Sustaining faith: Maryville woman continues work in Japan
By Lyn Cherry | Special to The Daily Times
Sometimes, dreams come true.
At least, that’s what Samantha Lyn Cherry believes as she ends her second year of working in Japan as an assistant to Japanese public school teachers. She is the “native speaker” that English teachers utilize with their students to further their exposure to and practice of English.
Samantha first visited Japan in November 2007, a few months after graduating from Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Ga. She went on a short mission trip with a Chattanooga church and helped care for the children of the convention attendees. At that time, she was called to take care of the accounts at a mission in Chiba Prefecture for a year. She raised part of the money to support herself and then was assisted by the missionaries in Chiba.
She fell in love with the people and the country.
Reasons to return
When she returned from her year in Japan, she applied to work as an assistant to teachers of English in the Japanese public schools. She received a contract and reported for work in early April 2011.
On March 11, 2011, Japan had been struck by the enormous tsunami that killed thousands and totally destroyed much of the Japanese East Coast. Even though the area was still receiving numerous aftershocks, Samantha held to her contract. She had expected several weeks of training, but because of the large number of international workers who left after the tsunami, she was put right to work with only a couple days’ orientation. So, her first year of assistantship was quite difficult for her.
When asked about dealing with aftershocks, Samantha said, “There aren’t really any after-shocks, just more earthquakes. Most of the earthquakes that I’ve noticed since I have been back haven’t been that big or affected me very much.”
A week or so ago there was a temblor during class at Sadamoto ES. Samantha and students all sheltered under the desks until the teacher gave the all clear to get up. Then she just tried to go on as though nothing had happened. Most of the time, the quakes are over before she can take cover. “If it is longer, I just pray that God would keep us all safe and calm, she said.”
Down to basics
Her contract renewed, Samantha began her second year as a teaching assistant this April. She has a very small apartment near the Goi train station in Ishihara, Chiba Prefecture. As furnishings, all she needs are futons for a bed and seating and a box to place her computer on. She has a standing lamp and a floor fan, but other than that, she doesn’t need any furniture. She has a large closet, a tiny bathroom, and a small kitchen with a special Japanese electric stove that uses special utensils.
She is currently working at Koito Junior High School, Sadamoto Elementary School and Naka Elementary School. After the August school break, she will be at Sunami Junior High School instead of Koito and then in January at Yaehara JHS. She is not allowed to publish photographs of her students. Her commute varies as to which school she is working at that day, but includes train, bus, and walking and takes almost two hours.
In addition to her teaching, Samantha stays busy with her church work. She attends a church connected with the mission that she worked at her first time in Japan. The church supplies much of her social life.
One of the ways she demonstrates her strong faith is the work she does with Grace Mission Tohoku. Grace Mission Tohoku is the combined relief organization of Help Tohoku & Grace City Relief. Their aim is to build community, rebuild homes, and create jobs. The group also works with Samaritan’s Purse, and their efforts in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. This is in one of the worst tsunami damaged areas.
Rewards are many
When queried about the tsunami work, Samantha said, “What upsets me the most is the loss of life that occurred during and the devastation that is still visible when you just look around, but that goes hand in hand with the rewards of being able to help those who still live there. Rewards come from spending time with them just talking or playing with kids, sharing a meal, or helping them clean out a house or workplace. Rewards also come from the tired aching muscles at the end of the day when you have given just a small portion of your time to help clean and prepare a home to repair for living in.
“The hardest physical feelings vary with the weather. In the winter, preparing food while snow is falling on you, and your feet and hands are starting to freeze, makes it difficult to cut and prepare the different foods. The summer brings an increase in temperature and humidity, such that you are constantly soaked in sweat as you work. Mentally it can be difficult knowing that I’m only up there for a very brief time before I have to return to my responsibilities back in Chiba.”
When asked what makes her happy living in Japan and wanting to continue to live there, Samantha shared the following:
“It is so hard sometimes to put into words just what exactly makes me happy about living in Japan. One of the things is that I feel at home here in Japan. Most of the time I enjoy walking or riding my bike around town, taking the train to meet up with friends or go somewhere new, trying a new restaurant or an old favorite. Most of the time I love working with my students, helping them to better understand English and to enjoy it. Or working with my teachers on what we are going to do with the classes.
“My Faith sustains me in living in a land prone to earthquakes by knowing that God is in control of every minute of my life, and He will protect me according to His will. What do I have to fear when I know that no matter what happens to me here on Earth, I will ultimately be with Him in heaven when I die? That is the basis of my faith living here in Japan or anywhere in the world. I still struggle with everyday living just as I would anywhere else, so it is very important to me that I regularly attend my church here in Japan and spend time in fellowship with other believers.
“Life in Japan is similar to life anywhere else; I work, spend time with friends, go to church, eat and sleep. I just have the added blessing of experiencing a foreign culture every day and have easier access to helping with the devastation from the Tsunami. I’m no one special. Anyone who feels called can come. Hearts and hands are always appreciated in the work being done in Ishinomaki and by missionaries all over Japan. Please keep us in your prayers.”
Lyn Cherry is a graduate of Maryville College and grandmother of Samantha. Her family sponsored international students and visitors and that is one of the reasons Samantha became interested in Japan — that and Pokémon! Lyn has designed artists’ websites, assisted artists in writing mission statements, etc. She enjoys writing prose and verse.
Samantha is the daughter of David and Cindy Cherry of Maryville. She attended Maryville schools, then was home-schooled from the seventh grade through 12th grade. She attends Sandy Springs Presbyterian Church when visiting her parents.