Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Penner's Spotlight - Monica Bruenjes - Japan

Pens on a World Map

Penner’s Spotlight

Penner: Monica Bruenjes of Wisconsin
Location: Japan

Taking One Step in Faith

Having stepped out in faith a few times in my life, I’ve recently been marveling at all the blessings I’ve received from one particular choice I made many years ago- a choice to study abroad in Japan. At the time I had no idea the impact that one decision would make, I suppose that’s why it’s called “stepping out in faith.”

Osaka City- May, 2011: Visiting my former boss at the school where I taught English.  Of the people standing, I’m 4th from the right behind my former boss.
I was always a shy girl, but my father gave me a love for travel so it was with both anxiety and excitement that I went to Japan in 2006 to study abroad for a year. While there, I worked part time teaching English for a lady who owns a private school. 

Ishinomaki City- May, 2011: Getting ready to serve food to survivors.  I’m the tall blonde one!  Cathy is in front of me.  Being her first trip to Japan, going for disaster relief was a big step!
Since then Japan has held a special place in my heart so news of the 2011 tsunami hit me hard. When I heard at church that our denomination was calling for disaster relief volunteers, I knew I should go.

Ishinomaki City- May, 2011: Helping clean up debris in what I’m sure, was once a lovely front yard.  I’m in the yellow.
Another lady from our church came with me and before our missions work, we were invited to stay with my former boss. From her home in Osaka we traveled to Tokyo, then north to the hardest hit areas, staying at facilities run by Samaritan’s Purse.    

Minamisanriku City- June, 2011: This city was completely washed out by the tsunami.  This picture was taken miles inland.  You can see debris and even a boat were deposited in the middle of a residential area.
We did physical clean-up work, distributed food, and met with survivors.  It was a touching experience listening to their stories.  I’m still in contact with many I met there, and it’s a joy to continue seeing photos of the neighborhood we worked in being revived.

Several survivors I met while there have since become Christians and God is continuing to reveal Himself to the Japanese people.
My relationship with my former boss also continues. This summer she came to visit, bringing another teacher I know and four students along. Their visit was such a blessing that it caused my current reflection. 

Augusta, Wisconsin- August, 2013:  We took our Japanese guests all around town.  This was taken at our city hall.  I’m in the back wearing the green hat!
I would have missed out on so much had I never gone to Japan in the first place. The friends I’ve met would be missing out too.  To this day, God continues to work through that simple choice to go. One small step of faith, that’s all it takes.

Have you been to Japan or another location in Asia? Have you done disaster relief work before? Please join the conversation below.

Monica Bruenjes

Monica Bruenjes currently works as a freelance artist living in the backwoods of Wisconsin. She has always loved reading, which led to the birth of her blog, Novel Characters, and offered a way to merge her love of books with another of her passions: drawing.

For her fiction book reviews, she includes sketches of her favorite book scenes with each post. She also loves to travel and enjoyed living in Japan for a year as an exchange student. For more information about Monica, her blog and art, visit her at , website ( or on Facebook or Twitter.

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