Sunday, March 6, 2011

Internationally Traveling Oompa Loompa

        My goodness, it’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything here on this blog! My apologies! I just know this is going to be a rather lengthy post, as usual, so I may as well just get started! My last update was at the beginning of January, so I have two months of activity with which to catch you all up to date!
        Our school had a mochi pounding event a while back. Rice was boiled then put into a large wooden basin where it was then smashed with a very large hammer. In the end it is smashed into a doughy consistency and is rolled into balls and then topped with various edible things. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much. It was far too sticky and difficult to chew! (Apparently a certain amount of people die each year due to choking on mochi. And when choking on mochi, I was told the only way to get it out of your throat is with some kind of vacuum. Hm, that sounds pleasant…) Overall it was a very cool cultural experience!

        The church in Tokyo here wanted to start a youth group, so I went to Tokyo one weekend and helped in the decision making process of the group. We were all trying to come up with a name for the youth group, and eventually I came up with a name that everyone really liked: Band of Grace. (The church’s name is “Grace City Church Tokyo,” so they wanted “grace” in the title. And everyone in the group loves music. Tada!) I love witnessing youth groups come into existence! And it really made me excited that one was starting in Japan while I was there! That was super cool!
        God answered a lot of prayers and sent a new intern to our team here to help at the school! Her name is Jessica, and it’s been so wonderful meeting her and fellowshipping with her. She and I really hit it off when we first met, and we’re growing closer and closer all the time! God also sent yet another teacher (not an intern) to help at the school! The Lord has definitely been providing!!!
        A girls’ Bible study has finally come into existence after about 3 months of talking about it! Carol, Jessica, Jenna, one of the other teachers at the school – Megumi – and I are reading through the “Prodigal God” together. It’s a much needed time to grow together.
        While Jessica has been here, she has wanted to go to as many of the churches planted by the team here as possible. I tagged along with her because I’d only actually been to 3 churches, and I wanted to see the other ones. It’s been really neat seeing how God is using each church here for His glory!
        Back in January I went to kabuki, which is Japanese theater. It was definitely another cultural experience! It was all in Japanese and very, very odd, but I loved it! (I’m always a fan of weird stuff.) I think the only way to describe it is to say that it was like watching the members of the rock band “KISS” performing a play… with spears and a giant spider thrown into the mix.
        At the end of January I flew to Taiwan for a week because of my visa situation. It was the week of Chinese New Year, so there were many festivities going on. I stayed with one of Carol’s close friends, who was very kind and hospitable to me! The MTW team there tried to recruit me, but I had absolutely no draw to go there as a missionary. We can just say that country isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I tried many different foods while I was there, one of which has me permanently scarred to the point where I would not be disappointed were I never to mention it to anyone ever again! (Just this subtlety is grossing me out!) I was very happy when I was on a plane back to the country I loved so dearly! I literally got teary eyed as the plane descended over Tokyo. “Lord, I love this country! May Your love be made known to all of its inhabitants!” I prayed these words aloud as I gazed excitedly out of the plane window.

Taiwanese dollars, Japanese yen, and US dollars.

        My excitement to be back in the country was shattered when I was pulled aside at immigration and was questioned in a side room as to why I was coming back into the country for another 90 days. That definitely scared me out of my wits! But as I was sitting there, I was praying the whole time that God would give me wisdom in what to say. I wasn’t keeping track of how long I was held there, but it was probably half an hour or more. Then they let me pass through with another stamp in my passport! I was shaking as I ran for the escalator down to customs. So many emotions and I didn’t know which to express first. So I just shook. As I was lying in bed that night, heart still racing furiously, I wanted to pray so many things, but I could only pray this prayer over and over: “God, hug me, please! I need a hug, and You give the best hugs! Please hug me!” My heart rate began to steady itself, and I felt God’s comfort enveloping itself around me like my blanket, which I pulled tighter around me. Then this single thought raced through my brain: “God wants me in Japan, and He’s bigger than immigration!”
        The day after I returned from Taiwan, I went to school in the morning and was waiting in the teachers’ office for the other teachers to show up. As I was in there, a bunch of the younger kids ran into the office just to hug me and welcome me back. God is awesome! He really does hear our prayers, and then tops it by giving us things we didn’t even ask for! He gave me physical hugs along with the feeling of His hug.
        I’ve gone to two more college ministry events, and one jr. high/high school Valentine’s Day event, where I received the title of “Best Oompa Loompa.” Band of Grace had a fellowship time in Tokyo at karaoke. I’ve really enjoyed all of these events where I get to meet new people, especially when they’re closer in age to me.

Jessica and I at the college Valentine's party.

Friends at Crossway Valentine's party.

        On Valentine’s Day I went to Harajuku, which is a fashion capital of the world. It was Jenna’s birthday, so Jessica and I were spending the day with her. We did lots and lots of window shopping, and occasionally bought a couple of things. It was a lot of fun!

        My mom has been sending me sermons by Pastor Jack, my pastor back home, which has been so wonderful! For a little under an hour I feel as if I’m sitting in church back home with those I know and love dearly. (I love when the congregation laughs and I can pick out the different voices.)
        One day at school I took my 7th grade algebra 1 class out for ice cream when they finished all there work. It was lots of fun, and everyone kept exclaiming that it was the "best math class EVER!!!" Haha! I really love working with these kids!

        Last week I went on a ski trip with the middle school and high school classes from school. It was a lot of fun! I attempted skiing this time, and it was much less of a failure than my attempt at snowboarding! Yay! Although it wasn’t a complete failure, I did have an encounter with one of the slope patrol men. Apparently you aren’t supposed to walk down the slopes. Hm, who’d have thought? So, Mr. Patrol Man and I had a nice adventure back down the mountain on the ski lift. Hehe! Well, Mr. PM was very nice! He spoke to me in broken English, and I spoke to him in what Japanese I knew. It was such a fun trip overall!

        I’ve been put in situations where I’m watching kids a lot since I’ve been here. It’s so awesome! There are all the school days where I’m surrounded by youngsters all day, and on top of that I’ve babysat, I’ve taught younger kids English outside of school, and I’ve watched over kids while their parents are in meetings and things of that sort. As I watch over these kids, I grow more and more attached to them. The kids at school always run up and crowd around me to hug me if I’ve missed school for any number of days, whether it is because I was in Taiwan, I was on a ski trip, or there were holidays where there was no school, they always act like it’s been forever since they’ve seen me. This makes it so hard for me to think about leaving.

        It seems like we have a date nailed down for my departure. It’s been decided that I will probably come back the first week in May. Now that I have an actual date of departure instead of all this uncertainty, I feel like there’s a huge load off of my back. While there are very positive things about me coming back in May, I can’t help but grow sad at the idea of leaving. These kids definitely have me wrapped around their little fingers. A piece of my heart is definitely going to be here in this country for a long, long time!
        Well, I think this is a good place to stop. I’ll leave you with these prayer requests:
1) Please pray for my emotional state of mind as I grow closer to leaving. It’s going to be so difficult to leave this country.
2) Please pray that there would be no complications with getting me a ticket home.
3) Please pray that new interns would come in May! It sounds like there is at least one girl who wants to come then, which would be wonderful to have someone replace me!
Thank you all again and again! I love you all and I’m definitely looking forward to coming home and seeing my America people!

-Melanie =)

*~*Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.” – Acts 10:34-35*~*

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