Bethany Ho



Articles by Bethany Ho

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Leaving what I’ve found:
You helped me find my true self.
Wishing you were here. 

During one of my first annual Asian Access retreats in Japan, Dr. Sue Takamoto led all of us first-term missionaries through a special training specifically designed for our experience. One of her warm-up exercises had us flexing some of our creative muscles: we were to write haiku that showcased our experiences during our first term. I wrote the above haiku for my church family back home in St. Louis.

While the music video for Ed Sheeran’s blatantly sensual 2017 hit focuses on physical shape, we know our physical bodies are perhaps the least important aspect about the shape of who we are. When I gave my life to Jesus at age 20, He started His new creation process (2 Corinthians 5:17), and I know that He is still at work (Philippians 1:6). This missionary journey has irreversibly shaped who I am. 


Physical shape 

While it is the least interesting part of my transformation, I experience very real physical differences when I am in Japan. Every time I return, I lose weight! For one, food culture is very different. I eat a lot less meat and a lot more fish and vegetarian meals. Thanks to the ubiquitous presence of convenience stores and their wide variety of bento meals, I can even make healthier food choices on the go. 

And all the walking! Especially during my second term when I lived in downtown Sendai, everything was within walking distance: the subway station, the post office, health clinics, several grocery stores. I could spend 30 minutes walking to church, or if I was feeling super genki (full of energy), 40 minutes to my Japanese class. Exercise was built into my daily life. 

Physically, I am a different person when I am in Japan. 


Emotional shape 

But much more interesting is how God has used this journey to shape my heart and mind. When I first started pursuing serving as a missionary in Japan through SIM and Asian Access, I had to complete a mental and emotional health assessment. These agencies are very committed to member care, and this is one of the base-level ways they care for their missionaries. After receiving the results of my assessment, I was advised that I needed to get counseling before returning to Japan. 

This was incredibly hard to take in at first, but now I am so grateful to God for this wisdom. My home church family became an intimate part of my healing journey. Not only were their prayers essential, but my pastor was also able to get me connected to a wonderful counselor. On top of this, my church community became a safe place for me to practice loving confrontation and to exercise boundary building. In so many ways, I took my home church with me to Japan. 

Emotionally, I am a different person than when I first went to Japan.


Cultural shape 

After arriving in Japan, I was shaped again by a culture and a church family very different from my U.S. home culture. I had to grow in patience with a decision-making process that seemed much slower, that made sure all parties were respected and honored. By standing stoically with others in long lines, learning that there really is nothing to get upset about, my endurance increased. 

On the fun side, I have discovered preferences that I will continue to carry with me. When I was first dating my husband, who comes from a Chinese-American family, he noticed this handy contraption on my dresser: 


私の耳かき! My ear pick! 

He immediately turned to me with his face aglow and declared: “You are so Asian!” As silly as this example is, it also encouraged me that he could see and understand a very important part of who God has shaped me to be. 

Culturally, I am a different person now that I have experienced the world through multiple cultures. 


Spiritual shape 

Most of my Christian life I have “grown up” in Japan. When I first moved to Japan, I remember being imprinted with two ideas that formed me spiritually. My first time worshipping in Japanese with the local church impacted me deeply. I didn’t understand the language, but I knew we were worshipping the same God, Creator, and Savior. I had just met these people, but I knew they were family. 

I also got exhorted early on that in Japan I would have to learn how to “feed myself,” spiritually. The Church in Japan is small and resources for growing are limited compared to the plethora of opportunities in the States. I would have to take charge of my spiritual life and pursue Jesus wholeheartedly because, truly, no one else could do it for me.

There were many days when this wasn’t easy. But while there have been many rough and dry patches along the way, and sometimes the shaping is painful, I would much rather be clay in the Potter’s hands than be brittle and unyielding. 

Spiritually, I am a different person because of how the Potter had shaped me in Japan.   

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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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Bethany Ho

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