A storm brewed on the horizon as I sat at the top of the stairs that led down to the water’s edge in Numazu, Japan. I had come to have quiet time and to pray, my heart burdened for this beautiful country where less than 1 percent of the population knows Jesus. Hardly anyone I met in Japan had ever heard the Gospel, and my husband, Ian, and I struggled with how the faith we based our entire lives on could be unknown to millions in a developed country. We took part in many short-term mission trips to Japan throughout college, and we loved the people.
As the waves grew stronger and the wind whipped harder, I was the only person in sight, so I closed my eyes and began to worship. The song, “I’m Singing” by Kari Jobe, came to me. To my astonishment, when I opened my eyes, three people sat around me. In limited English, a man to my right, asked, “Professional singer?” I stammered, “No,” to which he smiled and replied, “Free concert.” I felt embarrassed, so I soon left.
Months later, back home in Texas, Ian surprised me with tickets to a worship night with Kari Jobe. When she sang:
And I’m singing to the God
Who brings redemption to the nations
Kings and oceans bow to him in praise…
…a vision struck me. I was standing onstage leading the same song in Japanese and I saw before me a sea of Japanese people worshipping with hands raised. I remembered those moments by the sea in Japan and the man’s words, “free concert.” I knew suddenly that God was calling Ian and me to ministry there—to give free concerts in churches around Japan and share the Gospel through music. But how? I didn’t speak Japanese! And after the constant criticism I received as a music major in college, I felt insecure and untalented. How could I possibly lead in worship ministry?
During a church service in the state of Washington, five years later, I finally received an answer—a strange one: “Go to worship school.” I didn’t understand what that even meant. I went home and Googled it. There were only three worship schools in the country. One of them was Seacoast.
Forcing myself to overcome my doubts: you’re not good enough…it’s too far away, I flew to Charleston for an audition. I was accepted into Seacoast’s School of Worship program (September 2014 to May 2015). I thought the main reason I was there was to regain my confidence by getting better at music. What God revealed was that although he was definitely helping me refine my talents, my confidence could only come from him alone.
I am so thankful for the School of Worship. People of great faith poured into me both spiritually and musically. I had incredible mentors to ask my big theological questions, amazing teachers who taught me how to play guitar, and a wonderful community of support. I experienced discipleship in action. Near the end of the nine-month program, I prayed that if God still wanted us to go to Japan, he would help make it happen. Without knowing this, a missionary acquaintance gave my resume to the school where she worked. I now teach music to Japanese high school students, and Ian has a job that allows him to work from anywhere. That is a miracle only God could orchestrate.
Ian and I serve as vocational missionaries with a church called Lifehouse Sendai—an Association of Related Churches (ARC) affiliate. The first day we visited Lifehouse, the pastor shared a vision God gave him to reach Japan through worship. He titled his sermon “Press On”. We were amazed to receive such confirmation, as I had co-written a song called “Press On” featured on the new School of Worship album: Session Two. I can’t wait to see how God uses what we’ve learned at Seacoast in our cross-cultural discipleship in Japan, and I especially can’t wait to lead worship in Japanese for the first time!
Follow Marabeth’s journey at www.senseofkiseki.tumblr.com