continue to keep us in prayer for our language learning activities. Please also pray that we will be able to make a positive Christian impression on our classmates and language school teachers.
Miscellaneous Project Updates
Of course, a lot of other things have happened around our time in language learning. Here’s a small taste:
  • After our first week of language school, we moved to a house provided by the Japan Union Conference (JUC) on their property. It’s been a huge blessing to have a place to call home.
  • So far, we have been able to attend two Japanese churches, two international churches, and one small home church. We are trying to visit a good sample of churches here in the greater Tokyo area to learn how church is currently conducted within the Japan Union. This is also helping to expand our network and giving us opportunities to practice our Japanese.
  • We are slowly beginning to build relationships with people here on the JUC campus and are really enjoying getting to know new people. One favorite event was joining friends at the local SDA church to make mochi (rice cakes).
Caitlyn forming some mochi filled with red bean paste.
Social Media and "Slice of Life" Updates
In case you missed it from our previous newsletter, we want to mention again that we are running social media accounts for shorter updates between newsletters. We have been posting pictures and “slice of life” updates about once a week on average. You can find us on Instagram by searching for “babienco_missions” or on Facebook in a private group. If you prefer not to use social media, all the same content is on our website.
Praises & Prayer Requests
  • One month of language school is done! We are so grateful and ready to learn more.
  • Please pray for wisdom on a visa and timeline for our short-term, two-year worker who has already been through AFM’s training and is eager to come to Japan.
  • Praise God for helping us through another year! We were not even signed up as missionaries with AFM two years ago, and now we live here in Japan. Wow.
We would love to hear back from you. You can email us at adventure@shoesatthedoor.net. We are happy to pray for any prayer requests you might have, so please feel free to send them our way.

Thank you so much for your support!
Michael & Caitlyn Babienco
Career Missionaries
Adventist Frontier Missions