This blog post is a long time coming, and to be honest, I’ve tried to avoid going into depths about my experience in Japan altogether. Not because God didn’t move, but because how do I explain a missions trip that was simultaneously the best but also the worst 2 months of my life? How do I encourage the church about all the amazing things God is doing and has done in Japan, when my memories were clouded by the 2 agonizing months filled with sorrow, heartache, hopelessness, and depression? It’s been a struggle for me to find the courage to be this raw and vulnerable about my time in Japan, but I do so to bring to light the reality of missions, and to maybe encourage a fellow missionary that might be going through something similar.

Before going to Japan, I was already going with the fear that I was not good enough, and that I was incapable of reaching Japanese people. Especially since I felt that I was the exact opposite of what Japanese people are. While the Japanese can be quiet, reserved, well mannered, and hold having an education to such a high regard, I was entering the country as an uneducated, super loud, out-going, Canadian who only had my own worldview and my own cultural lens to see through. I felt inadequate.

On top of that, I had started spiraling down a deep pit of depression which I didn’t notice I was doing until one day the numbness went away, and all the pain I had experienced in the previous months surfaced. I had heard a lot about the big problem in Japan where people would commit suicide by jumping in front of the train. In those moments of deep pain, I would sometimes wonder if one of the train announcements announcing someone’s death would be of my own. I honestly wondered if I would make it home.

But despite being in the 2 darkest months of my life, God sustained me. He held my life and got me through it all.

Despite feeling everything I did, I can honestly say that most people that I encountered in Japan would remember me as joyful, passionate, and really good at evangelism (I don’t say this to brag, these are things that were said about me). I only say this because whatever joy I had, whatever passion I held, however I was able to evangelize to people, all I know is that it was not I but Christ in me. I can take none of the credit for what God did through me.

Despite dealing with my own heartache, I was able to pour out all my heart into that nation and into the relationships that I made with people there. Some friendships I still maintain and continue to pour into to this day, just because God gave me so much to pour out when I had nothing of myself to offer.

Despite being devoid of my own joy, I was able to experience the Joy of the Lord which was my strength. With that I was able to reach university students with the gospel, and invite them to English conversation clubs. I was able to help out at a local church with worship, and with evangelism. I was able to volunteer for 3 weeks straight at an elementary school! Which, if you’ve ever worked with kids, you’d know that you need the mental, physical, and emotional energy for that. All of which, I had none. None of my own at least, but God’s grace carried me through.

Despite being under the weight of my feelings, I was able to share the gospel with the Japanese and actually have some Japanese people receive it well (which is something that quite unusual since Japanese people won’t hold any weight to your words unless they’ve known you for a while).

My most memorable experience in sharing the gospel was when a couple of others and I shared the gospel with an artist named Chiyo-san. She had heard it before and was listening and nodding her head (probably to be polite). As I was praying, I felt the Lord place it on my heart to share the gospel while mentioning that out of all the gods this world tries to sell us, Jesus is the only God who came down to save us, whereas other gods will have you work your way up to being saved. She found that point to be really interesting and said she had never realized that before. This is a seed I know that was led by God to be planted, and one I continue to pray that He nourishes.

All of this to say, despite all of the bad, God did so much good. I can truly say that I can’t receive, nor am I deserving of any of the glory for the work He’s done through me in Japan. Work that I know He’ll continue to do through me in Japan, as I know I’ll be back there one day.

In fact, it was through going through the trial of depression that the Lord confirmed in my heart that Japan was the nation I was meant to serve in. Because in those moments of crying out to the Lord, I realized I was crying out to a God of hope. A God of hope who only less than 1% of Japan knows. I realized that many Japanese people that go through this pain, don’t have a hope to hold on to. They don’t know Christ and end up leaving this world without the chance of hearing about the hope that we have in Jesus. I knew from then that Japan was where I was supposed to be. My cries out of my own pain, turned into cries for this nation that doesn’t know Jesus. God shaped my own heartbreak into His own heartbreak for Japan.

As I work towards my future in Japan, I will always remember my first time there and how precious it was, as it was a time that God used to sanctify me. I will remember how God took an uneducated girl and used her to share the gospel to a people group so closed off to Jesus. I will remember how he used such a broken and depressed girl to instill hope in the lives of those looking for hope themselves. I look back on this time and remember 1 Corinthians 1:26-30 and see how God was working that out during my time there.

                26Brothers, consider the time of your calling: Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were powerful; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly and despised things of the world, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast in His presence. 30It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

In closing, this is my hope and plea: that you would pray for your missionaries. Please.

They are going into the field bringing the light of the Gospel and Jesus Christ and are therefore on the enemy’s radar. They are fighting a spiritual battle you might not ever hear about from a newsletter.

And if you’re wondering, I am doing much better. God pulled me out of that pit, and all I did was praise. He is still so mighty to save.

"The night is dark but I am not forsakenFor by my side, the Saviour He will stayI labour on in weakness and rejoicingFor in my need, His power is displayed----To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend meThrough the deepest valley He will leadOh the night has been won, and I shall overcome!Yet not I, but through Christ in me----To this I hold, my hope is only JesusAll the glory evermore to HimWhen the race is complete, still my lips shall repeatYet not I, but through Christ in me!"

Angela Opiniano

Worship Team

Angela actively serves on the Pluslife worship team. She is a missionary who has served in various countries and has a heart for seeing Japanese people come to Christ.

Angela Opiniano

Worship Team

Angela actively serves on the Pluslife worship team. She is a missionary who has served in various countries and has a heart for seeing Japanese people come to Christ.