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CALLED: Japan God’s Way

The CALLED series is a collection of testimonies that highlight the amazing ways God prepares the hearts of his people for their role in the Great Commission. Through this series, Encompass World Partners, along with those who have offered their stories, hopes you will be inspired to prayerfully contemplate your own participation in making disciples of all nations.

Before they met, Phil and Bethany Yarbrough were each attracted to Japan in different ways.  Phil became captivated by the culture after participating in a Japanese language immersion program at his elementary school. Whereas, Bethany gained an appreciation for the culture’s beauty through her high school interior design class. Phil and Bethany’s love for the Japanese culture played a significant part in the beginning of their relationship.

When they were married, they vowed to one day live and work in Japan.

After pursuing their education in California and North Carolina, the Yarbroughs moved to Atlanta, drawn by job prospects and the international diversity of the city. Phil became a technician for Porsche and Bethany an executive assistant. They were thankful for their careers, but as the years passed and their dream of living in Japan was placed on a back burner, they felt unfulfilled. It felt like the more life that happened, the farther away their goal drifted.

In Atlanta, they began attending 4Pointes Church, whose aim is to engage the thousands of Asian-American and third culture residents of the metro-Atlanta area. Even though Phil and Bethany were neither Asian nor third culture, they found this church to be everything they wanted. Their love for Japan was revitalized.

At 4Pointes, the Yarbroughs met Encompass Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives Wayne Hannah and his wife Gina, who had been a part of the church for a few years. The Yarbroughs heard that Wayne had experience with Asian cultures, so in a passing conversation, they mentioned their passion for Japan. They explained that they had plans to one day live there and work, but currently, their dream was far off.

With a smile, Wayne told them about Northstar.

Deep within the Japanese Alps, the Northstar Alpine Lodge provides a variety of outdoor experiences for tourists. During winter, the camp offers snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing, and throughout the summer months, they lead hiking and bike trips. They also happen to be a part of the Encompass family.

Northstar’s ultimate goal is to engage the Japanese community relationally and spiritually, forming a bridge to a country where less than 1% of the people claim Christ.  There is always a need for workers to help carry out such a big mission.

So, Wayne connected the Yarbroughs with Brad Waters, Director of Northstar. After several interviews and a trip to Japan, the Yarbroughs began seeing their dream come to life. Soon after, they were boarding a plane with one-way tickets.

They were Northstar’s newest employees.

This was nothing like what they imagined.  Originally, they hadn’t seen spreading the gospel as a part of their Japanese adventure, but God was clearly steering them. How else would two city people end up at an outdoor adventure camp in rural Japan?

Even though it wasn’t how they planned, they were beyond satisfied with God’s way.

“Our plan included so much more details and steps, but God was like ‘No, I am just going to make this happen my way right now’. At that point, it was so obvious the plan was his and not ours.” -Phil and Bethany Yarbrough