RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Love

It’s funny how for some things, things which are meant to be taken as an absolute which applies everywhere and in everything, can easily partitioned in our minds into different sectors of life. Something meant to go across the board gets cut up like a pie chart- or a pie- and the amount of effort we put into it will adjust accordingly by the type of person we are.

It seems that in one area, I do ok at loving others. And in the other, the one that is found most in everyday life, I earn a D+ at best.

You see, nothing gets me more excited than “volunteering,” “non-profits,” and “mission trips.” Seriously. I love to go out and spend time doing biggish things to help others. I’d travel anywhere and do basically anything if it meant helping someone AND it had some title attached to it like Big Brothers Big Sisters or Tornado Recovery or TWR or Kids’ Ministry. Those all have names that represent the work that falls under it, and so, to my weird psyche anyway, it’s kind of a big deal.

I’m praying that I do not come across as arrogant, but rather as a Christ follower admitting where I’m struggling and needing God’s mercy and strength… If anything I do is any good at all, it is not me working but Him graciously allowing me to be the vessel through which HE works.

Now here is where I struggle. I forget about daily love. Do the people around me know that I love them? Do I show them?

Do my coworkers know that I appreciate their advice and that they answer my infinite amount of questions?

Am I sending love home to my family by sending mail or facebook messages? Do they contain encouragement?

Am I maintaining enough contact with friends that I don’t see anymore so that they know that they are still in my prayers?

Am I surprising people with notes of encouragement or gifts or positive words?

Do the people on the subway see that though I am the sole white person on the train, I’m still smiling because I’m happy and care about my surroundings–the culture, people, etc. (Maybe this one is a stretch, but joyful looking people just seem to care more about everything…if I need help with something, I’ll go to Mr. Smiley before Mr. Frowney, right?)

Am I doing enough?

Sometimes I get really hooked up on something with a big name. Right now, God has really put on my heart to help Samaritan’s Purse in Shichigahama. This is one of the main communities devastated by the tsunami last March. They are still tearing down homes and rebuilding them, and God wants me there. I’m so stoked to do whatever I can and am praying for opportunities beyond manual labor to love others. This mission has a name for it-Tsunami Recovery. And if I am helpful, then, ok, right on.

But I cannot neglect all of the love that I can give during each and every day of routine living. Sometimes I forget to work hard in those times. But God’s second greatest commandment doesn’t come with stipulations for the right circumstances to love nor encourage that one should just be good at love in one area of life. Love is for all things (minus one–“hate what is evil…”, Rom. 12:9) at all times.

Love.

Romans 13: 9-10

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighborTherefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothingIf I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Advertisements

Train Friend

Story of the day (or maybe even time since I’ve been here):

So…I think I’ve described how hard God is laying on my heart to be on mission for Him while I’m here-beyond the ring of my own circle of people I will obviously meet.

This is usually pretty difficult (not that I’ve wanted to REALLY try yet) as I generally only see Japanese who most likely don’t know English, and that’s all I know. When I do see gaijin-or foreigners- they are usually related to Meysen and that’s not really what God is emphasizing to me.

Spotting a foreigner is kind of a big deal here… As soon as someone sees one we hurry and tell everyone else. We fantasize about what they could possibly be doing even. Maybe they are international undercover spies or foreign ambassadors or business-people or even missionaries. Foreigners can’t really hide in Sendai.

Today God led me to a gaijin.

Four teachers, plus two sweet kids, and myself took a trip to downtown Sendai to look around and shop. When we got on the subway it ended up that someone wouldn’t fit on the bench so I sat a little bit further down. It was fine. I even got to take a cute picture of my new friends.

A few stops down I noticed a white man waiting to get on the train. Later I noticed that he had sat right next to me. I don’t know if he noticed that I was also gaijin. Starting at that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me soooooooo hard to talk to him. Like…for probably 5 minutes (which feels like years when you know you’re fighting with yourself about something) I knew that I HAD to talk to this man and I knew that if I didn’t I was going to feel guilty about it for a long time. Now, this man was much older than me, he was very involved with whatever he was doing on his phone, and he didn’t look very friendly. He could have been getting off at the very next stop making a very quick and awkward conversation (maybe a quick awkward conversation is better than a long awkward one anyway) and he could have actually been raised in Japan and didn’t know English and he could have really hated to have been bothered by a teenage-looking girl who asks a lot of questions and and and…

God didn’t really care about all those other details that I was concerned with. Not to mention I had no earthly idea what I would say to him. Starting with Jesus didn’t seem to be the way to go so I just blurted out something really quickly before I chickened out in a half second.

“Do you speak English?”
–not too shabby. It makes sense in the context of white gaijin in Japan.

“Yes.”
–praise God! Maybe…now i have to brave a whole conversation with this stranger, maybe somehow mention Jesus, and not sound like a bumbling idiot.

I found out quite a bit about him. Not his name, though. I forget names so I usually don’t ask for them, but I’ll always remember someone by their face. He was in Sendai because he married someone who lived here. He’s been here 12ish years. He teaches English and is a “wedding consultant.” Western style weddings are very popular here.

He said that he was a minister for the weddings. Sounds promising! He said he was a minister a long time ago, back in Australia (he’s Australian). According to him, most people who are the wedding ministers just do it for the money. Still sounds promising.

Then he broke my heart. “I use to be real religious, but I’m not really anymore.” He sort of waved God off with his hand even. He continued talking pretty quickly. He just sorta threw that fact for me in their and I didn’t really get the words to say to that. Somehow I had the words to carry on a conversation the rest of the time but I didn’t have a response for his religious comment. Soon he jumped up and off he went for the rest of his day. For a little while I had him trapped in a train car where I could have said anything to him I wanted…

I truly think the spirit carried on that conversation. Most of the time I wasn’t even thinking about what I was saying…I was sort of in shock that we were talking at all. Jesus didn’t come out in our conversation, and I’m disappointed I didn’t get that into the conversation somehow. He knows where I work, so maybe Meysen’s reputation for being Christian on top of the hope that I was friendly and not too scary is some kind of encouragement. Maybe he forgot all about the conversation on the subway this morning. I’m certain there were more important things that were a part of his day. But I could not stop thinking about him or praying for him today. I’m hoping maybe I can meet him again one day and we can continue our conversation or maybe he’ll just go be inspired to read his Bible again or something. I just have to trust the Lord and His will and do the only thing I can do for that man right now–prayer.

I’m thankful that I listened to the spirit and had that conversation today…even if he broke my heart. I have a new Australian acquaintance and someone in Sendai that I can be praying for specifically.

Thank you God for giving me courage and for convicting me so blatantly. It is such an incredible and beautiful blessing to be a part of that… I pray that I allowed you to do whatever you needed to do for my train friend today. Please continue to work on his heart and allow clear signs of You in his life. Amen.

Question Time!

So I’ve been getting some of the same questions over and over (and that’s ok! :) ) so I thought it might be good to answer them here so they may be referred to… (if you asked me again I’d still probably retype it all out anyway…)

1. How is the food?

Everyone is really concerned about what I’m putting in my belly! Let’s start with fast food…

I’ve seen McDonald’s, KFC, and Subway already. I’ve only had Subway and one thing I noticed was that some sandwiches come with shrimp on them…it makes sense.

There are burger restaurants here, too, and eventually I’ll have a good ol’ Japanese version American burger! Maybe with shrimp…

Once I ate at this place called Surprise Donkey (something like that) and it’s goal was to have American food. I feel for all the Chinese who have to deal American Chinese restaurants. But again, it tasted fine. It just wasn’t American like I understand it.

Next is sushi.  I’m learning that there is cheap sushi and there is expensive sushi. So far I’ve only had cheap, and I’d compare it to expensive American sushi. It’s yummy, comes in a thousand varieties, and is extra cool when you snag it off a moving conveyor belt of rotating fish eggs, squid tentacles, and “American Chocolate Cake.” My friend, Jade, and I have created a “dare list” where we accomplish tasks we wouldn’t normally do. On the list is eating sushi topped with fish egg. bleh. We’ll get to that one day.

So the food here is fishy, not greasy, and not really flavorful usually. Japanese food doesn’t have a lot of spices in it. I’m still learning what kinds of things I can make for myself at home… I’ll have to learn to prepare fish while I’m here! (that’s a scary scenario to me)

2.  Am I over jetlag?

Affirmative. It only took two days to feel ok, thankfully. Now I’m combating the normal tiredness that comes with early darkness.

3. Am I making friends?

Getting there. Slowgoing but I’ve known everyone 8 days…they get a break. But yes, I’m making friends.

4. Do I share my apartment with anyone?

Negative. I’m all alone. Which is great usually, but sometimes it is just very quiet so I’ll turn up some music so I don’t feel so lonely. I’m still an introvert but I’ve had too much alone time, and I’m ready to go, go, go (to do something productive, not go home)!

Maybe there aren’t as many frequent questions as I thought. Random notes about Japan…

Earthquakes. Happen nearly every day (maybe EVERY day) and you don’t always know it’s an earthquake. My first one about threw me into a panic attack, though. I’ve never experienced one, even those insane Arkansas ones last fall, and I had no idea why my bed was moving suddenly. I’m good with earthquakes for now.

Weather. It’s winter here (the whole northern hemisphere experiences the same seasons at the same time America does) and there’s snow. It snowed when we arrived. It snowed after. It stopped. It rained yesterday. It snowed today. And it’s cold. The states forfeited their winter weather to Japan this year, I think.

Japanese. The people here are very kind and respectful. They are also very gracious when I try to communicate in Japanese to them. They also try to communicate in English so we afford each other lots of leeway while playing charades. It’s fun, but I’m ready to know their language better. I love the Japanese.

Safety. It’s very safe here. I can walk around alone in the daytime or at night (while maintaining common sense) and I don’t feel like I’m in danger, at all… It’s a relief after Johannesburg.

Do I miss home? Of course. But I’m definitely happy to be here and am staying until God tells me to move on.

If I missed an obvious question, re-remind me!

ohmygosh! Is that Grapetiser?!

Yes, folks…in case anyone was curious, there IS Grapetiser/Peartiser/Appletiser in Japan! I never thought I’d get to taste that yummy stuff again.

I don’t plan on this blog becoming a journal where I explain every eensy detail of my day, but perhaps other people can shed light on whether certain things that happen have some deeper meaning. (Or maybe I’m just always looking for a reason when some things just are.)

The plane rides went smoothly for the most part. Until the extremely time efficient Narita Airport people decided that my luggage had been on the conveyor belt too long (Immigration didn’t take THAT long) and toted my bags away. I found them, thank goodness. And if that’s all that happened I call that a good trip.

The one thing that I was disappointed in – and please don’t judge this weird complaint – was the fact that in neither plane ride did I make a new friend. If you’ve ever flown in a plane with me you probably know that I’d pick sitting next to a stranger who looks a little talkative over sitting next to someone I know. People on planes are on their way to some destination for some various reason and that alone is a story they can tell me, but they also have other stories to tell about their lives. I’ve also enjoyed having nice airplane neighbors because they can share advice or teach me how to get along better at my destination.

But on my way to Japan, a place where I don’t know the language or what it’s like or the sites I should see, there wasn’t anyone to encourage me. Maybe it is selfish but I was looking forward to someone helping me out with whatever questions I could think of. I don’t know if that’s a sign of the loneliness that I should expect or the reliance on myself and my connection with God, but I do feel a bit more alone here. In fact everything about this trip has felt much different than SA.

I feel more calm and content here, less excited about being somewhere new, and more like I’m on a mission without a particular end. It’s not that I’m unexcited, but I feel all the sadness that a year away from my family and friends and the difficulty that starting something new will bring and the struggle with communication that will happen… I don’t usually focus on the negative, but this time I am very realistically able to consider everything that this year is going to take. My attitude is still thankful for this opportunity, and I KNOW with everything I have that I am exactly where God has placed me. I pray He knows my surprisingly low level of ADHD-like excitement isn’t a lack of gratitude but just a realistic understanding of how much strength I will have to draw from Him.

I think each teacher at the school has a unique purpose in being here which is planned out by God. It seems my purpose may be less in my teaching but more in my evangelizing. Brad said it best-“If you aren’t doing that [telling others about Christ], then I have no idea why you even went.” That sounds harsh but it was said with love. He is right. Why would I separate people I love from myself? I honestly feel like God is telling me to be a missionary here in Japan, even moreso than in SA. These trips are almost becoming incomparable because of all the differences in experiences and feelings they create in me…

But at least they both have Grapetiser.