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Me? A Missionary?

Stories from the Field, 7 November 2023

Speaker: Josh Matsumaru

Do you need to be a linguist or translator to play a part in Bible translation? How do other skills support “heart language” ministries? Josh Matsumaru, now the Executive Director of Wycliffe Japan, shared his journey in missions and Bible translation, despite not being a translator.

When he was 19 years old, he went on a mission trip to Indonesia. Already planning to be a teacher, he saw first-hand the difficulties faced by missionaries in providing a good education for their children. After graduating and teaching in Japan and the US for seven years, he felt the call to teach missionary kids on the field.

Josh shared Jeremiah 1:11–12 through which he felt God confirming his call to serve as a missionary teacher:

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

He felt God asking him: “What do you see?” He saw his years of interest in teaching missionary kids, his experience as a teacher, his abilities and skills. He was also assured that God would be watching to see his Word fulfilled – for his Word to reach all people in their own languages.

Josh and his wife, Mika, went on to spend over 15 years (1999–2014) teaching at the Ukarumpa International School in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a missionary school for over 200 children of missionaries serving in PNG. While he taught sports at the secondary school campus, Mika taught art at the primary school campus, Japanese language and culture, and also provided some member care to female missionaries.

Teaching sports and art

Jesus video ministry

Josh was also able to help in the Jesus video ministry – travelling to remote villages to screen the video which had been translated into the local language of the villagers. Often, it would be the first time they had ever seen a video in their own language! Other highlights of his time in PNG were the opportunities to attend some Bible dedication celebrations.

Bible dedication

They returned to Japan in 2014, and Josh took up his current appointment in 2017. He gave a summary of some of the activities of Wycliffe Japan:

  • Literacy and Ethnoarts workshops

  • Cross-cultural Missions seminars

  • Wycliffe Café (discussions and seminars)

  • Partnership with Japanese Sign Language organisations

  • Mission trips/volunteer programmes

About the speaker:

Josh Matsumaru, a missionary from Japan, served in Papua New Guinea for over 15 years. During his time there, he and his wife helped support Bible translation work by teaching at an international school for missionary kids.

Both of his children grew up in Papua New Guinea. Josh and his family returned to Japan in 2014, and he has been serving as the Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators Japan since 2017.

Prayer pointers:
  1. Pray for Wycliffe Japan as it carries out its various activities to engage churches and individuals to understand and participate in God’s mission.

  2. Pray for potential missionaries to clearly sense God’s leading in their lives.


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