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Japanese intern serves Deerfoot Baptist as result of partnership between churchescomment (0)

September 6, 2012

By Grace Thornton

Manami Okubo loves kids.

As the daughter of a pastor in Japan, she has never lacked opportunities to be around them. She has been to children’s camps and taught the youth group. She became a nursery school teacher.

But there was something else Okubo wanted.

She wanted to save Africa’s children.

“When I was a child, my Sunday School class donated money to Africa once a month, so I was especially attracted to hunger awareness,” she said. “I always thought going to Africa was in the future.”

But she did not know how or when.

“When I was 20 years old, I became a nursery school teacher. I liked work. I prayed for Africa, but I wanted to work more,” she said.

Then one day someone told her prayer was not enough — she needed to act, too.

“I read Isaiah 58:10–11, and I knew the Lord would guide me always,” Okubo said. “I solved the worry and decided to go to Africa.”

She did not realize Alabama would be a big part of that path.

This summer, on her way to spend a year in Kenya, Okubo served as an intern at Deerfoot Baptist Church, Trussville. The arrangement came out of a partnership between Deerfoot and Okubo’s church in Japan.

“We have Manami as an intern this summer because of my growing relationship with the pastors with whom I work during the Japan Keswick Conventions,” said Roger Willmore, Deerfoot’s pastor, who has been a part of the conventions in Japan since 2008. “Last year one of the pastors asked if we would host Manami to provide ESL and ministry mentoring to prepare her for a year of service in Kenya with Japan International Food for the Hungry.”

The organization, which Okubo joined in early September, serves countries where hunger, starvation and malnutrition are issues.

“Manami loves children and has felt a call to missions since childhood. Her passion is to work with starving and malnourished children,” Willmore said. “Deerfoot has mentored her in English and different methods of ministry. She arrived (in Trussville) the week before Vacation Bible School and jumped right into the activities.”

Both Willmore and Okubo agreed — the partnership has been a good experience.

“The people of Alabama are warmhearted and very kind,” she said. “I got much love from them, and I learned how I could show love (back to them).”

Willmore said the Deerfoot family has worked hard to make Okubo feel welcome.

“She has stayed in three homes for extended times and had some overnight visits in another home. In each home she became very involved in family life, including cooking American meals, family trips, crafts and other projects,” he said.

Okubo’s internship is just one part of a bigger relationship Deerfoot members hope to grow with churches in Japan.

“The idea of exchanging youth groups for a week or two in the summer has been discussed. Also, we have talked about Deerfoot providing a missionary to Osaka, Japan, with a primary focus on ESL for Japanese students,” Willmore said.

“Manami is outgoing and loves people, and everyone has loved her,” Willmore said. “This is a first step for us in building a greater relationship with Japan.” 

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