Japan post #5 (8/11/08)

Konnichiwa from Japan once again!

We are on the whopping 17th day of our 23-day trip. Today marks one week before our return to Los Angeles. We are definitely anxious to come home, but at the same time realize that it’s going to be hard to part with the awesome people here.

B&E Classes

As aforementioned, we recently completed our B&E classes at Inochi-no-Izumi church. “B&E” stands for Bible and English, and the classes consisted of a half an hour of Bible teaching from Doi-Sensei followed by an hour and a half of English class. Our days began with our assembling at Inochi-no-Izumi church at 11:30 am. After about an hour of initial prep, we would head out to lunch in the surrounding area.

On Tuesday, we went to a buffet-style place for lunch where we had a hard time figuring out which bathroom was for ladies and which was for men (after some gutsy guessing by Nam, we were able to figure it out). On Wednesday, we hit up Jolly Pasta, a Japanese take on Italian cooking (and when I say Japanese take, I mean both in taste and serving size . . . it’s been hard to get a full stomach on this trip so far, but more on that later). On Thursday, we ate at Yoshinoya’s (significantly better than the Los Angeles counterpart) before heading over to Matsuoka-san’s house.

Matsuoka san has been a believer for 28-years and has been a member at Inochi-no-Izumi for quite some time. While hosting us, she was kind enough to share her testimony with us and gave us along with Doi Sensei some insight as to the nature of the church split that ravaged the church about ten years ago. Doi Sensei has only been serving as pastor for the last two years, so there was an extended period of hardship for the members of this church, but it was such a blessing to see how they persevered through it. Mastuoka-san’s story of the church members was one that showed great resolve and trust in God’s plan.

And lastly, on Friday, we were hosted by Mrs. Takenaka, a member at Hamadera church and long-time friend of Nam, Fabian, and the Ga-be-chan. At her home (a.k.a. the mansion), we had lunch and an extended time of fellowship.

So, aside from the awesome lunches that we had, we actually did do some work. Our afternoons consisted primarily of preparation but also some playing around. We were blessed by the presence of one Aaron Bitzer (affectionately called “The Bitz” by yours truly), who helped us out with ideas for our English classes. Aaron was one of Ray’s college roommates and has been serving at Hamadera as an English teacher for just over four years. It was a lot of fun hanging with the guy and watching videos of random New Zealand comedy shows.

Nam and his family also made daily visits to the Circle-K to get Noah to fall asleep. Gabe and I passed the time by playing Gin Rummy with my USC Trojans deck of cards. Fabo passed the time by playing Texas Hold ‘em in Istanbul on Gabe’s iPhone (which got Gabe kinda mad because of his limited battery). Our free time went from about 3:00-6:00 pm. At about 6:30, the students for B&E started arriving.

At about 7:00 pm, the B&E classes began. Doi-Sensei taught from eight different passages in Luke (two each night), focusing on a different theme each night. The English class that Gabe and I taught consisted of different themes and scenarios; for instance, our theme for the first two nights was “church-life”, so we included explanations of terms such as ‘accountability’, ‘church discipline’, and the like. It was a lot of fun getting to know our students and fellowshipping in that way.

Home-Stay Experiences

For our time at Inochi-no-Izumi, we all changed to different host families. Ray and Shelley moved in with Doi Sensei and his family, while Pastor Nam moved in with the Yamamoto’s, members at Inochi-no-Izumi church. Fabe and Tamara moved in with Mrs. Takenaka, while Gabe moved in with the Koujima’s, also members at Inochi-no-Izumi church.

I was sad to leave the bachelor life with Soga, but moving in with the Tanaka family has been a lot of fun. They have four kids (that’s right, FOUR) named Jyun, Mana, Sora, and Riku. Jyun is fourteen years old, while the others are four years old, two years old, and four months old, respectively. It’s been a lot of fun playing baby-sitter, especially with the youngest, Riku, who I affectionately call ‘Bolo-head’. They really are the cutest, and I am very thankful to be living with them, even if it gets hectic at times. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know Mika, the mother of the bunch, who has done so much for me. Not only does she do my laundry every day, but she makes me breakfast every morning. She has a lot of interesting stories to tell.

From what I’ve heard from the rest of the group, their home-stay experiences have been a lot of fun. Some have noted that the communication barrier is a little more prominent this time around because there is a little less proficiency in English, but overall it hasn’t been too much of a problem. Most importantly, it hasn’t prevented us from sharing our bond in Christ.

Last Week

For our last week, we have three free days before the Inochi-no-Izumi church camp from Thursday to Saturday. For the first of three days, we are visiting Izumi-Sano church for a semi-reunion with the staff here. We’re about to head out to a shopping mall to pick up some omiyage for our friends and family back in the states. I am sorry that this update needs to end a little abruptly, so here are some pictures!

Bekah and umbrella.

I guess Gabe didn’t get the memo.

Okada Sensei translating Ray’s sermon.

Gabe teaching Peace Like a River.

Bowling with Inochi no Izumi members.

This was when Tamara beat Fabian at basketball.

Kathy and Chloe at Inochi no Izumi Christ Church.

Shelley with a lady who came to the Bible & English class.

Food coma at Takenaka-san’s

The Noah pic of the day.

Lastly, please pray for us this last week for safe travel as we travel to and from the camp then ultimately back to the states. Please pray also for our fellowship time with the church members, that we would make the most of every opportunity and not shy away because of the language barrier.

We look forward to seeing you all in a week’s time. Until then, take care and God bless! We miss you all.

~The Japan team via Matt Y.