The adventure began ten years ago, when Catherine heard about WEC’s Arts Release ministry at a summer conference, while studying music. The experience stirred up something inside her: “I hadn't realised that I could use music for cross-cultural ministry. I did a short-term placement in Japan in 2010, and I felt like God was confirming that this was his way for me.”
Though she had heard stories of God providing financially for missionaries, long-term mission was still a step of faith for Catherine. “I didn't have enough financial support to be able to live in Japan and yet, at the same time, I felt that I should continue making plans to travel. On 2 March 2011, I received an anonymous gift of £12,500. I could go! Everything was going to be okay! I started searching for my flight, and on 9th March, I booked a flight for the 24th.”
On 11 March, a tsunami hit Japan, devastating the area Catherine was moving to. Despite this, she was sure that God wanted her to move:
“As I travelled to London to get my visa, the newspaper headlines called it a ‘living hell’. People assumed I wouldn't go. When I insisted I would go, they said I was crazy. But God had led me faithfully up until that point. He had called me, and I felt that there wasn't any change in that.”
Catherine arrived in Japan, hoping that God would use her to bring healing to the survivors through her music. Initially, she helped at a mobile café, which provided a space for survivors to meet together and talk. She played the harp and shared her story. This ministry allowed her to build relationships with the people and to hear about their lives.
“I started being asked by churches in other parts of Japan to share testimony within concerts as outreach in their churches, and also to explain the needs of the disaster zone. This has developed into an evangelistic ministry – I’ve even had the chance to share on local and national radio and television!”
Catherine’s work is not without challenges, though. Few Japanese people have heard the gospel or even met a Christian. And living in an area still recovering from a disaster is not easy, but Catherine loves being able to connect with people: “Working with survivors has given me a valuable experience of life and a deep sharing with people that I don't think I would have had in the same way elsewhere: weeping for the brokenness and being lifted by the joy.”
“Working with survivors has given me a valuable experience of life and a deep sharing with people that I don't think I would have had in the same way elsewhere: weeping for the brokenness and being lifted by the joy.”
There are cultural barriers to overcome, too. It is easy to be misunderstood, and occasionally Catherine still feels like an outsider – even nine years later. But there are advantages: “Sometimes, being an outsider allows people to open up to you in a way that they wouldn't do with a fellow Japanese.”
Over time, she has seen some wonderful changes in people she knows. Recently, she was able to witness one woman – who had given up being a Christian – regain hope and a deeper understanding of God’s love for her. Even in such a broken situation, there are still moments of beauty, where God’s faithfulness shines through.
And the whole journey of following God’s calling on her life, doing mission in Japan, has strengthened Catherine’s faith: “I felt that God was giving me a promise. If I went to Japan, he would build me up in him; he would plant my roots firmly in him. This is what I wanted more than anything. I wanted to know Jesus and follow him. He never promised me success or an easy ride, but I felt that if I kept going, he would lead me into a deeper relationship with him. I have found that to be the case. This is my home, and this is my community.”
“God never promised me success or an easy ride, but I felt that if I kept going, he would lead me into a deeper relationship with him. I have found that to be the case.”
Read how Catherine is seeing new opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic in Japan.
Find out more about our Arts Release ministry
Arts Release seeks to help believers all over the world to use their own art-forms to shape their communication and worship.
To this end, Arts Release seeks to train and mobilise:
- People who are already gifted in arts – music, drama, storytelling, dance and visual art – for cross-cultural outreach.
- Musicians and churches in multicultural worship.
- Arts Release offers internships, Short Term and long term placements.
We need you to get involved
Are you gifted in art, music, dance or drama? Explore how you can use your gifts for cross-cultural ministry.