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stories from our missional partners

Linda, Kohei, and kids stand in front of Ippo Ippo group building

By Linda Koyama

Which Mission Organization Should I Choose?

If you’ve considered being in some type of formal ministry abroad, you’ve probably also been on the decision-making trajectory of “which mission organization should I go with?” This was us back in late 2019, early 2020.  

At the end of my last post, “New, But Not: Our Journey to Japan,” I shared that we returned to the US in June of 2019. We needed time to debrief our five-year stint in Japan—and also to figure out if God was keeping the door open to Japan or closing that chapter for us.

Yamagata Japan Map Pink

Increased Needs 

When we left for Japan in 2014, we went with an organization that allowed us move to Japan quickly and support us in the ways we were looking for. It was a great match and they provided the support we asked for and needed. However, as our cross-cultural family grew, our needs also grew. We had arrived in Japan when I was seven months pregnant with our first child. In the five years we were there, we had two additional little ones. There was so much we didn’t know we needed as first time missionaries. The organization we were with was not a mission sending agency, so they had some resources available to us, but not to the extent that larger mission organizations do. 

As we considered our needs moving forward, we sought their advice along with other mentors and trusted friends. It seemed that finding an organization that had more resources and a larger network would be beneficial to our family and our sustainability in ministry. Thus started our research into different sending mission organizations.  

The Search 

Where do you start when there are so many choices? Our approach was to start with what we knew and who we knew. During our time in Japan, we worked with and met many different missionaries from various organizations. We started with those, and checked out their websites. We prayed, asked others to pray, and did as much as we could to get the best feel for each. 

Every organization has their own application process, but generally, you’ll fill out a preliminary application. After we did that, we talked to an initial point person and asked many questions. We had questions of our own, but we also found lists of questions on the web to help us think about things we hadn’t considered.

 Crash Japan 2

 Joshua, our first point of contact with SIM.

Combine lists and don’t be scared to ask anything. Do your homework. You’ll want to know what will be expected of you and whether the organization will meet some of your expectations. You need to know their vision, mission, and ministry approach and if it matches up with yours. Do you want to church plant? Are you more focused on discipleship? Do you want to do contact evangelism? You might not know your desires yet, but every organization has their main way of doing ministry. It’s good to find out their approach and if you jive with that. Try to learn and observe as much as you can in the time you have available.  

Along with me asking a myriad of questions—because frankly, I do ask a lot of questions—we also asked to speak with other missionaries that were on the field or recently returned from the field (Japan specifically).

Many Pluses, but a Wrinkle

So how and why did we end up with SIM USA/A3? Well, for starters, we were looking at the Asian Access (now A3) website because we really liked their philosophy of ministry. When we were in Japan, Kohei met some of the A3 Japan staff and partnering pastors. He was impressed with their desire to raise up lay leaders, because his hope is also to disciple lay leaders so they feel equipped and empowered to continue the Great Commission. 

But there was a wrinkle. When we prepared to submit our application, we learned that Asian Access has a strategic partnership with SIM to receive applications for ministry in Japan. So although we were sold on A3's work in Japan, we realized we had to come through SIM USA. 

At this point, friends and other people we had met during this time asked us why we didn’t just try to start our own ministry or start our own church. I think many of these people saw Kohei’s gifts, the fact that he’s Japanese, and that there are so many possibilities that might not be as easy for non-native speakers of Japanese. As exciting as that sounded, we knew we wanted to partner with the Japanese church, existing ministries, and pastors who are already in a community and living out God’s calling. So we knew being independent wasn’t our thing, at least not in this season. 

Kohei Oura group

Our family with Kimberly, our application coordinator. She connected us with a lot of different missionaries on the field. 

More Pluses

Another reason we ended up joining SIM USA/A3 is because of their member care, both in the preparation process (with SIM USA) and on the field (with A3). This was super important to us as we realized there were times when we didn’t even know we needed member care for us individually and as a couple. They also have great support for our kids and they care and prepare our kids for the field. They really value our children and that was super apparent, impressive, and important to us. 

We also love that when we’re on the field, A3 doesn’t leave us to be on our own, in our own city. They make sure there are other missionary units in our area so that there are opportunities for fellowship. We also told them our concerns about not being moved around all the time with young children, and all these things were taken into consideration when thinking about our placement.  

Of course in the majority of mission sending agencies, you need to build your team of partners who will be praying for you and partner with you financially. During our first five years in Japan, we didn’t have as strong of a support system as we do now. For various reasons, we chose that route then, and now we have something to compare it to. It was hard and not sustainable. There was some accountability, but not as much. We knew we wanted and needed people to be praying for us all the time. We needed to have some structures set up to help us have some long term sustainability, and so this time we went with a traditional mission sending agency rather than independently. 

Now that we’ve decided we like SIM USA/A3, do they like us? Of course! Who wouldn’t? Lol . . . just kidding. It’s a pretty thorough process to see if you and an organization are a good fit for each other. And then there’s lots of preparation to do before leaving for the field. And you guessed it, I’ll share more about that in my next post.

IMG 9129

Our family at the SIM USA headquarters in Charlotte, NC. 

Linda Koyama


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linda Koyama Linda Koyama, an American-born Chinese, is currently serving with her Japanese husband, Kohei, and young family in Yamagata prefecture. They are partnering with a local church to engage the community with and through Christ's love. 

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