The road to Japan

Posted: January 18, 2017

In 2012, Nathan Shore left his job, sold everything he owned to go overseas so that he could see firsthand what God is doing in His Church around the world.

Nathan currently is preparing to graduate from the TESOL program at Briercrest, and hopes to work in Japan long-term. His heart is passionate about Japan—Japanese people, culture, and the social issues going on. Nathan's journey has had many bumps and turns, so buckle up and enjoy the ride as Nathan takes us back through these last few years.

“I was unsettled with the idea of living the North American life, falling into the patterns, routines, and pursuits that came with it,” Nathan explained.

After watching many of his friends embrace the North American dream: get married, buy a house, start a family, pay off a mortgage, etc., Nathan realized he wanted something more than this.

“I recognized in myself an aspect in which I would become complacent in my spiritual walk if I was to settle into that kind of life—that life wasn’t for me,” he said.

“I had been working with people with disabilities for a long time—six-and-a-half years,” Nathan continued. “I just couldn’t bring myself to buy an apartment and move to that next step because of this idea or burden there was more going on in the world. God was doing stuff in the world; I wanted to be able to witness it. There was this curiosity: “God, what are you doing in the world? What are you doing in your Church globally? I want to understand.”

Despite this curiosity and passion, leaving Vancouver to explore the world wasn’t quite that simple. Nathan felt stuck in his job and his parents encouraged him to stay.

“I had to be like, ‘God, I’m willing to stay,’ and that’s when doors started opening up,” Nathan said.

Things came together and Nathan was able to transition smoothly out of his job. After selling everything he had, Nathan set out to travel around the world for two years.

His first stop was Japan. His half a year there was spent studying at a Capernwray centre, volunteering with local churches, backpacking, and living in Tokyo on his own. After those six months, instead of continuing on to other countries like he had planned, Nathan decided to stay in Japan.

“I was just exhausted, realizing that I would have to go to another place and do it all over again. I had spent two weeks completely on my own—no friends, no contact with anyone, and had a very limited level of Japanese to communicate in. That left me feeling pretty isolated and stripped down, and then to have to go to Australia was really intimidating,” he explained.

“I just lost sight of what I was doing it for, I think,” Nathan added.

Despite his desire to stay in Japan, Nathan knew that foreigners need to have a degree if they want to work and become fully a part of Japanese society.

“I didn’t want [a missionary visa]; I wanted to be able to work and integrate into the Japanese church if I was going to stay,” he said.

Instead of his resuming his initial travel plans, Nathan returned to Vancouver, burnt out, where he experienced a dark period of intense reverse culture shock. He got himself an apartment and eventually began a nursing program.

“Nursing had always been my fallback. Partway through nursing, we had to do this intercultural project where we were talking about different cultures. I chose Japan because of my background and the familiarity I had. That was the most interested I had been in anything of the nursing stuff,” Nathan said.

It was through this Nathan realized that Japan continued to be on his heart. After finishing his first and last semester of nursing, Nathan returned to Japan for a few months.

He ended up coming back to Canada for a family wedding. While back in Canada, Nathan decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in arts at a biblical arts college. So he applied to Briercrest.

“I don’t know why Briercrest,” Nathan said. “The director of the Torchbearer’s centre in Japan went to CHS for his grade 12 year so that was the only pitch I had heard for Briercrest.”

Still, Nathan packed up and made his way out to the middle of Saskatchewan. He experienced another type of culture shock when he arrived on campus in January, braving the cold Prairie winter and adjusting to small town life.

“During my first year being here, I applied to three other universities trying to leave and I got accepted to all of them. But it seemed like God was teaching me a lot of stuff here and challenging me to do all kinds of different things like being willing to dig into community,” Nathan shared.

Nathan returned to Japan for a week after his first semester, and it was during that time when he applied and got accepted into the TESOL program at Briercrest.

“It was because of my interview with David [Catterick] that made me decide to stay,” Nathan explained. “He challenged me during the interview and emphasized the personal aspect of being here and the accessibility of the professors—the accessibility you have in community. That’s what made me stay.”

The following year Nathan went through a period of extreme anxiety and panic attacks, to the point of ending up in the hospital.

“[I realized] when I first started at Briercrest I had [Japan] as a non-negotiable. This is where I’m going, this is what’s happening. [This period of extreme anxiety] made me hold the idea of Japan that much more loosely. It also made me question, ‘Is this an idol?’,” Nathan said.

“This past summer I went to Cambodia for a month and China for almost two months. I got some friends that encouraged me to pray with other people and to be prayed for about this. They started encouraging me to revisit the idea that Japan might be what God has laid on my heart ultimately.”

Nathan enjoyed these teaching opportunities and he is excited to use teaching as a doorway to Japan.

“I really enjoy being in the class, the interaction it brings, and the way you get to connect with people. You don’t get to do that by just being in the culture and being in the society. Teaching is a platform and it gives you opportunities that no other activity gives you. Suddenly these people are giving you access to their lives,” Nathan explained.

“Specifically I have a burden is for healing and reconciliation in southeast Asia,” he continued. “There’s a lot of hurt there.”

Nathan hopes to return to Japan sometime after he graduates, working as a teacher and coming alongside the Japanese church. His dream is to help facilitate a movement that brings greater exposure and awareness between Japanese churches.