Saturday, February 23, 2013

Devote Yourselves to Prayer

This ended up being way longer than I expected it to be, and I apologize for that! If you would just like to look at pictures and/or videos, please scroll to the bottom of this post. My prayer requests are listed just above the pictures as well. Thank you!!

To start with, I had the wonderful opportunity of having my brother Jeremy come and visit me over New Year's break! I am beyond blessed to have someone from home who has seen my world up close and personal. While Jeremy and I did a lot of sightseeing and other fun things, I was content just having him here. Next to spending time with him, my favorite part of his being here was that he got to meet the people who stoke the fire and passion I have for this country. Friends, students, and our Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ. What a wonderful experience it was to have him see the gift of relationships I've been blessed with in my time here!

On Jeremy's final day in Japan, it ended up snowing incredibly hard in Chiba. It was snowing so hard that the highway was closed and we were unable to drive to the airport. So, we were dropped off at the train station to take a train there instead. Unfortunately, every single train was extremely delayed. It ended up taking us about 3 hours to get to the airport, where it normally takes about 45 minutes.

As we were boarding the final train that would take us into the airport, I discovered that my passport was missing. I had absolutely no clue as to where it could be, seeing how the last time I remembered seeing it was two weeks before then when Jeremy arrived. My mind kind of blanked after that. There was too much happening in such a small amount of time, that everything flat-lined.

Jeremy's plane was scheduled to leave at 5pm, and we arrived at the check-in counter at exactly 5 o'clock. But praise the Lord! His plane ended up being delayed!! Our goodbye was very quick, and I'm so sad that it was such a rushed and stressful way to end his time in Japan, but I am so thankful that he made it to his plane (which ended up being 4 hours delayed) and made it home safely.

I took time in the airport to sit down and recollect myself. I can't say I was looking forward to the train ride home. The snow was still falling, and I knew it would be another lengthy journey to get home. Eventually I talked myself into leaving, and I was surprised to find out that the normal train line I take to get home was suspended for the evening because of the snow. Thank God I was familiar with the other (lengthier) train line! I was shocked to see hundreds and hundreds of people standing in line with their luggage, waiting to purchase tickets for the train. I can't tell you how relieved I was to have a train card that makes it possible to get on the train without a ticket, meaning I didn't have to wait in line but got to go straight to the platform!

My train ride home could have been a rather stressful event, but God gave me such a peace of mind throughout every ordeal. Through the difficulties, stresses, and sadnesses of the whole day, I heard God speaking to me through it all, telling me there was absolutely nothing I could do to change and/or control the circumstances, that all I could do was lean on Him, trusting in Him completely. There were times when I didn't know if I was going to be able to get home, but I knew that God had a plan for me, no matter what happened, and if I got stuck in a blizzard, that was that. (I ended up getting home all right, it just took 3-4 hours.)

A verse kept going through my head over and over again the entire day, and that was 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where it says, "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." With that reminder, I was able to find joy in the small things happening around me; I found myself praying nonstop throughout the day, and I was convicted of how dry my prayer life had been prior; as I rode home, most of my prayers were those of thankfulness. I was thankful for the time Jeremy and I had to spend together, of the many opportunities I had to use my Japanese that day, the ability to understand Japanese in such an overwhelming situation, and that my "sisters" had made me change my shoes before I left in case I ended up having to go walking in the snow, which was exactly what happened. God taught me so much that day, and I am so thankful for the experiences I had that He used to show me more about myself, my failures, and about Him and His perfection.

The day after Jeremy left, the other interns, Carol, and I all started dieting together. (We've been dieting ever since, but the diet has had different stages.) I can say that it has been very successful and all of us feel healthy and excited about our progress! It's so encouraging to work with these ladies to be more healthy and to support each other in this way.

Along with supporting each other and holding each other accountable with our diet, there is the added encouragement of doing the same in our spiritual walks. I'm so blessed by our girls' weekly Bible study. Carol, Mary Beth, Emily, and I go to Starbucks every week and read through a book together. (We are currently reading though a book called "Idol Lies" by Dee Brestin, who is a Christian author and Emily's grandmother!) I love the discussions we have, and I love growing closer together as we read more into the Word.

Work has been going very well! I wish I could summarize my job in a quick description, but as I realized the other day as I was putting together songbooks for the school's morning devotions, that is basically impossible to do. I am a teacher, yes, but there is so much that happens in-between that I can't even think of everything myself. All I know is that I love my job(s), whatever it/they may be. Intern? Yes. What does that mean? Open to interpretation. :) I can summarize my main job, though!

Teaching is going smashingly! Teaching ESL is such a joy. My first students of the day are learning prepositions - or, "purple-zishins" as they were referred to at the end of the first day we started studying them. ;) Because of how cold it's been recently, and seeing how there is no central heating in Japan, we start every morning off by doing jumping-jacks around the table to warm us up a bit as we wait for our classroom's heater to start up. It's loud and probably bugs other people in the school, but the students love it and, hey! they remember what "around" means!

The next class of ESL students is older, and they are focusing on grammatical structure at the moment. I'm really enjoying teaching them the uses of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc. I taught them how to diagram sentences this past week, and they absolutely loved it! I'm so impressed at how quickly these kids are learning, and I can already see their English improving as they think through how to form sentences with adjectives and adverbs. Every week I am so excited to see how far I can stretch their quick minds with the help of God!

The Japanese school year will be ending in March, and in April the new school year starts, bringing new students along with it! I am so excited about having younger siblings of my current students in class! They all seem so excited about starting school, and I already know all of them and they are comfortable around me, so I don't think it will be too difficult to teach them. This is going to be so much fun!

The 7th grade class in E-track is a blast as always! Unfortunately, we said goodbye to Bob-Scott (our class plant) yesterday. We had a memorial service for Bob-Scott behind the school, and buried/planted him there. (The students already want to get another plant - Bob-Scott jr.) But a part from plant things, class itself is going well too. I always look forward to grading papers, because all the 7th graders are such great writers! I also got to go with the junior and senior high classes as a chaperone on their annual school ski trip last month. It was a great time together! I'm really excited about what the rest of this school year holds.

Maybe I should finish telling the story of my lost passport now? Yes? It's a little bit humorous, actually. (For this story, please keep in mind that Japan is a very honest country! I have heard countless stories of missionaries here who have lost money, wallets, and other things, and all were turned in to the police by everyday people.)

After discovering my passport was in fact lost, I completely flipped my bedroom upside down, inside out, looking for it. It took quite a long time to sort through everything, but I didn't find it. So, the next step was to call the airport to see if I had lost it there when I went to pick Jeremy up - that being the last time I remembered seeing it. I talked to the airport staff, who were unable to find it but gave me the number for the train lines that they suggested I call in case my passport fell out on the train. I called them, but they couldn't find it either.

The next Monday, I called the U.S. embassy, but they were closed for a Japanese holiday. I was busy the rest of the week, so I called them the following Monday, which was this past Monday. They were closed for an American holiday. That made me laugh, and many jokes were made about the fact that the next time I called them, they would probably be closed for another country's holiday. I tried calling this Wednesday while I was on my lunch break, but I was informed that they were closed until 2. I could barely believe it at that point. It seemed too ridiculous. So, more jokes were made, like the fact that they would probably invent a holiday that lasted from 2-5, thus making them closed for the day; or maybe there just wasn't an American embassy at all! Needless to say, I called back after 2 o'clock… and found out they were closed on Wednesdays. It was so absurd, that all I could do was laugh hysterically.

Thankfully, I was able to get a lot of information from their automated service. Unfortunately, I found out that to replace a passport, it would cost $135. That was incredibly discouraging. Along with a lot of paperwork and the fee, I was supposed to take a police report to the embassy before they would let me apply for a new passport. So, I asked one of the Japanese teachers to help me call the Japanese local police. Well, wonder of wonders - someone found my passport and turned it in to the police, and it is now back in my possession!! PRAISE GOD!!! The only place I can imagine I lost it is at a mall I went to with Jeremy while he was here, based on the police station it was turned in to. I'm so happy to have my passport back, and that I didn't have to get a new one! Thank you so much to everyone who was praying that I would be able to find it! God is good! :D

And now, for my Engrish story of the month! ("Engrish," being the term for "Japanese English.") At the Starbucks that I go to near my house for our girls' Bible study every week, there is an employee who always speaks to us in English. The other day I grabbed a sandwich out of the little refrigerator and was trying to decide what I wanted to drink, when the guy came up to me from behind the counter and said, "If you are going to buy that, I want to eat it for you!" I confusedly responded, "Um... sorry?" He repeated, "I would like to eat that for you!" I stared at him for a second thinking, "But if I'm buying it, I want to eat it...!" I tried to think what he was trying to say. Was he saying he wanted to eat with me? Awkward. Was he saying he wanted me to buy him a sandwich? Also awkward. Just as I was getting uncomfortable with his forwardness, he started again saying, "I want to eat... wait... no... heat! I want to heat that for you!" I happily relinquished hold of my sandwich, then started laughing hysterically.

Thank you so much for caring about me enough to read this novel-of-an-update! I'm afraid my apologies are getting repetitive, but I truly am sorry! Once I start typing, I just can't seem to stop! God bless you and your poor eyeballs that are probably burning from reading all this!! I will finish right now with a few quick prayer requests, and then I am DONE!! (I will include some pictures and videos below this post should you care to look at those.)

> Please pray for my students, that they would have a heart for Christ first and foremost, and that they would also have the desire to learn. I've been so blessed with how I see God working in their hearts, minds, and lives, and I am so excited to see how he will grow them and shape them!

> For the new students that will start attending CCSI in April, that the teachers and students would all be patient with one another as we all adjust to new routines and schedules.

> A friend of mine committed suicide here about a month ago, and it was very unexpected. Please pray for her family, who are non-Christians, but came to a memorial service the church held and seemed very touched by it. Pray that God would work in the hearts of her parents and her husband, that their eyes would be opened by this experience. Please pray for my coworker, who was very close to her and is understandably saddened by the loss of such a dear friend.

> For the comings of new interns! (Praise the Lord for sending us Joseph, a 19-year-old from South Carolina, last month to work at the school!) Another intern will be arriving next month to help at CCSI. Please pray that she would be a good fit for the school, and that she would adjust well.

> For interns leaving. The next few months will be so sad as we say goodbye to Mary-Beth - who is leaving April 1st, Joseph - who is going home on May 10th, and Emily - who is going home at the end of May. Pray for them as they prepare to go home after spending such a long time in Japan, and that they would adjust well to life back in America and all that God has planned for them. Please also pray for me, as I will definitely have such a hard time saying goodbye to them all - especially the girls, who I've known, worked, lived, and basically done everything with for over 5 months. I've truly come to see these girls as sisters, and it will be heartbreaking with them gone. Pray for our fellowship over the next couple of months.

Thank you so much, and may God bless you!

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." - Colossians 4:2

Snow at the train station
Jeremy and me in Tokyo
Emily took this picture of us on the train
So glad Jeremy got to hang out with the students!

An engagement ceremony for friends Mark and Megumi!
Ski Trip
Emily, Mary Beth, and me
Out to lunch at McDonald's with the interns and Seth
Out to dinner with friends

Japanese snacks for Carol's kids and grandkids in America
Cute siblings of one of my students (Megumi and Ena)


Tokyo night life
Memorial to Bob-Scott. Rest in Peace!!
McDonald's is doing their "Big America All Stars" right now. This is the "Idaho Burger." It's got a hash brown and everything!

Dieting with the girls! (Photo cred. to Emily)
Our girls' Bible study! (Photo cred. to Emily)
It snowed at school, so we ha a half day!! (Some of my students and me)

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