Our first term in Japan lasted about three years, from Valentine’s Day in 2009 until early December 2011. Our main focus while we were there was learning as much of the language and culture as we could. We spent about 25 to 30 hours each week doing various things for language study, such as working through textbooks, watching Japanese TV, meeting with a tutor, and conversation with Japanese people. Interacting with our language helpers proved to be great ways to build relationships with people while at the same time getting our cultural questions answered and our language mistakes corrected. We are at about an intermediate stage right now, and find that we can say anything we want to say, provided we have enough time and a dictionary.
The church we worked with was called the Lighthouse Ube Christ Church in Yamaguchi Prefecture and we lived in the second floor apartment of the building. The church had been planted about nine years prior to our coming to Japan and was now in what we refer to as its “young adult” phase, having obtained a Japanese pastor a few years before and recently purchased its own building. We saw our role there as helping the members connect with people from the community through various English and cooking classes.
Every week, we taught a total of six English classes – two beginner, two intermediate, and two advanced. Because many Japanese people learn grammar and vocabulary in school, our classes focused a lot on conversation. This proved to be a neat way to build friendships with our students and compare American and Japanese culture. One church person was able to be in each of these classes, providing a connection between the community and the church. We were then able to have a meal with each of our students and spend time getting to know them better as well as answering any questions they had about the Bible.
Another activity we did was to hold American cooking classes at the local welfare center once a month. Even though advertising was only by word of mouth, we had a number of students come, as well as a couple of newspaper reporters to interview us. Seeing as we taught the class in Japanese, this was a wonderful avenue for using the language and meeting people.