Stephanie fell in love with Japanese culture in first grade. She considered her high school “major” as Japanese and excelled in the immersion style courses, becoming a passionate Japanese language learner. In 1998, Stephanie spent her first summer in Gunma, Japan with an outstanding host family who introduced her to her most favorite activity, onsen, or hot spring bathing.
During an overnight summer camp for middle school students, Stephanie asked Jesus into her heart around the campfire. In the summer of 1991 she was baptized in the church where she was raised in Portland.
God blessed Stephanie with a Japanese Christian host mother for her year at Waseda University and she was able to get to know Japanese Christians by attending church with her host mother. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, Stephanie taught English on the JET program in Iwaki, Aomori for three years.
In 2007, Stephanie attended graduate school to become a middle school/high school teacher of Japanese. During the busiest days of school and student-teaching, the Lord introduced her to her husband Scott during a Japanese conversation class. Six weeks after their first date, they became members of Japanese International Baptist Church (JIBC) and began to “do life” with the Life Group that has been praying for God to send them to Japan since 2011.
When Scott graduated from high school, he had the opportunity to travel to Japan to help a TEAM missionary family in Toyama prefecture with their computer. God used that trip to grab hold of Scott and open his eyes to the world and missions generally, and missions in Japan specifically. He left with a love for the country and the people, and resolved to live and work there after finishing college. He was able to return for a visit during college, and then moved to Toyama prefecture after college while serving in the JET Programme. This time cemented his love for Japan, though he was still wrestling with living his own way instead of living for God.
After returning to the US, he moved to the Portland, OR area and met his soon-to-be wife Stephanie. For their first date, they went to Japanese International Baptist Church (JIBC) and found their new church family. God has used JIBC to grow and stretch Scott’s faith, leading him down paths that he never expected. In 2011, Scott was part of a missions/relief team from JIBC to the Tohoku area of Japan, and he heard God’s call to future long-term missions in Japan. Since then, Scott and Stephanie have been preparing for the future work God has prepared for them in Japan.
Scott and Stephanie now have three children, Judah, Jasmine and Jordana. The five Smiths have been talking about Japan every day, for the kids’ entire lives. We love Japan and we cannot wait to share our love of the Lord with the Japanese.