Monday, May 25, 2009

Random inspiration on the way home

This doesn't really happen to have so much deep meaning, just something that popped into my head as I was walking home today... I'm not really a poet, but sometimes I like to pretend I am. ;-)

If I were to sing a song
of my love for you
it would be painted
in the colors of the sunset
brightly singing the joy
of knowing you
amidst the knowledge
that every day
must fade
into night.

(note: these pictures weren't taken today. They are just pictures of sunsets I had on my computer...)

Friday, May 08, 2009

I love Sensei!

The longer I know Sensei, the more I like the guy. Of course, this kinda rings true for most of my relationships of late. Most of the meaningful relationships I have kept for a long time, usually started the same way mine did with Sensei, either strange indifference, or sometimes even mild hostility. Eventually God whacks me upside the head and I decide that I do in fact, like and appreciate the people He brings into my life, even when they are not my choosing.

But I digress...

The reason I love Sensei so much today, is yet another exciting example of a new Christian in bloom. I walk to the big train station every morning to catch my bus, and it's the same station that Sensei also uses. As we both work for public schools now, our schedules are a bit more similar. I leave a bit earlier than he has to because of the distance of my school and the bus times. But recently, he'll leave earlier and walk with me part of the way to the station. My face lights up everytime I get to walk with him. I met him today, and even though it was raining (which I hate) I could still smile with joy to see him. It's a good way to start a day.

As we were walking, he told me that he went to a Christian bookstore in Tokyo, (CCL in Ochanomizu for those reading who know what I'm talking about). He was interested in going because for his baptism, some co-workers and I gave him manga versions of the Bible. There's this really good set that is being developed right now. I'm studying it right now to help my Japanese actually. Anyway, he loved them and he wanted to know where he could get more. (the next book comes out in September, which also happens to be when his birthday is, so guess what his birthday present will be, hehe) So I told him about the shop I knew about, and he looked it up on the internet. This past week was Golden Week, which is a series of national holidays in Japan. For the last day of Golden Week, he decided he was going to go to that bookstore, by bicycle. Now, I don't live in Tokyo. I live a bit north of Tokyo in a neighboring prefecture. So (being from Texas, where the next town over is still quite a long ways away...) I was a bit shocked to discover that apparently it's possible to bike to the heart of Tokyo in 2 1/2 hours! If you are Sensei anyway (he has a really high rank in martial arts, so he's a really fit guy.) Amazing I tell you. AND to top it off, he did it in the rain. Granted he thought it was going to stop raining, or at least not rain so much, but still. So he rides over 2 1/2 hrs one way in the rain to go to a Christian bookstore. Nice.

There he found a picture book telling the story of Gideon, which is his baptisimal name. He also was excited to find a large Bible in ancient Japanese. He likes ancient Japanese. So he was happy. And I was happy to hear the story. He's a great guy.

I just get excited watching other people get excited and learning. I guess I'm becoming more and more of a teacher all the time. (as long as I don't have to grade papers or lesson plan I'm fine... Love my new job!!!)

Please remember to pray for Sensei as he grows as a Christian!!!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What's wrong with America?

So recently, I have been asked twice, by two different people, "What's wrong with America?" My family and my friends in America seem troubled by my lack of desire to return to my homeland. Well, I guess that's normal.

But I think the question is a bit off. I don't think it should be "What's wrong with America?" (although there are quite a few things I could think of...) I'm not sure what exactly the question should be, but a better one would be "Why not America?"

Of course when my friends and family are asking this question, what they are really asking is, "What's wrong with us? Why don't you want to be with us?"

Of course, this is very difficult to answer. Of course, there is nothing so wrong with any of my friends or family that would drive me to another country to take refuge. This is not a question of what's wrong with what I left behind. It's a question of where is my heart.

My heart doesn't reject my family and my friends. I don't even think it rejects America. But my heart loves Japan. There are not enough words to explain my love for this place, these people. This has to be something like getting married. You leave your family and your friends to be with the person your heart loves most. You don't reject them. But you do have to make a choice.

I don't know if I will ever be able to make my family and friends understand. I can see the hurt in their eyes, the confusion and the non-comprehension. I love Japan. I want to live here for as long as I am able. If God calls me back to America, I will go, but I'm sure it will be with many tears and a heavy heart. But for now my soul rejoices that I can live here. God loves these people, more than I ever can. But I want to watch Him move in their lives. I want to be a Christian presence in a dark country. I want my family and friends to understand that.

I don't love them less... but I might love Japan more...

Is that wrong? Is that an answer anyone wants to hear?

I can only give my heart to God in response. Only God can judge what is right in this case. And I pray that those who love me, and desire me to be in the same country with them can forgive me for wanting to be elsewhere...

My heart is here... If I left now, I would leave it behind. Who can live without a heart?

What's wrong with America? Nothing more than any other country. Why do I love Japan? I can't answer that question either. But I do. One of the few things I know with absolute certainty.

But on days like this, I regret having to give somethings up for something that I love...


Sorry it's been such a long time coming. Seems like I'm either too busy, or too free.

After quite a bit of waiting, I was finally granted a new job. The money is less than I was hoping for, but I am ever so thankful to have a job at this point. It was truly a miracle to get the job. It would take a while to explain, so I'll just leave it at that.

I currently have a job as an ALT or Assistant Language Teacher. I am working in a Jr High School about an hour away by bus. I spend a lot of my time commuting right now, but that's ok.

I was wondering if I would like the new job, because I've heard stories about ALT's and Jr High kids, but it turns out this job seems to suit me just fine. There's not a lot of prep work that I have to do, and the kids aren't so bad at all. Sometimes they are downright cute. They are getting used to me, and I think I'll be able to have fun with them.

Mostly I've been adjusting to my new life. It takes a lot more trust I've found, to work for a secular company than for a church. Before, I was assured that the church would take care of me if anything happened. That is not the case with secular companies. I have to fend for myself. It's a bit scary if I think about it too much. So I spend a lot of time depending on God. More so than ever before. It is very frightening to walk forward on your own, knowing full well that your own power is not enough to sustain you. But God has been gracious to me, and all my needs are being met. I've had to sacrifice some of the expectations I had for my new life (mainly the idea of having a little extra spending money per month...) but I'm looking forward to the ways that God will use this next year to help me grow. I think I can become a stronger person through this experience.

In many ways, I feel like I've graduated. These 4 years as a "missionary" gave me the training and the strength I will need to move forward without that title anymore. But just because I am no longer a missionary by title, doesn't mean anything. I love Japan. I love God. So it is only natural that my life in Japan will continue to combine the two in all things I do. It will just be harder now, because I don't have the "easy-in" any more. I have to truly live my faith in all aspects of my life. It will be a great challenge for someone as lazy as myself.

I'm very grateful for the 4 years I've lived in Japan already. I don't think I would have been able to do a job like this without this prior experience. I already have a working knowledge of Japanese, and I know how to find my way around the transportation system. I would have been completely lost without that. God's timing is truly amazing.

In other news, this year's Easter was a wonderful affair. I've heard from so many different people this year that they felt God's presence this year at Easter. It was such a blessing.

In my case, two people who are very dear to me were baptized. There have of course been baptisms at my church before, but this was the first time the people were connected to me. One was Sensei, from Trash Box Jam, and the other was my student, we'll call her Y. It was a wonderful, emotional day for me, and I can't tell you how blessed I was to be able to see it happen. God is so kind to me. I know many people who go back to the states without seeing something as encouraging as this.

And I know it was not my doing. I was just here to observe God working in their lives. So amazing.

There's still a lot of adjusting for me to do. I swing between joy and contentment, and fear and complaining. I still have a long way to mature, and I am constantly reminded of my own sin and ugliness.

Watching dear sisters return to America has also been hard. Hearing about their struggles as they try to re-adjust to America and process all the things that have happened here in Japan. I understand their pain, because I fear it.

On a side note, the next time you welcome a returned missionary to your church... Try to imagine what they have been through. Not everyone who returns to America have done so gladly. When you go to another country, and pour out your heart and soul for it and its people, you leave something of yourself behind. When you return to America, part of yourself has been ripped away. You have become a stranger in your own home. Everything is strange, yet similar. You get hit by reverse culture shock. It's a huge re-adjustment, possibly harder than leaving was. Well meaning "Welcome Home"'s might just be pouring salt on their wounds. Of course everyone is different. But the best thing you can do for someone who has been a missionary for several years in a different country, is listen to them. You will probably never be able to understand all the things that they have gone through, but you can listen. Listen with love, don't judge, rejoice and weep with them. There will probably be wounds that only time and God can heal, but we all want to be understood, even if just a little... Ok, that's my sermon for now, from one who hasn't returned yet. But I want to protect my sisters, if only a little.

So that's my update for now. Hopefully later I'll put up some pictures from my new school and some more fun details.
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