My Adventure in Japan
By: Ke’Olani Perez, SSC Delegate 2023
From the moment I stepped off the plane and into the Tokyo-Haneda International Airport, I felt ready for a summer of new experiences and challenges. I knew what I came to do was for the Lord, and I had to be prepared for anything.
Sleep-deprived and jet-lagged, my Salvationist Service Corps (SSC) team and I looked for our translator, Makato, who was there to meet us and take us to the Suginami Corps area. Upon arrival, we met a few officers who showed us to our living quarters, the female members of the team staying in officers’ housing and the one male staying in the training college dorm.
Our ministry began with a visit to New Hope Azabu, a community center run by The Salvation Army in Azubujuban. There, we played with the kids, told them about Jesus, and helped teach English. These early interactions with children really helped prepare us for what God had in store for the rest of the summer.
Our first Sunday in Japan, we were sent to the Ueno corps where we participated in the holiness meeting and ate lunch with the corps members. Afterward, we helped pack about one hundred lunches. I remember being amazed to see the order and speed with which all the members worked together. Once all the lunches were packed, we went out in the streets to give the food to the homeless. This was a new experience for me, and the amount of gratitude I saw that day helped fuel my spirit for the rest of the summer.
From Tokyo, we were sent to Hiroshima where we had fellowship with the corps members and led a children’s festival. We then visited a nursery where I learned how friendly children can be, but also how difficult a language barrier is. Later that night at a children’s home, we ate dinner with the kids, taught them a few songs and games, and told them the story of David and Goliath. It was extremely hard to leave when the night was over, especially when the children asked us to come back soon. I told them that I would be praying for them, and I still do, as I think of them often.
Next, we visited Osaka where we stayed in the Tenma Corps. We enjoyed time with the corps members, had meals and fellowship with them, played with the children, and gave our testimonies during the holiness meeting. After the service, we ate pizza made by the kids before leading a youth event with the corps children as well as kids from a nearby children’s home. We played games, sang songs, and told Bible stories before leaving to help prepare our dinner.
Dinner was an amazing time for us. We ate Japanese Korean Barbecue, and it was delicious! I enjoyed meeting officers and youth from the area. As we ate, we recounted stories to each other and shared our individual experiences from this summer and summers past.
Our next adventure took us to Sendai. The officers there, Lieutenants Manabe, were very sweet and accepting of us. They took us to visit a few elementary schools, and we also helped at the corps by doing a café church and participating in the holiness meeting. The thing I remember most from Sendai is the officers’ kids, Miki and Koki. They bonded with us so quickly and were eager to spend time with us. Koki’s energy helped us wake up every morning, and he was the reason we would laugh so often. Miki’s kind and loving spirit made Sendai feel more like home for all of us. This was particularly special as we had already been away from our home country and families for several weeks by this point. The two kids gave me memories that will last a lifetime. The Manabe family has truly become my second family.
We spent our last two weeks back in Tokyo. While at the Suginami corps, we helped run the café church during the week and led a kid’s festival where I oversaw the craft corner. It was challenging to lead a craft for these kids without a translator to help me. However, the kids’ reactions as they finished their craft needed no translation. I watched as they colored their crosses made of paper, smiling at their pure joy from completing their artistic task.
Our final location was Kyoto where we spent three days. The officers there took care of us with such kindness. Every night when we ate dinner, I felt as though we were sitting to eat as a family. One day, we had the opportunity to do street evangelism with a local missionary; it was so evident that God was working that day. One of our team members invited someone to come back to the corps to have dinner with us, and it ended up being an amazing night of fellowship.
Japan was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned so much, and I have grown spiritually. The experience stretched me beyond my comfort zone as I did things I have never done before. I now have a great appreciation for Japanese culture, and I love the people there. I thank God for this summer, and I am so grateful for the people I had the opportunity to meet. A part of my heart will always remain with the people of Japan.
Salvationist Service Corps (SSC) is an exciting opportunity and privilege to learn more about the world, to learn more about yourself, and, most importantly, to serve God. SSC is a short-term mission project that affords Salvationist young adults an opportunity to engage in Christian service to people in other parts of the world and at home. A typical SSC team is made up of 6-8 active, uniform-wearing Salvationist young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who have felt a call to service. To find more information and to apply for SSC 2024, visit youthdownsouth.org.