Hello again from Japan. I apologize for not updating yesterday, but I just realized that because I am the only one with immediate access to the internet that I should be doing the updates. I also apologize for the brief nature of the first update, but it had to be written rather hastily. Not to be outdone by Mark Choi, here’s the update on EVERYTHING from our arrival until the end of the third of five days in our “Joy Joy 5 Days” program:
We arrived at Kansai International Airport at approximately 4:00 pm local time. After going through customs (a rather long process due to the fact that a group of nearly 100 Korean children had arrived just before us—I found look-alikes of Paul Yoo, Mark Choi, and Yoonjin), we were greeted by Doi-Sensei, the pastor at Inochi-no-Izumi church, Soga-Sensei, the pastor from Izumi-Sano Church, and Soga-Sensei’s friend, Gen, a member at Hamadera church. While Pastor Nam and family went with Doi Sensei, the rest of the group went with Gen and Soga-Sensei to Izumi-Sano church, about a 20-minute drive from the airport. Once we touched base at the church, we all went to eat at a local curry fast-food restaurant. After this, Soga-Sensei took us all to our various host-families. The next day would prove to be a long one . . .
This was a very long Sunday as we sat through three church services. We journeyed about half an hour to Hamadera Bible Church to attend the first two services, after which we attended a luncheon in our honor. Though we are not doing work with Hamadera Bible Church on this particular trip, the close relationship between our churches necessitated at least one meeting, and it was a lot of fun. Gabe, Fabian, Ray, and Nam all got to meet with their old friends, and it was fun for Shelley, Tamara, Noah, and myself to make new ones. During the services, we were asked up to the stage by Kondo-Sensei, the head pastor at Hamadera, where he introduced us and allowed Nam to give a formal greeting. During the second service, Okada-Sensei, an associate pastor at Hamadera, translated the message delivered by Kondo-Sensei into English for us while we sat in the dining hall. At this time, we were also able to greet the missionary team from Grace Community Church and hear their testimonies about their experiences working with the children at Hamadera.
After the (awesome) marathon at Hamadera, we were escorted back to Izumi-Sano where service began at 3:00 pm. One of the reasons that Izumi-Sano church meets so late is because Soga-Sensei is also a member at Hamadera Church where he serves in various ways. During this service, we were asked to perform a special song, Fairest Lord Jesus. After the extended praise time (it’s interesting to note that their worship time consisted of hymns translated from English), Nam delivered the message; he preached from Hebrews 10:19-25. Mr. Takeda served as the translator for the message. The church is small, consisting of just about ten people, but it was really amazing to see their dedication.
After service at Izumi-Sano, a group of ladies came from Hamadera and helped prepare a meal for us. Our meal consisted of karaage (fried chicken), somen salad, and a marinara-type soup with hamburger (I found out from Gen that this was like Okinawan soba).
After a solid time of fellowship with the ladies from Hamadera and the members from Izumi-Sano, everyone returned home in preparation for the day ahead. Soga-Sensei and I held on to Gabe for a while, and we made our first trip to the public bath (see my last post for details). After this awesome experience, Soga-Sensei, Gabe and myself were knocked out like burnt lightbulbs.
Monday was set aside for prep time for the Joy-Joy-5-Day program. It was during this time that we were able to get all of our supplies together and determine the exact format of our classes and lesson times. Pastor Nam and family decided not to join us on this day because they were very tired and Noah was still transitioning from his old sleep schedule.
Soga-Sensei and A-chan (the member from Hamadera that visited us back in March) gave us incentive to finish early: if we finished by 5:00, they would take us to a nearby mall and we could shop until 8:00. Us being us, we finished by 4:00, and with our preparation pretty much complete, we were off to the mall.
Funny (Sad) Story
While we were waiting for Soga-Sensei to pull up the car to take us to the mall, Tamara got a bit by a mosquito dead center on her forehead. Fabian tried to knock the mosquito away, exclaiming “Tamster! It’s really a mosquito this time!” (implying that he had played some jokes on her prior to this incident). While he succeeded in brushing the mosquito off, the damage had already been done, and by the time we got to the mall, the bite became pretty swollen. When we got to the mall, Fabian tried desperately to sooth Tamara, going out of his way to a grocery store to ask for skin lotion for the bite. After succeeding in describing his dilemma to the store clerk (not an easy task), Fabian proceeded in buying the rub-on lotion for Tamara. However, when he tried to apply it to her face, and ran down into her eyes and began to burn. Fabian was very apologetic, but the damage had been done. She looked a little sad the rest of the night, but their marriage continues to thrive.
Back to Monday
So, Soga-sensei dropped us all off at the mall. While Ray and Shelley went off on their date, Fabe, Tamara, Gabe and myself were able to do some shopping at the hyaku-en (100 yen) store. Gabe and I also found an arcade where I was able to play Street Fighter IV for the first time (I made it all the way to the boss but I lost—I also dominated Gabe in two match-ups). After eating dinner, we met up with Ray and Shelley at the pre-determined pick-up point and headed home to rest for the busy day ahead.
This day was the first of our Joy-Joy-5-day program. I was definitely nervous this day as it was my first time with the children. Check out my previous post for more on this day.
Honestly, Wednesday and Thursday were so similar that I’ll blend them together into a single heading. The format of our days follows this basic pattern: Staff meeting starts at 9:30. The children start arriving at about 10:40, and the program officially starts at 11:00. During the Japanese session, we sing various praise songs (the favorite of which is suba-subarashii) and play games related to the message. After the game and praise time, Soga Sensei delivers a message, Wednesday’s being about Jesus calming the storm and Thursday’s being about Zaccheus. After this, there is a short praise time followed by lunch. After lunch, the English classes begin. During the English classes, we basically teach new vocabulary words related to the story then play games to test their knowledge. After our classes, the children gather together for craft time in the main hall. After this, we bid our farewells, then begin the cleanup process. Once we have cleaned up, we have another staff meeting to wrap things up, then go our separate ways to eat. On Wednesday, we all went out for kaiten sushi (not as good as I hoped, but Nam and Fabe definitely loved it). Thursday night, we all got together and ate at Izumi-Sano.
Funny Story (II)
The classic moment of the night was when Soga-Sensei asked everybody to try natto. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, natto is made from fermented soybeans and is particularly reviled by foreigners due to its strong smell and slimy consistency. Tamara and Shelley were asked to try, and they both begrudgingly took bites. Ray, however, in a moment of unadulterated Christ-like love, bore the weight of Shelley’s burden and downed an entire spoonful of natto on her behalf . . . aaa what a beautiful love story . . . honestly it wasn’t all that because I’ve been eating natto with Soga-Sensei every morning . . . it’s actually pretty tasty.
Prayer Requests (on a more serious note . . . )
By God’s grace we have been blessed with the opportunity to minister to these children and to share Bible stories with them. It is a great privilege to be able to share with these children and to discuss more difficult Biblical concepts (like sin, atonement, etc.). During the second day, there was counseling time before lunch during which the students shared with the Japanese teachers what they were learning; it was during this time that the Japanese teachers were able to evaluate how much of the gospel message was being understood. Many of the children had a hard time retaining the full extent of the messages, but showed a genuine desire to learn. One child in particular, Shouta, a sixth grader in Fabe and Tam’s class, displayed an understanding of man’s need for a savior. From here the Japanese teachers have decided to counsel him individually. Please pray for his salvation and that his influence would spread to the other children.
Saturday will be the big day of the presentation during which our children will present what they have learned to their parents. Each class will have ten minutes to basically put on a show. There is a bit of secrecy amongst the class teachers as we are each trying to upstage the other. Gabe and I have decided to do a retelling of one of the stories in English, having the children use their memorized vocabulary words in the process. We are then going to sing Jesus Loves me in English. (DON’T go sending e-mails or calling and telling Fabe and Tam/Ray and Shelley everything that Gabe and I are going to do . . . that would not be cool.) Anyway, this presentation will include a small devotional time along with my testimony which I will be delivering in Japanese. Chie was able to translate my testimony for me, and from here I will deliver it to the parents and children. I pray that by doing this, the gospel message can be better understood by the parents and the children. Please pray for the entire presentation, that through each element, the hearts of the children and the parents would be affected by the Spirit and moved towards salvation. On a more selfish note, please pray for me as I tend to get very nervous while delivering public speeches, especially in another language. When I was practicing with Soga the other night, my stuttering was very bad and I couldn’t even say certain words. Please pray for my preparation for this, and that I would remember in the moment that I need only to rely on Christ’s strength and not my own weakness, and that I am privileged that He would use me as a vessel to share the gospel with these people.
Please pray for both Nam and Ray as they prepare to preach this Sunday. Nam will be preaching at Inochi-no-Izumi, and Ray will be preaching at Izumi-Sano. Pray for their preparation as they need to generate manuscripts of their sermons and they need to be precise line-for-line in order for proper translation. Pray for their health and endurance.
Lastly, please pray for the general health of the team. We all noticed today in our post-class meeting that we are all pretty tired. Teaching and playing with kids definitely has taken a lot of energy, but it has been such a blessing to spend time with them.
Like I said in the previous post, it has been a great time of fellowship with the Japanese staff here at Izumi-Sano. They go so very far out of their way to care for our needs and to prepare our meals, and they have taught us by example the true nature of Christian living, one of selfless, unconditional Christ-like love. It’s also been fun and encouraging listening to Soga-Sensei pray. His prayers always begin with great praise and thankfulness, attributing all that has transpired to the grace of the Almighty God. From there, he prays for our health and for the program and the specific needs for the day. His prayers are always marked by heart-felt thankfulness and appreciation towards God, in spite of whatever hardships or struggles we may be going through as a group—this has been very inspiring and encouraging to me. It’s been a great blessing living with him these past few days, and I’ll be sad to say good-bye on Saturday :(.
Anyway, I am writing now after our second visit to the public bath. This time we were able to convince both Tamara and Shelley to come along, and they both really enjoyed it. There really is nothing better than eating ice cream after a good time in the hot-hot public bath water. We just need to convince their husbands to come along, and we can all enjoy true fellowship. More on this later.
Hope all is well back in Los Angeles; we miss you all and continue to keep you in our prayers. Thanks so much again for all your prayers and support. It’s such a blessing to know that we are a part of such a solid church body that prays diligently. Until tomorrow, take care everyone! Jaa mata ashite nee! Ki o tsukette minna!
By the grace of the Almighty God that is sufficient for us in times of weakness,