Bethany Ho

BETHANY'S REFLECTIONS

 

Articles by Bethany Ho

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For over a decade, February 1, 2011, remained memorialized in my mind as my “Japanniversary,” the day God took me to Japan, one month before the Triple Disaster. Each passing year, I have acknowledged this date in some way—karaoke with friends, a Facebook post, or a quiet prayer to God. 

But 2022 was the year I wrapped up over a decade of life in Japan and moved “home.” In 2023, to recall my arrival date in Japan, I had to look at my 手帳 (techō, my pocket schedule book). I was too late! The day, March 16, had passed by me without so much as a wink.

In my previous post, Wander Where He Leads, I mentioned giving a goodbye message to my partner church, Praise Community Church. I labored over it for weeks, and with the amazing support of my sweet roommates I was able to deliver it in Japanese. In it, I thanked my precious family for three gifts they had given me: 人を敬うこと (hito o uyamaukoto, respect for others), 責任感 (sekinin kan, sense of responsibility), and 忍耐 (nintai, perseverance). 

Message

You took care of me for 11 years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

 

This last year, I have seen the importance of bringing these gifts back with me to the US.

 

人を敬うこと, Respect for Others 

I returned to a country that had become much more polarized than when I left it. In the description for his book Divided We Fall, David French explains that this polarization “dismisses dialogue as appeasement.” Somewhere in the decade I had been away, we lost respect for one another and the ability to have a conversation about differing viewpoints. 

Japanese conversation is much more naturally “quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). This is an art form that is getting lost in American culture. We could learn a thing or two from our Japanese brothers and sisters on how to hold tightly to respect, even when disagreeing with someone. 

 

責任感, Sense of Responsibility 

My home church here in St. Louis just wrapped up a beautiful series called People of the King, going through the book of Philippians reading it from a “we” lens as opposed to a “me” lens. This made my Japanese heart so happy, and it’s an exercise I encourage every church in the States to take part in. 

The Japanese church discipled me on what it means to do the life of faith as a “we” and not just in my individual relationship with Jesus. The individual relationship is VITAL, but here in the US, the “me” piece of our faith life gets over-emphasized to the point that we lose the “we” of our faith. Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two when they did their works of ministry. The majority of his exhortations and teachings were given to a group, and even the individual rebukes were often said in the company of others. 

We are responsible to one another as we work out our own salvation with Jesus. 

 

忍耐, Perseverance 

我慢強い (gaman-dzuyoi) is an essential expression in Japanese vocabulary. It’s a compound word using the simple adjective 強い(tsuyoi) meaning strong, and 我慢 (gaman) meaning patience, endurance, perseverance, tolerance, self-control—and often used as a verb. 

I once had to get an MRI for a herniated disc in my neck and I had to lie down flat, the most painful position for me. And of course, for an MRI, you have to lie still. They gave me a button to push if I was distressed, and the pain got so bad I had to push it. They weren’t even halfway through. I looked at the technician with tears in my eyes and asked, 「ただ我慢しないといけませんか?」(tada gaman shinai to ikemasenka?) All I can do is endure, right? 

He looked at me with deepest sympathy and replied, “Yes, all you can do is endure.” And back into the tube I went with those tears still in my eyes and Psalm 23 on my lips. 

In a country riddled with numerous natural disasters, and one whose history has it going from isolation ending in 1853 to becoming the world’s second largest economy in 1968 (overtaken by China in 2010), Japanese people know what it means to persevere. 

In our rapid, instant-gratification culture, can we say the same thing? 

 

Come and See 

These gifts of respect, responsibility, and perseverance that I bring with me from our Japanese brothers and sisters have an invitation attached: come and see. Come and see what respect, responsibility, and perseverance look like in another culture. Come and see what God is doing through His church in Japan. Come and see how you can allow these brothers and sisters to impact your life.  

 

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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. Eventually 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 cross-cultural worker 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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