Bethany Ho

BETHANY'S REFLECTIONS

 

Articles by Bethany Ho

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It didn’t take long for me to start feeling my age. I moved to Japan just two years removed from university, and from there most of my learning “to adult” happened abroad. During my first term as an SIM/Asian Access missionary, I spent the summer mentoring short-term missionaries who came to serve through our internship program.

Two of the three participants were still in university. At this point I was about ten years older than them, but I still had a thing or two to learn from this younger generation.

One was the term “FOMO.” In coaching one of the young women, she threw this out in our conversation, and I had to confess my ignorance: “FOMO? What’s FOMO?” She quickly educated me that it was short for “Fear Of Missing Out.” 

Now it’s 2022, and reflecting on my experience as a missionary serving over 6,000 miles away from my home country, FOMO is a useful term. In counting the cost for following Jesus into global ministry, I realize there was a lot I missed out on. 

Significant events 

I missed so many wedding celebrations: roommates from college, cousins, dear friends from my campus ministry, even my best friend that I’ve known since kindergarten. Such important rites of passage to witness, and I was too far away to be able to join them all. 

I also missed getting to be present to say goodbye when my last grandparents passed away. Maw Maw left earth just two months after I returned to Japan as a missionary, and Paw Paw followed her a year later. I wasn’t able to be there for my family, and my own mourning process was disconnected by the miles. 

Long distance relationships 

When I first left in 2011, I had one two-year-old niece. Now she’s a teenager, and I have three more nieces and a nephew after her. While I enjoyed getting to be the cool auntie bringing goodies from Japan home every few years or so, there is only so much relationship building you can do with kids through a screen. (Elementary school teachers during the beginning of the pandemic will agree.) I missed out on a lot not being able to watch these awesome little humans grow. 

Also, as I’ve moved back to the States after 11 years overseas, I’ve realized how much I’ve changed. Even something as simple as conversation style has me feeling out of sync relationally. In Japanese conversation, making space for silence is very important and has become my norm. In US conversation, we quickly fill silence, so I feel like I’m getting “interrupted” a lot! On top of that, figuring out how to do relationships in person again has a steep learning curve. Even with a childhood friend who has been through it all with me since we were five, it’s been hard to find a new rhythm with me just across town as opposed to across the planet! 

Adulting 

This last one I only realized this year. Buying a car. Renting an apartment. Changing my name after marriage. Navigating health insurance plans! At age 35, I had no idea how to do any of these adulting activities “at home” in the States. And forget calling ahead to inquire. The automated answering system is so frustrating. I would rather talk to a human in Japanese than try to figure out the right answer to give to a phone robot in English! Not knowing how to navigate the adult world in my own country has been a humbling challenge. 

Is it worth it? 

When you follow Jesus into the world, especially “to the ends of the earth” where few people have heard His name, you will miss out on a lot. There are sacrifices to be made. You won’t get that time back. It will sometimes be uncomfortable, awkward, or even painful. You will be missed. 

But what you will gain cannot be measured. With Jesus, I have traversed cultural and linguistic barriers to love and do life with precious Japanese brothers and sisters. I have acquired a deeper understanding of this family we have been adopted into, this body of Christ that we are a part of. I have experienced what it is like to be a minority, to serve in submission under leaders who don’t look or sound like me. I have a greater love for God’s church worldwide, and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. It’s not easy, but it is oh, so beautiful. 

The one promise I can give is that Jesus is worthy of it all. He experiences all the ups and downs with us. He invites us to join Him, our King who left His throne in heaven to come down to us in this broken world. He’s worth my whole heart.  

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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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