Babienco Missions

Stories and Updates from Michael and Caitlyn's mission service in Japan
-June/July 2024-

Bread, Language Learning and Mission Work

Our hunt for healthful, tasty bread lasted for several weeks after moving to western Yokohama in our second month in Japan. Just when we thought we had found some good bread, the opportunity to purchase it was seemingly snatched away.
In Japan, bread is often sold in small packages of four, six or eight thick slices. Whole loaves are more difficult to find. During our first month in Japan, we found mostly-whole-wheat bread in a grocery store about a 20-minute walk from our Airbnb apartment. After we moved to western Yokohama, however, we struggled to find healthy bread we could purchase by the loaf. We don’t have an oven, so baking bread is not an option.

One fortuitous day, however, we found our heart’s desire in a small bakery in the basement of a train station we frequented on our way to and from language classes: healthy-looking bread! The small bakery had several loaves of this and other bread sitting on a counter next to the cash register. As a taste test, we purchased a small package of the pre-sliced “Cereal Bread” and tasted it when we got home. Ah — finally, success! Delicious, healthful bread.
This is the bread shop where we finally found healthful bread.
With our hearts rejoicing at finding good bread at last, we returned to the bakery soon after. We used some mimes and what little Japanese we knew at the time to ask for a full loaf. After some back and forth, we succeeded! Caitlyn triumphed again with another loaf a few days later.
After those initial successes, however, I was denied another purchase. I went to buy a loaf and used the same sorts of words we used to purchase bread before. The bakery worker came out from behind the cash register, pointed to the pre-sliced bread section, and emphatically made a giant X with her arms. She spoke a rapid blur of incomprehensible Japanese. Not understanding anything she said, I used a translation app to ask if the bread loaves were not for sale. They were not for sale. Confused, I purchased some of the pre-sliced, fluffy bread, as they had no pre-sliced Cereal Bread at that time.
A few days later, we made another attempt with the same result. Why were we no longer able to buy the loaves of bread? Had we gotten lucky before? Had someone gotten in trouble for selling us whole loaves? Despite this problem, the cereal bread was still the best we had found, so we occasionally purchased some of the pre-sliced version while considering our next moves.

Several weeks later, as we brought some sliced bread to the bakery cash register, the bakery worker started speaking to us in fluent English. We were pleasantly surprised and began chatting with her. After a little conversation, Caitlyn asked, “So, we have tried to buy whole loaves of bread before. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Are we allowed to buy loaves of bread here?”
Here we are at the bus stop on our first day of Beginner 6 class.
The worker replied, “Yes, you can. Sometimes, though, the fresh bread is too hot to cut, so the machine can’t slice it. Since most people want sliced bread, the bakery doesn’t usually sell it. But they can sell you loaves of bread that are unsliced. Did you want to buy a whole loaf today?”
We replied, “Oh, that makes sense. Yes, please!” After the worker rang up our full loaf of bread, we asked how to request, in Japanese, an unsliced loaf of bread. She patiently taught us the words we would need.
Several days later, Caitlyn returned to the bakery. Using the words we had been taught, she successfully asked a worker for a loaf of cereal bread! The bakery worker handed it off to the cashier, who happened to be the same English-speaking worker who had helped us before. The cashier grinned widely and said, “Great job. That was perfect.”
Of course, language learning isn’t useful just for buying tasty bread from stores and understanding nutrition labels. What it does do, however, is allow you to communicate clearly with your friends, neighbors, and, yes, the people you meet at stores and shops without confusing either party.
Communicating the gospel in a new land is hard enough — sometimes, it is hard even in your native language and land — but with a lot of work, prayer, and the help of the Holy Spirit, the gospel can be shared with those who do not yet know and in a way they can understand. This is why we are working so hard at language learning now — to build a solid foundation for the rest of our ministry here in Japan. Our understanding and vocabulary grow weekly, but we still have a long journey ahead of us.
By the time you receive this newsletter, we will already be in the thick of our first intermediate-level Japanese language class. It promises to be a significant step up. We have seen God help us in our language-learning journey, and we know He will keep leading us as we continue to walk forward with Him.
Praises & Prayer Requests
  • As always, please continue praying for our language learning and culture acquisition process!
  • We had the opportunity to share about our work here at the local SDA conference church and encourage the local members to be missional in their daily living. We praise God that it went well despite us fighting illness at the time.
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