This was my second year, along with my younger sister, as an assistant for the Vacation Bible School (VBS) missionary team from New York. Before the trip, my family and I had visited Seattle for the first time for a university campus tour. One of the schools I had been interested in was a private liberal arts university; Seattle Pacific University, located near the city. During my visit, one of the things I had remembered was the welcoming community and professors with strong faith. Despite the cultural differences between Japan and the United States, I had felt at home back in Japan like the warm feeling I had in my church when talking to the administrative staffs. Despite this four-hour campus visit experience, I had felt better prepared for the VBS program by turning on a different mindset and focus.
This years’ concept was “The God Who Saves,” featuring the story of the life of Moses from when he was born as an Israelite, becoming an Egyptian Prince, and the man who saved and lead the Israelite slaves by crossing the Red Sea and escaping to Canaan. Perhaps the story would sound more familiar when God told Moses about the Ten Plagues of Egypt or the Ten Commandments later in his servings, which is applied to our lives. During my childhood, this was one of my favorite stories of the Bible, and I was encouraged to share some of the concepts with the children.
As an assistant, the central role I had was becoming the Japanese translator from Chinese and English. Every year, a majority of the students would come from a Chinese background, but, some would not understand the language, and others would come from a Japanese background who had no experience with Chinese. For this reason, I had to make sure to read and translate the essential vocabularies of the story, and the discussion question for each day before class so that the things would run smoother. During my readings, I had felt that everything was a review for me, recapturing my past memories and knowledge of the story, and noticing that I had forgotten the small details and only remembered the major events. There was one particular discussion question that had stood out to me the most.
“Do you ever make excuses for not wanting to help others?”
The word “excuses” had stood out to me the most. As an assistant, it was easy talking about the Bible’s teachings, but as a student, it was not easy following the basic rules. I had felt that I was being dishonest and lying in front of the students. I had reflected on the many times that I had tried to find excuses for not going to church, not doing my readings and regular devotions, but most importantly, not taking a moment in my life to make a prayer. In return, I was always emotionally unhealthy and worried every day, despite the fact that the Bible clearly says not to worry–”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mathew 6:34) As a rising senior, I felt pressured under the competitive academic environment and unconsciously compared myself to others. Another discussion question in the booklet had asked, “What do you do when you need help today?”. During difficult times, I realized that the most effective help that I could receive was by seeking God’s help by doing my readings.
Even if I understood the stories, it was not always easy teaching them. The third and fourth graders questioned the Bible and the existence of God. How could Moses communicate with God even if He could not be seen? One VBS teacher had asked the students if they had believed in His existence, but a student had answered, “No, because you cannot see God.” This was often a common way of thinking. Although, there are some things I learned from others and through my experiences that can be a possible reason for believing. My mother used to remind me that His presence was like air; although you cannot physically see him, you needed His powerful words as a healing to live, just as you need air to live. Another reason is that because He could not be seen, I had to seek Him more and open my eyes, heart, and mind for the changes that can be brought into our lifestyle.
The change that I had felt over the summer and my experience as an assistant was more than I had expected. During the two weeks of VBS, I had spent yet another quality time with the staffs who flew all the way from New York every year to do missionary work during the summer. One of the greatest things besides their interest in Japanese anime, they were people that I could openly talk about the Gospel, strengthen my faith and relationship with God, and continue to be thankful of my everyday. In addition, I became encouraged to spread the same kind of kindness, genuineness, and purity that the team had brought into my life, and share it amongst my friends and school classmates.
Despite the great memories I had made, there are still several things that I need to work on. At the current church that I attend, every Sunday at three o’clock, my sister and I, and a couple of friends from school take part in Bible study group, “Vision,” for high schoolers. As a student, it is always tempting to outweigh school work over learning the Scriptures, but I learned that ‘I am busy” should never be an excuse. The VBS team were busy people. They were students, they were adults, they were working and making earnings like ordinary people. Although, despite their personal lives, they had devoted themselves to God, used their time and energy to teach the children about God’s accomplishments because He is always there and working for us 24/7. With this in mind, I intend to manage my time to strengthen my faith by reading the plans on the Bible app, share the Bible scriptures with my parents, and apply my learning with people in my life.