When you've grown up as a missionary kid, what is it like to make your faith your own? Spending 18 years in Japan and four years in the US, Josephine Loh shares about her journey of coming to know Jesus personally — and why ministry doesn't have to be limited by geography.
By Emily Yue
Born in Japan, Josephine has the unique experience of growing up as the daughter of two missionaries.
Only returning to Singapore for short trips, the 23-year-old spent most of her life in the East Asian country, where her parents have been serving in student ministries under Cru since 1994.
“People call kids like me who have grown up overseas or hold a different passport third-culture kids," she explained, sharing that she lived there for 18 years.
"You're not really part of the culture of the country that you're growing up in. But you also haven't spent time in your passport country, so you don't feel like you’re part of either culture, and you're part of this third culture."
Despite having been exposed to the faith at a young age through her parents, Josephine faced a common struggle that many second-generation Christians face.
“My walk with God back then wasn't bad or terrible. I went to Sunday school and church every week," she recalled.
But it was routine, Josephine observed. "I didn't think of it much as a relationship with God," she said.
However, that began to change when she was 14.
(Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash)
The catalyst? A mission trip that was specially organised for missionary kids by MK2MK.
A US-based ministry under Cru, MK2MK (Missionary Kid to Missionary Kid) sees college-age MKs discipling younger, teenage MKs.
Participating in activities such as children's ministry and evangelism in Nepal, it was the first time Josephine was in a spiritual community away from her parents.
“That was when I was able to think more about what it means to be my own person, and to be able to struggle with taking ownership of my faith in a safe community with other missionary kids who have had similar experiences to me," she recounted.
(Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash)
Through that experience, her perception of Christianity also shifted.
“I learned that being a Christian isn't just about the things that we do, or even mission or ministry work, but our own personal relationship with the Lord — how I’m walking with the Lord day to day and how I love the Lord," she described.
While ministry is important, Josephine realised that "it's more about where (her) heart is with God”.
The next milestone came after Josephine graduated from high school in Japan and went on to pursue her university studies in the US for four years.
This was when she was given the opportunity to take on a leadership role, which would later become a stepping stone for her to enter full-time ministry.
Josephine and her church college leaders
“When I was in university, someone approached me and asked if I wanted to be a college leader at church leading a small group Bible study, so I decided to try it," said Josephine.
"I ended up leading the group for a few years, which made me realise that God had given me leadership skills that I didn't know I had."
Her time in Albania
During her summer break in 2017, Josephine went on another mission trip to Albania that was also organised by MK2MK.
"Instead of going as a student I went as a leader, and was able to disciple and pour into lives of younger missionary kids," she recalled.
“I’ve heard stories about MKs who've gone home and been able to talk to their friends about their faith, start a Bible study or do something to impact their own small community," shared Josephine, feeling encouraged that the short month she spent with them left an impact.
All these experiences led up to her taking a leap of faith after graduation.
In August 2019, after much prayer and conversations with others, Josephine entered full-time ministry.
Joining a field team under MK2MK in Budapest, Hungary, her focus was ministering to MKs in the Central & Eastern Europe region.
“What made me want to join MK2MK full time was my passion for discipleship," she explained.
“Discipleship has always been on my heart, especially discipling younger Christians who might be going through challenges including struggles with their faith."
Though there were some who questioned her decision to serve those who are already believers, Josephine pointed out the importance of reaching out to MKs like herself.
(Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash)
"MK2MK was a great community for me when I was growing up," she said, adding that she wanted to pay it forward.
"I felt impacted by the leaders who served me on mission trips, and I wanted to be able to pour into younger MKs who might be struggling with similar things that I’ve experienced."
At MK2MK, Josephine's work included journeying with young MKs, which included listening to their stories and sharing her own story.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown of global travel, she was sent back from Budapest to Singapore after less than a year.
Though disappointed that her ministry to MKs was abruptly cut short, God opened Josephine’s eyes to the needs of the community around her and how she could use her skills to continue serving locally.
Having majored in video production, Josephine joined the Crea team.
The outreach and discipleship arm of Cru Singapore for campus creatives, Crea uses different approaches in expressing the Christian faith, such as artworks, music or videos.
As part of her ministry, Josephine also comes up with innovative ideas to connect with people through social media.
Though this was not the kind of work Josephine had originally envisioned herself doing, she now recognises that different forms of ministry are equally impactful and is thankful for exposure to the range of opportunities.
“I’ve learnt that there isn't just one way of reaching people or impacting the world for Christ,” she said.
“The past two years have been both challenging and fruitful to explore what that looks like in the context that we're living in right now... And I think we've all learnt through COVID-19 to be creative in our ways of reaching people and communicating the gospel,” Josephine mused.
Though she still has a passion for face-to-face discipleship and doing missions overseas, Josephine reflects on how God has changed her perspective on what fulfilling The Great Commission looks like.
"I’ve realised that in whatever ministry, whether it's digital like social media or arts, or working with youth, there's always an aspect of discipling others,” she summarised.
“One of my biggest takeaways has been just that ministry can be done anywhere, and God can use you, your story and skills anywhere, in whatever context you might be living in.
"You just have to be willing to let Him work through you.”
Credits: Emily Yue and Thir.st
The original article was published on Thir.st.
This story is part of a special series produced by Thir.st in collaboration with Cru Singapore, celebrating 50 years of God's grace in disciple making.
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