Serving in Japan: Aussie officers feel privileged to do God's work
Serving in Japan: Aussie officers feel privileged to do God's work
Australian officers, Captains Daniel and Melissa Templeman Twells, are serving with The Salvation Army in Japan. Captain Daniel is a training officer at the College for Officer Training, in Tokyo. He teaches New Testament and also manages the college finances. Captain Melissa is the corps officer of Koto Corps, on the east side of Tokyo. She is also an assistant in the Territorial Youth Department. The Templeman Twells spoke recently to Simone Worthing about their overseas service in Japan.
Simone Worthing: How long have you been serving in this country?
Daniel and Melissa: We are in our sixth year now. We arrived in Japan at the end of January 2012, less than 12 months after the devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power-plant triple disaster took place. We commenced an initial three-year term of service which was extended for a second term at the beginning of 2015.
SW: Have you served anywhere else and, if so, where and when?
Daniel and Melissa: We served in two corps appointments for two and three years respectively in Australia prior to coming to Japan, however this is our first opportunity for international service.
SW: Why did you apply for overseas service?
Daniel: Each year as officers, we received a Future Officership Service Information (FOSI) form on which we expressed an interest to serve overseas, particularly Japan, at some stage in the future, should the opportunity become available. Following five years of service in our home territory [Australia Southern] an opportunity to serve in Japan came up and we gladly accepted it.
Melissa: I started learning Japanese in high school, and then came to Japan as an exchange student. When I was on exchange, a young Japanese Salvationist had been visiting in Australia. Over there she met my grandmother who asked her to contact me in Japan when she got back. She invited me to her corps, and the Tokyo youth group. At the time, I remember being amazed at the young people’s faith, because none of their friends were Christians, as Christians are such a minority here. Now, by God’s divine plan for my life, I am the corps officer at that corps, and I help organise the youth events in Tokyo! God is so good.
SW: Why do you think overseas service is important in The Salvation Army?
Daniel: Bramwell Booth, speaking to the internationalism of the Army, once said, “Every land is my fatherland, for all lands are my Father’s”. I don’t view myself as a missionary in the traditional sense of the term, rather, I like to think of myself as a Salvation Army officer who happens to live in Japan, working among my Japanese colleagues at this particular time. International service not only broadens one’s view of the international Army, but of the wider world in general. I think it is important to realise that we are but one piece of the same puzzle, that what we do where we are, affects others elsewhere also.
Melissa: The Salvation Army is international! This is one of our strongest assets. God has blessed and used the Army in so many different countries to spread the gospel and to fight against injustice. I love the Army’s internationalism, because it is a representation of Christ’s church, and confirmation of the truth that one day people from every tribe, every nation, every language will all be in heaven worshipping together (Revelation 7:9). Because of the Army’s international structure, mission across the world is made possible. We meet missionaries living here, and they have had to raise financial support in their own countries to be here, and then sometimes because their salary is from overseas, the government is very strict on them about their living arrangements. Yet, because of the Army here, we have the local Japanese support, which makes living here so much easier.
SW: What is the most difficult thing about serving overseas – or most difficult challenging?
Daniel: The answer I always give to this question is that there are days when I think to myself, “I can’t believe I am here!” (positive tone), while there are days when I think, “I can’t believe I am here ...” (negative tone). The difference really is in the delivery! I think geographical separation from family, friends and support networks is perhaps one of the greatest challenges. This is of course alleviated to some degree by the convenience of technology. However, when family and friends come to visit, they often say, “This really is a long way from home isn’t it!” I think what they are sensing is what I feel in that the distance is often more than just physical.
Melissa: Definitely the hardest thing is being away from friends and family. Missing out on important occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, or not being there when loved ones are sick, that is extremely difficult. The language and cultural differences are also difficult sometimes. Before coming here, I thought I wasn’t very ingrained with Australian culture, and I thought “She’ll be right mate, no worries!” However, I was wrong. There have been so many times when I automatically assumed something, but because of the culture difference, I have made a mistake. Even hanging up the washing or doing the dishes is different here. Also, where you sit in the car, or who you serve tea to first is very important, and has meaning, so it’s easy to make a mistake and accidentally offend someone.
SW: What do you love most about serving overseas in general, and where you are in particular?
Daniel: I like crumbed pork cutlets on curry rice that can be eaten all year round regardless of the season! I like the variety of my work, the range of people that visit Japan from overseas, including family, friends and former colleagues, I like that there are places I can go and things I can see and do only because I am here at this time. This is very special to me.
Melissa: I feel that God has been leading me here my whole life, so that underlying sense of doing exactly what God had called me to do is wonderful. I really love working with the children and youth. I have enjoyed seeing them grow and open up to God. There are very few Christians here; Japanese people are either Shinto or Buddhist. Popular culture that says “anything is okay” can also be a trap for young people, and they sometimes get hurt and discouraged. Journeying with them, as they discover how much God loves them, and who God has created them to be, is so rewarding. I feel very privileged to be doing this work.
SW: How has international service changed you as a person?
Daniel: I have learnt that who I was in Australia, prior to embarking on international service, is not who I am now, and that who I am now, is the real me! It has helped me realise that there are things I am unable to do in my own strength; as a result, I must live my life based on my position in Christ as a son of God, a co-heir of Christ, one who is loved, chosen and accepted, not from a position of fear, insecurity or seeking the approval of others for my self-worth and identity.
Melissa: Sometimes, because Japanese is my second language, I feel like a three-year-old trying to give a sermon. But, I know God is bigger than that and he still speaks through me. So, a big thing I have learnt over here is that my value or self-worth is not based on what I do, it’s based on who I am in Christ. Also, keeping a strong faith in a spiritual climate that is not Christian has been very stretching. The average Japanese person does not really know about Christianity and certainly doesn’t know The Salvation Army. This has been at times very challenging but I feel my relationship with God has become deeper because of it.
SW: What should a person consider and think about before they apply to serve overseas?
Daniel: The well-worn real-estate mantra, “location, location, location”, comes to mind here, however, I would change the words to “language, language, language”! Even a basic understanding of the language and customs of the country of service prior to arrival, the ability to introduce yourself and exchange day-to-day pleasantries, demonstrates a genuine willingness to identify with the people you will be living and working with. People will forgive grammatical indiscretion when they believe you have their best interests at heart. However, this does not negate the need to be well prepared.
Melissa: Our wonderful God never forces us. He calls and invites us. So first of all, is God calling you? If not, don’t worry about it. If he is, then start the journey. Take the first step and see where you end up. When I met Daniel I didn’t want to push my love for Japan on to him. So he started to pray about it on his own. He prayed for confirmation from God every day, and everyday God confirmed in his heart that it was the right thing to do. Overseas service is not for everyone; God gives us all different talents and abilities. If he has called you to go, then he will equip you for the journey.
SW: Is there anything you would like to add about any element of international service?
Daniel: I would encourage corps officers and centre managers to actively promote international service opportunities to those they work with, as and when they become available. I would also encourage soldiers and employees to ask their corps officer/line manager about any potential service opportunities. Sometimes I think there may be a hesitation to release good people to international service and yet, while it may be a loss to our corps/centre in the short-term, the long-term benefits for the individual concerned and the international Army generally far outweigh this.
Melissa: Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. We feel very loved and blessed. It is amazing to think that every day, all over the world, God is using and mobilising Salvationists to bring his light to this world. I pray more people of all nations will come to know him personally. Hallelujah!Download file