Tom and Debi Going ’90 have spent 18 years in Japan teaching English in local schools. Today, Tom teaches at Urawa Lutheran School, which was founded by Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) missionaries in the 1950s.
“The Japanese are passionate about education and learning, including foreign languages,” he says.
The school, which has had as many as 750 students, teaches grades 1-12. Tom’s career in education in Japan has surprised him. He studied business at Purdue but felt an itch to return to Japan where he had spent his childhood as a son of missionaries.
“I wanted to reconnect with Japan and relearn the language and take that back as a valuable tool in the business world to enhance my career,” he says.
Instead, God redirected his path. While serving with the LCMS’ Volunteer Youth Ministry, he was assigned to a village as lay missionary teacher.
“The Lord grabbed my heart,” he says. “Being removed from all family, friends and my toys in America, in a situation where you don’t know the language and are still learning to eat with chopsticks, I felt like I was two years old again. God cleared those distractions so I could see him and really connect with him and start walking with the Lord.”
“We learned so much about teaching that we thought we knew. We had this worshipful 18 months with praise times in chapel and Christian teachers talking about the Bible in the classroom. It really fired us up.”
Three years into his assignment, he met Debi, who had graduated from Concordia University Irvine with an art degree and wanted to become a missionary. They married and, while they were teaching in rural areas, Urawa asked the Goings to succeed Brad ’92 and Genevieve ’93, MAED ’07 Ermeling at the school. Before taking the job, the Goings came to CUI to earn their teaching credentials, Lutheran teaching certificates, and Director of Christian Education certification, which they accomplished in 2000.
“It was a wonderful experience,” says Tom. “As far as education, Concordia is one of the best. The professors were outstanding and we learned so much about teaching that we thought we knew. We had this worshipful 18 months with praise times in chapel and Christian teachers talking about the Bible in the classroom. It really fired us up. It was very edifying and inspiring.”
A few years later the Lord redirected them to Indonesia, where they learned to be more assertive in sharing the gospel.
“I think the Lord wanted us to toughen up a bit and get a feel for how to challenge people with the gospel without turning them off,” he says. “Doing it in a polite way but actually giving people a chance to respond to what we were saying. When we returned to Japan in 2013 we came with a new attitude.”
“We’re teaching them about a God who says, ‘I will be your counselor, instructor, protector,’” says Tom. “We’re seeing lives being changed, and I think that’s the miracle.”
Before class, Tom “prays in the name of Jesus for the student who will sit at each desk that their lives will be changed,” he says. While teaching, he brings the Bible’s perspective to bear on everything from academic subjects to shopping, travel, and relationships.
Every summer the Goings take 2 dozen Japanese students to CUI for a cultural experience and intensive language training.
“Being on a Christian campus we are able to have them meet young people very excited about the Lord,” Tom says. Teachers from Urawa also travel to CUI each year for training, and 2 CUI professors go to Urawa every May for ministry and cross-cultural exchange. CUI president Kurt Krueger was there in April.
The Goings have 7-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, whom Debi teaches at home.