I’m Moving to Japan!

I’m Moving to Japan! This morning, Pastor Les and I announced to the congregation of NorthLife Church that I will be moving to Osaka (Sayama City), Japan at the end of the summer to become a Missionary English Teacher at Grace English School. It was a bittersweet announcement to make, especially since it hasn’t even been a month since Pastor Les announced his own resignation. Fort McMurray & NorthLife has been my home for these past 4 years. These have been years of tremendous growth for me, both in my own personal life and in ministry. And it’s growth that I absolutely attribute to the wonderful people who have journeyed with me along the way. But as much as I love this town and I love living here, I cannot ignore the calling which God has been making obvious to me since I first discovered this opportunity to move to Japan.

What follows is a blog post that I wrote on March 25, 2017. At that time, Pastor Les had not even made his announcement yet about his and Ardith’s departure from NorthLife. So obviously, I could not make my own departure public yet. I discovered this opportunity to go to Japan in mid-March. And within a very short period of time (described below), I applied, was offered the job, talked it over with my family in Toronto (I happened to take a short trip to Toronto the weekend before I wrote the post), talked it over with Pastors Mark and Les, and finally accepted the position. Thinking about it now, even the speed with which things progressed was incredible! Surely, it was God at work to pave my way to move forward with it.

Anyway, even though I could not publish the posts right away, I wanted to write my thoughts down. I decided to schedule the publishing for sometime in June. Though now that Pastor Les and I have announced my news to church, there is no longer a need to wait that long. So I’m now slowly editing these posts and allowing them to go live…

I’M MOVING TO JAPAN!

Oh man, I can’t believe it even as I write it out. So here’s the deal…

I first decided to visit Japan in February of 2015. I had always wanted to go. But I had other priorities – namely, going to the Philippines. But I noticed that the past couple of times I visited the Philippines (in 2013 and 2010), I had been flying through Japan anyway with a lengthy (4-6 hour) layover. So that got me thinking… What if I extended that layover? So when I planned my 2015 vacation to the Philippines, I gave it a shot. I booked a flight from Fort McMurray to Tokyo, stayed 4 days, before flying on to the Philippines. And it worked! Not only was it not significantly more expensive than a normal flight to the Philippines, it actually turned out cheaper than my parent’s flight from Toronto the Manila.

So in February of 2015, I finally got to experience the land of my dreams, Japan. I explored Tokyo and its surrounding areas. And then I got to repeat this in January of 2016, and then December 2016/January 2017 (I was in Japan over the New Year). I absolutely loved it! But each time I went back, it became more and more clear that week-long visits were not going to satisfy my craving to experience Japan and its culture.

Rewind to Spring 2011. I was finishing up my Worship Ministry internship at Morningstar, and I was trying to decide what I was going to do with my life. Basically, it was either continue on with school and do my Masters, or go to South Korea for a job very similar to this one in Japan – Teaching English at a Christian School. I was pretty far along with my application process there. In fact from what I remember, I had already taken my visa photos (basically passport photos.. in other words, they were EXPENSIVE). But I talked it over with the people in my life that I bring such decisions to, and in short, I was talked out of going. The reasons not to go then are not important now. But instead of going to Korea, I went to Wycliffe College and got my Masters instead.

Now, honestly, I’m glad I did stayed in Toronto. Looking back over the past 6 years since that time, my two years attending Wycliffe full time was the most motivated I was as a student… but I got lazier and lazier (evidence: it took me 4 years to finish my Masters. 2 years of full time studies in which I earned 16 credits, and then 2 more years of thesis writing/online course to earn the last 4). So I don’t even want to think what would have happened if I had taken time off and worked before doing my Masters. I probably would have washed out. Nevertheless, I still look back at South Korea as a missed opportunity.

Fast forward again to early this month (March 2017)… At work (NorthLife), the biggest project I am working on right now is the summer day camps, part of which requires hiring interns for the summer. And how do you typically go about hiring people? Well, you post the job on different websites. In particular, since this is a Ministry internship, obviously I was posting it on Christian websites. Specifically, the best website of its kind in Canada, ChristianCareersCanada.com, (run by Tyndale University).

I started posting the job back in December, hoping that I would get some responses while I was on vacation. Unfortunately, none came by the end of January. So I left it alone for a while. So I decided to repost it near the end of February. And while doing so, I of course could not help but check out “the competition”: The other summer positions popping up throughout the summer. Now obviously, I wasn’t doing this looking for a job. I love my current job. I love my church. And I don’t want to leave. Certainly not for a seasonal camp director position. But hey. I’m there anyway. Why not check out what the Church job market is like, particularly in Toronto where Kara Elise is? And that’s when, early in March, I came across this position: it read Missionary / English Teacher.

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Me and Kara Elise in Laguna.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t have even given it the time of the day. Particularly because of the first part: the Missionary part. I really just don’t see myself as the deputizing, fund raising, type. But the second part, “English Teacher”. piqued my interest. And wouldn’t you know it. IT WAS IN OSAKA JAPAN! This is basically my dream job. Pretty soon, I even found out that the use of “missionary” in the job title isn’t entirely accurate.. at least in the way we normally use the word “Missionary” here in the west. To be sure, it is a “missions” related position as building relationships and evangelizing is involved. But in the sense that it’s a raise-your-support type of position. No, the term we would be more familiar with is “Bi-Vocational”. Basically, the you earn money by teaching English at an English school run by the church. But the true “work” is at the church/in ministry.

So I applied. And then, nothing. No response. Not even an acknowledgement for over a week. So I largely put it out of mind. But then I got an email. Apologies for the late response, but the position will be considered at the end of March. So again, put it out of my mind. I turned my attention to other important things.. like the fact that I was heading to Toronto for a weekend for my niece’s first birthday. When all of a sudden, the day I’m supposed to leave (last Thursday), barely a week after that first response… Another email. Congratulations, we’re hiring you!

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White building: Teacher’s apartment. Brick building to the right: Grace English School.
I thought… “Huh? No interview. No skype calls. Nothing.” Just my resume, testimony, and a picture. And there, I’m hired. So that really raised some serious concerns about legitimacy. Which made me really sad. But I was determined to see this through. So I did some digging. Thankfully, the school’s director is on Facebook. And after a little sleuthing (what some others would probably call “Facebook creeping”), I was able to message like half a dozen of the former “Missionaries”/Teachers who have worked at the school. But… lunch break was over so back to work… By the time I was done work that afternoon, I had responses for 2. And, I mean just those responses themselves validated the legitimacy of the school/offer. More than that they were super positive about the job! It definitely made me feel better about it.

So I email them back. I ask for a week to make my decision, since I was heading home to Toronto already, and I needed to speak to my parents about it. This was big. And it was even going to affect my family a little. Not to mention having to get the blessing of my Lead Pastor.

Long story short, things work out well with the various talks I had with my parents, my pastors, and some friends. And I accepted it. Right now, my leaving is still not public in the church, so I can’t be all that open about it yet. But I am indeed preparing. I brought 2 luggage full of stuff to Toronto. I’ve sold one of my Ukuleles *sadly*. Just today, I cleaned up my closet and took proper stock of what clothes I actually have here. Man I have so much I’m  gonna be giving a bunch of it to Salvation Army. And, what I’ll be talking about in my next post… I’ve started working on my Japanese more seriously.

Phew. So that’s it. I’m moving to Japan! Right now, the plan is for August 15 to be my last day as Pastor at NorthLife Church. Then, I’ll fly home for a couple of weeks, then I’ll fly to Osaka at the end of August, to start working on September 1.

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