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At long last, I am continuing a series on missionary adjustment to Japan, based on an article by Sue Plumb Takamoto entitled “Missionary Adjustment to Japan: A Reality Check for Leaders and Mentors.” Today I will share about two very important factors that can assist and even speed up the adjustment process.

Adjustment help #1: Community

“When missionaries arrive in Japan, they are quickly thrust into a situation where they must ‘start from scratch’ in developing identities.” Here are a few settings for community described by missionaries:

-initial on-field training with other “green” missionaries
-consistent small groups with others in Bible study/ fellowship/prayer
-being in language school with other missionaries/ expats
-with missionary or Japanese mothers with similarly aged children
-member of a new church planting team

Sue states that the significance of community cannot be overstated. “It is the requisite for successful missionary adjustment. This special time of bonding and fellowship uniquely equips the missionary and paves the way through the isolation.”

Adjustment help #2: Mentors
“While many missionaries have extensive, or at least intensive, formal training before arriving on the mission field, it is often the hands-on type of empowerment that missionaries find crucial to thriving in Japan. Four general categories of mentor types are helpful for adjustment. I have named these four types after those who filled a similar role for him: the Phoebe Benefactor, the Barnabas Broker, the Gaius Guide, and the Rufus Relative. With the exception of the Barnabas Broker, the other three types of mentor relationships can be initiated by the missionary.”

Phoebe Benefactor– Supporters and prayer partners from home country who provide financial, emotional, and prayer backing (need to be identified before coming to Japan)

Barnabas Broker – instills self-confidence in the adjusting missionary, empowers the missionary by providing genuine expectations of success and positive ministry opportunities, a cheerleader who believes in the missionary

Gaius Guide – a cultural host who models and/ or teaches Japanese language, culture, and everyday living; very helpful during first year of adjustment (as well as during significant transitions)

Rufus Relative – serves as extensive family by providing a family environment, and/ or caring for the emotional and spiritual needs of the missionary; provides a place “to let down your guard”; may provide for family needs (babysitting, counsel, etc.)

Sue also emphasizes the importance of God’s Word, one’s calling, and worship in the adjustment process – these are “the primary means of the missionary finding anchors in new and turbulent waters.” God’s Word is the link with the past and the hope of the future: “It is serving as a compass for missionaries who, at times, seems to have lost their way in the journey.” “The call is the staying ground. It is what drives the missionary to Japan in the first place, and it appears to be the ‘compelling force’ that steadies the missionary…Worship has a unique way of unlocking the hearts of adjusting missionaries…connecting the missionary with the unseen God.”