Language learning crucial for IMB missionaries spreading the gospel


Jane Hwang’s eyes scanned the list of cities. The last job, for student ministry in Tokyo, caught her attention. In the job description, she noted the lack of hope and knowledge of eternal life among the Japanese, and she felt the Lord was leading her to serve in Japan. 

After receiving training to serve as a Journeyman, Hwang moved to Tokyo and studied language.   

When they first arrive on the mission field, Journeymen study the language full-time for several months, but they don’t wait for ministry opportunities. A train ride allowed Hwang and a teammate to practice their Japanese and share truth.  

Hwang says that people typically have their heads down on commuter trains, looking at their phones. On one commute, however, her Journeyman teammate struck up a conversation with a young woman standing in front of them.   

Hwang and her teammate shared their testimonies, and the woman, Shyanne, eagerly listened. Shyanne attended an Easter service with them, and Hwang later met Shyanne in a coffee shop and began sharing the resurrection story. She realized she only knew enough Japanese from her language study to say, “Jesus died.”  

“Wait, there’s something else that’s important too!” she communicated to her new friend urgently. She used Google Translate to look up “lived again.”   

Apart from bunnies and eggs, Shyanne didn’t know much about Easter, so she was intrigued.  

Hwang’s language study prepared her for interactions like this one.   

Language learning is academic study and picking up social language and common phrases from friends. 

One of the new phrases isn’t on any language school curriculum.  

A new friend said, “Here’s how you say ‘crazy head.’” 

“Why do I need to know how to say that?'” she asked him, laughing.   

She still doesn’t know why or how this word is important to her and her ministry, but the friend has since attended several events hosted by International Mission Board missionaries, and Hwang hopes he will respond to the gospel message he hears at the events.  

In April, Hwang took a break from her full-time language study to get involved in campus outreach opportunities while students were on spring break. The IMB team in Tokyo had events planned every day for university students. These included game nights and going out for ”bubble tea hangouts,” where Hwang and her teammates played games while they enjoyed their drinks.  

When Hwang finishes language school, she’ll launch into full-time ministry to university students.   

She asks for prayer for the Lord to soften the hearts of students so they will be open to hearing the gospel. Pray Japanese students will find hope in their Creator, who calls them fearfully and wonderfully made.  

Your support of the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program allows Hwang and other Journeymen to study the language.