In late 2011, City on a Hill was blessed to commission and send Chris and Sarah Griffioen, and their two boys, to ‘make Jesus known’ by serving with OM in Japan. Chris and Sarah continue serving in Japan today, striving for God’s glory to be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:5). Following Sunday’s sermon, they were invited to reflect on their call to overseas mission.
Why international mission? Why Japan? Our story starts as two separate stories that becomes our story.
My journey to overseas mission work started with a vague interest that I explored by going on a short-term mission trip in 1999. This trip ignited my passion for mission. A year later, when I lost my job, I volunteered with a Christian youth hostel for a period of 6 months. One of my main motivations for doing so was to see if full time ministry was something for me. Following my time at the youth hostel I returned to my ‘career’ but continued going on annual short-term mission trips. I often felt a general dissatisfaction in my work and couldn’t see myself in that career long term. I always felt a gentle nudge saying ‘go’.
At the same time, I also realised that if I was going to be in full time ministry, it would be overseas and not in Australia. I love travelling, love being in other cultures and enjoy the challenge of being in places where people don’t speak English. I knew I wanted to go overseas to work in missions.
Having studied Japanese at university, I lived in Japan for 2 years, teaching English in a small country town in the Fukushima region. During this time I felt very blessed to have a church just a 20 minute drive away. I saw and experienced for myself the state of the church in Japan. I felt God saying to me "you have Japanese language ability. I can use you in Japan." I returned to Australia in 2000 with this thought…
Early in our relationship in 2006, we talked about our individual calls to move overseas to do mission work. From there, it became a matter of figuring out where we could serve God. Chris had an interest in Africa, having been several times, and Sarah had an interest in Japan. We were given some great advice at this point: "you need to answer three questions. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do there? Which organisation do you want to go with?" And those three questions helped guide our next steps.
We travelled to Africa together as part of a team, and asked lots of questions of the local pastor. However, the need he mentioned (training pastors in Bible college) wasn’t something we felt suited us. In addition, on our last morning in Africa, the text in the devotion book we were using at the time was "arise and go" (Micah 2:10). We felt God saying to us "no, not Africa".
After we got married, we travelled to Japan together. We visited several missionaries from different agencies and again asked lots of questions. We at once felt comfortable with the work of Operation Mobilisation and could see ourselves as part of the team, doing the work they were doing.
Returning to Australia, we were given more valuable advice: "find yourselves some mentors to walk with you through this time." So we did. In the end, alongside talking and praying with our mentors, the decision to move to Japan was actually very easy. It was so easy, that in fact is was over breakfast one morning that we looked at each other and said "were going to Japan, aren’t we?" We had answers to our three questions. We both felt a peace about moving to Japan. And now here we are.
This peace and confidence we have in God’s clear call for us to serve in Japan has been vital in sustaining us during our first few years here in Japan – even when it seems too difficult, we rest in the knowledge that God has called us and is with us.
Is God calling you too?