Bethany Ho

 

BETHANY'S REFLECTIONS

 

Articles by Bethany Ho

Bethany holding cake decorated with Japan

I recently scoured the internet archives to find the blog I started in 2011 as an English teacher in Japan, about five years before getting connected with SIM and Asian Access missionaries. After over a decade of calling Japan home, I wanted to see with fresh eyes how young Bethany encountered Japan. How did God lead me there? How was I listening and following the voice of my Good Shepherd then?

God often uses hardships to shape us. I initially had no interest in living abroad in Japan, but after losing my job a year after graduating from college, He directed my steps to the only job I could see. This eventually connected me to His church and mission in Japan. Excerpts from my application essay provide a good snapshot of 23-year-old Bethany’s shaky steps towards serving Jesus in Japan: 

 

Who I Am and Why I Want to Work in Japan

(Written in 2010, from my application for teaching in Japan)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

...The proverbial verse for many people in my position in life. As a recent graduate, I have heard and come back to this verse a lot. I have no clue what God’s plans for my life are, but it’s comforting knowing that He plans to give me hope and a future. Well, sometimes comforting, often frustrating. He has placed desires in my heart and experiences in my life that shape who I am, but I still can’t see what shape I’m in right now or what He’s shaping me into. I’m nothing if not honest, and honestly, I am frustrated.

My sophomore year of college was full of changes. The summer before, I switched my major to secondary English education, and so I started my new coursework in the fall. In one of my education survey classes, I heard about a teaching fellowship program at my university. This program would allow me to earn my master’s degree during my first year of teaching for free. Already my achievement-oriented mind was turning, and I was making my plans towards this fellowship. But this was hardly the biggest change.

My boyfriend at the time was a Christian, and I was not. God used this messy relationship to connect me with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. Over time I got involved in a Bible study and later started going to their services too. I just remember being so blown away at how different each person was, how much they loved each other regardless of those differences, and how much they actually loved me. Suddenly Jesus looked very real to me. By the second service, I accepted Jesus into my life.

My life slowly shifted when I learned more and more about Jesus and His love and desire for my life. I eventually started wondering if teaching was what He had planned for me, but I was always too afraid to ask Him, too afraid that He had something different and that I was on the wrong track. Instead, I poured myself into what I had at the moment: my relationship with Jesus and my studies in education.

My junior year I was involved in my first missions trip. During the summer, our Chi Alpha Team spent eleven days in Kingston, Jamaica serving at the City of Refuge Children’s Home. Those kids, so many abused and abandoned in horrific ways, blew me away. I remember one of our first days there hearing one little boy pray out loud for all the thieves, murderers, and rapists in their country. They gave me a lesson in grace and love I could experience nowhere else. God has amazing plans for those children, and I was blessed to touch their lives for a moment.

My senior year was challenging. I was on Chi Alpha leadership, working with International Student Friendship and co-leading a small group Bible study. This was also my last year, so I was applying for the Teaching Fellows Program and getting ready to do my student teaching. Transitioning from student to teacher was one of the hardest experiences of my life, and I began to earnestly question whether or not being a traditional classroom teacher was really what God had planned for me. However, I survived, and I even achieved my goal: I was accepted into the Teaching Fellowship Program.

During my fellowship experience, I was a full-time teacher and a full-time graduate student, teaching eighth grade communication arts. Soon I was again plagued with the doubts from my student teaching. Is this really what God has planned for me? After three years of avoiding the question, I finally started bringing it to God. By Christmas, I found out that due to budget cuts, I would not be hired for the next school year. God wasn’t going to let me get comfortable.

Again with the honesty, I don’t know if Japan is my perfect fit. I know that the traditional classroom is not my place right now. I know that He has given me a desire to travel and a love for learning about new cultures and meeting new people. Someone at church prayed for me this week saying, “You can’t steer a parked car.” I am eager to explore my possibilities. I have achieved my meager plans and have come to a crossroads. I want what God has planned for me now. I know moving to Japan for a year will be hard, and I will miss my family and friends deeply. But no other time in my life is better, and I am looking forward to an adventure. 

Flash ForwardLooking out my airplane window

When I wrote this essay, I was hoping I would get hired by a small school in Northeast Japan. I had no idea at the time that God would bring me to Sendai one month before the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. I had no idea I would stay at the school for four years, that He would give me a church family in Sendai, and that He would put it on my heart to serve His church in Japan fulltime as a missionary. I had no idea the pieces He was setting in place, and I feel like I was still just getting to know this God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Ephesians 2:20.

To God be the glory, because He knows more than I do.

bethany sig 600px

Bethany Ho


Bethany Panian HoBethany first came to Japan in February 2011 to teach English at a school in Sendai. After experiencing the Tohoku Triple Disaster on March 11, she prayed and knew that God wanted her to stay. She taught at the school for four years and was also involved in a local church during that time. Her last year teaching, she felt God calling her to serve full-time with the church, and God opened up the doors for her to partner with Asian Access and the local church in Sendai. She served as a field missionary with the church in Sendai from 2016-2022, and she is now serving in the SIM Recruiting Department with a heart for multiplying the harvest workers sent to Japan.

 

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