“I live as a missionary by divine guidance”
Nyapan has an interview with a real-life Wan-kun who is from overseas living in Japan.Akadama FAN(Friend’s Actual Note)
Episode7 ~Estelle-san from Maidenhead in England~
◆What brought you to Japan?
I came to Japan in 2007 for the very first time when I was working as a missionary in France. I accompanied my French-German choir in order to hold a concert in Sapporo. I spent one week in Sapporo, then I visited, on my own, English friends from my church in England who lived in Ichikawa city in Chiba prefecture. I stayed there for 2 weeks and also went sightseeing in Tokyo. I made some Japanese friends. Thanks partly to that, Japan and Japanese people made a deep impression on me. After I went back to France, my thoughts for Japan became deeper. I prayed daily to God about becoming a missionary in Japan if that was His will. I came to Japan again for 10 months from October 2008 but after another year back in France, I finally returned to Japan in December 2010. God gave me a love for Japanese people. I had two options of where to live in Japan, Sapporo or Tokyo. I chose Sapporo, because I don’t like hot weather. I love the winter scenery with snow.
◆What inspired you to become a missionary in the first place?
Even though, I wasn't much interested in Christianity I just thought
I was a kind of Christian, because of the cultural background in my country, the UK. However, one day when I was at university, my Christian room-mate said to me, ”You are not a Christian”. I was shocked. Come to think of it now, I had just thought of Christianity from a historical or cultural aspect but in my heart I didn’t believe in God. I started to read the Bible. I used to think I was a good person before that but I realized that from God’s point of view, this was wrong thinking. Just because I try really hard or make an effort doesn’t make me a good person. I understood I could receive a new heart by believing in Jesus my Saviour. And I became a Christian when I was 25 years old.
◆Did you go to France as a missionary?
My life drastically changed when I became a Christian. I had a qualification in nursing and midwifery in the UK. Afterwards, when I was 32, I went to Bible School and after that become a missionary.
When I was 33 years old, I went over to France for a year in order to improve my French, then came back to the UK and worked as a midwife in London. All this was preparation for being a missionary midwife to North African people. I felt doing missionary work in North Africa was God’s call to me at that time. I went to Morocco, stayed there for one and a half years, studying Moroccan Arabic during one year but returned to France and started doing missionary work to North African people there. 10 percent of the population in France is of North African origin. I worked with my fellow missionaries for 20 years in France and made close relationships with many North Africans.
◆Were there any surprises living in Japan?
British or French people express opinions in a straightforward way.
On the other hand, Japanese people are inscrutable. I’ve been learning Japanese, but I sometimes don’t read what they exactly intend from the vague expressions, still now. A positive surprise is the snow removing work in Sapporo city .Even though we have heavy snow, they constantly clear away the snow from the streets. This is amazing. And I appreciated a Junior orchestra concert the other day, which consisted of children from the ages of eleven to eighteen. I was moved by the high-quality of their performance. On the whole, when Japanese people do something they do it well. The orchestra must have practiced very hard. I respect that diligence. Meanwhile, I’m concerned about the workaholism. In France, people often go on strike due to labour conditions. When that happens, you can’t take a bus or metro. It is troublesome…. but it can also be said that they are assertive and show the will of the individual. There are few of these kind of strikes in Japan. I’m glad that trains and buses are always on time. But it feels to me that Japan is a collective culture.
For instance, you don’t take days off unless your boss takes days off.
There are some people who get sick because of too much work, having to persevere at all costs. I teach English and French in the church and sometimes have calls from my students who say ”I cannot come to the lesson today, I have to work over time” and I say ”Isn’t this your free time!?”.This is a social issue about which people are not assertive. In any country there are good sides and bad sides to culture. There is no perfect society or culture.
◆What do you think of most Japanese religious perspectives?
In the Christian faith, I prefer the word relationship to religion, the relationship of love with blessing. Buddhism and Shinto in Japan are rooted in Japanese culture. And I wonder whether people pray from their heart or just put their hands together as is expected of them. God doesn’t just exist somewhere outside, He is within you if you come to Him. The way of Christian thinking is that going to church every time or patterns of behavior aren’t “must” or “have to”. God within me changed my thoughts, my human relations and my everyday life.
I admire Japanese culture. People’s original perspectives, in every country, are based on their history such as the revolution in France, the monarchy in the UK and Bushido and the soul of Samurai in Japan. Our mentality and culture are handed down by our own history. The characteristics of Japanese are politeness, well-ordered discipline, respect of authorities, a shame culture and doing things as a group. I want to learn more about Japanese culture, where their thoughts come from. I want to learn a lot more about the Japanese.
◆How do you like Japanese food?
I really like Japanese food. I especially love Sushi and Sashimi(sliced raw fish).Yesterday I went to my favorite Kaiten-Sushi(conveyor belt sushi) in Sapporo, named “TORITON” .I also like Ramen, soup curry and Sapporo beer. But like many people from overseas, I don’t like Natto and Uni(sea urchin), owing to their sticky textures….
◆I was surprised at the international worship service on Sunday!
Tourists and students from a variety of foreign countries visit our church.They naturally attend the worship service and I’m pleased to serve them.I always receive the love of God, so I like to pray to God for my brothers and sisters.
”Sapporo International Church” has multilingual Services.Feel free to join us!We also offer an enjoyable lunch time after the morning Service, which gives you the chance to have nice relationships with both local and foreign people.
◆Could you tell us about your dream in the future?
I’d like to keep preaching the love and salvation of the Lord Jesus to make many Japanese people happier.When a person becomes a Christian in Japan,I am thrilled and give thanks to God.I only preach the teachings in the Bible as a servant of God!I have some favorite words in the Bible like (the Gospel according to St. John 3-16 and Romans 8-28) and so on.As a matter of fact, I love the whole Bible.I’ve read it once in Japanese,three times in Arabic and countless times in English and French. A new Japanese Bible translation is going to be published which will be easier to read.I hope you will take a look.
”Sapporo International Church”where Estelle-san belongs, is very international.Tourists and students from overseas visit the church,which has 4 worship services on Sunday in other languages, such as Japanese,Korean, Chinese and English and you can also listen to interpretation.But I thought there was no language barrier.
Everybody offered an earnest prayer,which was impressive. Nyapan was given the Gospel at this interview from Estelle-san who is bright and cheerful .Thanks to her,praying for the sake of the Japan and world peace.