Missionaries need holidays
Maintaining mission properties is a vital ministry
Before my family came to Japan, I had never thought about where missionaries have holidays or why guest houses might be important. Vacations, holidays, and guest houses are not something missionaries talk about much back home—possibly we are fearful that people will think we aren’t working hard enough. But once you are on the field, you soon discover that these places, and the people who work to maintain and run them, are very important.
A vital ministry
We first arrived in Japan (Sapporo) in mid-December. We soon heard our colleagues talking about booking accommodation for their summer vacations. That initially seemed weird, but we soon connected the dots: of course, as missionaries we would need holidays. But where in Japan would we take them?
Since then, we’ve taken vacations in mission-owned facilities in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Nagano, and Lake Yamanaka. Not all of those are wonderful memories (I’ll spare you the story of the huge camelback grasshopper nest inside an old house OMF rented in Otaru that terrified me at night). But we are very grateful for the various accommodation options that are available to us.
I don’t need to persuade you that such places are important for sustaining ministry in this country. You may not be with a large mission organisation that maintains properties like these, but I wonder if you’ve ever stayed in one or been to a meeting at one. Or perhaps you own or have rented a cabin at Takayama near Sendai or at Lake Nojiri?
It goes without saying that such properties require upkeep. People who own their own cabins know that well. Some find it therapeutic time-out from ministry to do maintenance on their properties, but others of us aren’t that way inclined. Our family certainly appreciates that we have access to properties owned and maintained by our mission.
During language school in Sapporo, we were required by our mission to visit other missionaries in our mission to familiarise ourselves with OMF as we sought God’s guidance for the future. So one year after we arrived in Japan, we flew to Tokyo and stayed in OMF’s guest home in Ichikawa, Chiba.
We’ve since stayed there more than a dozen times—often as we transitioned in and out of the country for home assignments, but also for one- or two-week training workshops we’ve attended. I even stayed there once last year when I fell ill while attending a prayer meeting at our headquarters and couldn’t get home that night. We’ve also stayed in mission guest houses in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Going the extra mile in a torrential downpour
Two couples in OMF Japan run our guest houses in Sapporo and Ichikawa. Their behind-the-scenes ministries are very much appreciated by all who have benefited from them.
Just before our family left for home assignment in mid-2014, we spent a couple of days at the Ichikawa guest home while we finished off some practical matters and caught our breath.
One matter was handing our car over to a young missionary family. They’d just moved to Tokyo and were going to borrow our vehicle while we were away for the year. We gave them our car the day before we left and were planning to catch the train to the airport the next afternoon.
We were exhausted that weekend and took a rest after lunch in preparation for our overnight flight. But the sky grew dark as the time to leave approached, and we suddenly became aware of a big storm headed our way just as we were about to leave on foot.
There was no car available to get us to the station so the guest house managers grabbed handfuls of plastic bags and wrapped up all our suitcases and backpacks. They then insisted on walking with us through the torrential summer storm, sloshing through ankle-deep puddles and pushing against the acutely-angled rain. We walked past a car sales shop and I remember the customers and salesmen looking at us in amazement.
When we got there our intrepid guest house managers talked their way onto the platform without the necessary ticket and unwrapped our precious luggage, taking away the wet plastic bags. As we farewelled our soggy colleagues, the rain stopped and the sun came out!
What a farewell party! What love!
It pains me that people who serve in ministries such as these sometimes don’t feel appreciated. It frustrates me that supporters back home sometimes don’t see how vital it is for missionaries to take holidays, or know how important these guest houses are. And how the people who maintain them also have important ministries.
Let’s do what we can to appreciate those who work behind the scenes to ensure their colleagues have affordable and restful places to stay. Let’s spread the word among our supporters that vacations are important and so are the people who make them possible.