Thursday, May 16, 2013

Busy, Busy, Blessings

Why yes, it has been two months since I've written an update! I am truly sorry about that! But hopefully after reading a bit further in this post, you'll understand why I haven't been able to write in so long. Saying, "I've been busy" just doesn't seem to cut it. :)

Over the passed two months, I've been able to experience so many new and exciting things, meet tons of new people, and even though it's been exhausting and unbelievably busy, I've been so blessed by everything and continue to see God working in the circumstances around me. So, here I go giving a very condensed account of my life over the past two months! (As always, pictures and videos are at the bottom of this post.)

On March 9th, I had my first opportunity to go north to an area of Japan that was affected by the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The team I went with was there to help with a 2nd anniversary memorial service concert. I was so blessed by the short time we had there, meeting people and seeing both the destruction and the things that were rebuilt. The thing that stood out to me most was seeing some buildings completely run-down and destroyed, but right next to them there could be a building that looked like it had just been built the week before. The contrast between the destroyed and the freshly built was incredible. I'd never seen anything like that before. I thank God for the opportunity I had to serve up there for that short amount of time and have a bit more of a vision for the work being done there.

Adding to my regular teaching schedule, I have begun teaching a kids' English class in the city once a week after school. It is an hour-long class, 45 minutes of which are teaching, and the last 15 minutes are Bible time. I currently have 4 students, but that number has fluctuated many times since I took over the class. No matter the number of students, I've really enjoyed teaching this class. Understandably, it's made me a bit more exhausted during the week, but I'm so blessed after every class. I truly enjoy working with children, and it gives me such joy to see the interest the students have had in the Bible time, some of them hearing scripture for the first time in their life. Please pray that God would work in their hearts as these seeds are planted, and that He would give me wisdom in what to say and what not to say!

Interns just seem to keep rolling in and out! In March we welcomed Tara to the team. She is working at the school as well, which seems to be the norm for interns. :) In April we said good-bye to Mary Beth, who returned home to Virginia after having been in Japan since September. This past week we said good-bye to Joseph, who was going back to South Carolina and was here since January. Next Sunday we say good-bye to Emily, who is going back to Missouri and has also been here since September. As difficult as it is to say good-bye to many people, I am incredibly grateful to God for blessing me with so many wonderful friendships this time around! I've enjoyed getting to know these interns so much, and I've learned so much about myself and Christ from their friendship.

Over spring break, I was able to spend four days in a south-western part of Japan called Kyoto. Mary Beth, Emily, and I found unbelievably cheap plane tickets and decided to take a mini vacation to this very old and cultural place and visit with friends of Mary Beth and of Emily. I absolutely loved our time there! It was such an exciting adventure, and I really saw God working in our trip. Our first day there, while we were riding a train, a Japanese girl named Miki came up and started a conversation with us. Apparently she had studied in Canada for a while. After talking, she said she really wanted to spend time with us sometime during our stay. Our final day in Kyoto, we were actually able to spend the whole day with her until we had to leave for the airport, and we were able to share the gospel with her! She had so many questions about our beliefs and was so interested in other religions because she wanted to know "what makes religious people so happy?" She talked about how she would love to have a Bible, so when we got home to Chiba, Emily was able to mail her one. Please pray that God would open Miki's eyes to the true Word, and that she would come to understand what joy is!

As soon as we got back from Kyoto, we hit the ground running in preparation for our friends' wedding. I was asked to sing in the wedding, which was something I had never done before (especially not in Japanese), and was such an honor to be a part of! The wedding was absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful witness of Christ's love for us. It was so encouraging for many people, and very exciting to think of all the non-believers there who heard the scripture and so many other things that echoed the gospel!

After spring break, we started back at school, which was actually the beginning of the school year for the Japanese students, meaning we had new students! It's been so much fun having new faces and personalities in the school!

The biggest, most intense project since I've been here was all the preparations for our school play: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was an insanely busy, stressful, time-consuming experience, but good nonetheless. We had two performances, which were last weekend. There was so much work that went into the sets and costumes (all of which were made from scratch) and memorizing lines and blocking. It's hard for me to believe we pulled everything off on time for the performance! (Some of us were at the school until 3 in the morning still making costumes the night before the first performance.) Praise the LORD, everything came together so well, and the performances were wonderful!

With the busyness of life here, I can't tell you how much I look forward to Sundays. Every Sunday I am so refreshed and uplifted by the friendships I have here. Sundays are usually full of some kind of crazy adventure with a bunch of us scallywags from church. ;) I always go home on Sunday night feeling encouraged and blessed to the max by the wonderful friends God has put in my life, and feel ready to tackle the week with that encouragement, which if such a gift from my heavenly Father! I can do nothing without His strength.

I thank God for the opportunities my friends and I have had to have wonderful, deep conversations with our non-Christian Japanese friends who are full of curiosity about who God is. Please pray for wisdom and guidance as we love them and share our faith with them, and that they would come to accept Christ as their LORD and Savior!

In regards to my Japanese language skills, I am so excited to say that things recently have just seemed to click, and I understand a whole lot more of Japanese conversation. It's still a little difficult for me to communicate myself, but I certainly have a new confidence in using the Japanese I know! I thank God for the blessing of being able to communicate, something that shouldn't be taken for granted. I am also thankful for the many "non-official" Japanese teachers I have here, who are so incredibly patient with the other interns and myself as we seem to ask them never-ending questions about this language! What a blessing they are!

Like I said in the beginning, this is a very condensed version of the things that have happened over the past two months, and even these are just the highlights.

In conclusion, please pray that I would be a blessing, not a burden; a help, not a hindrance; an encouragement, not a discouragement; a joy, not an Eeyore; a witness, not a hermit; a friend, not a thorn; an example, not a bad influence; and most of all, a light for all to see, not a flame hidden under a bushel.

As always, I can't thank you all enough for your love and support in my being here and working to further God's kingdom! I am reminded daily of how much I am loved in that there are people praying for me, supporting me financially, and taking the time to send me encouraging emails. I am truly sorry for not keeping you all updated like I should. I can't believe how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family, and to see that family stretched all across the world. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow!


Oh, and to answer one question that I am asked literally every day by someone-or-another, whether Japanese, American, or otherwise: I honestly have no idea when I'm going back to America. All I know is that I am here now, and that's where God wants me and is using me. My passion for this country - its people especially - grows every moment of every day, burning inside me with such intensity, and I thank God - who sparked this fire in me long ago - that He has put me here at this point in time. I may not know when I'm going back to the States, but I trust in Him to use me however He may up to the last minute I have on the soil of this country. I also trust in His timing to send me back when it is absolutely right to do so. Thank you to those who so sweetly tell me how much I'm missed - you are certainly missed in return! How beautiful it will be one day in Eternity where we will be together forever, dancing around the throne, shouting praises to our King of Kings! Hallelujah!!

Of course, I have to wrap things up with silly conversations I've had.
ME: Okay, new word of the day! "Weekend!" What does "weekend" mean?
ME: *pause* YEAH WE CAN!

While ordering at Starbucks, the super friendly employee girl asked (in Japanese) if she could have my name. I told her, and she then asked me to write it on a piece of paper for her to spell. I wrote it in Japanese, which seemed to surprise her, and she asked in Japanese, "Oh, is it okay for me to write it like that?" I told her of course, and she very excitedly said, "OK!" in English. She then proceeded to write me a note on my cup, and draw an adorable bear on the bottom. Her enthusiasm definitely made my day. :)
Note from Starbucks employee

Spending time in Tokyo with interns
School field trip to Tokyo
CCSI teachers (my coworkers!)

Cherry blossom season came early this year!
My drink of choice - milk tea!
Interns in "Cherry Blossom Park"
With Mary Beth's friend Whitney in Kobe
Trying all sorts of delicious food in Kyoto

Om nom!

Our new friend Miki, and Emily's friend Hisami took us to the famous Golden Temple

Mary Beth, Emily, and I at kiyomizudera

My first experience in Japanese summer kimono (yukata)
One of my students graduated from middle school!

Congrats, AnneMie!
Baby Jo being adorable with a flower on his head

Worship team practice for wedding

Wedding "sanbi"/worship team!

Two of my students, AnneMie and Bianca. I love seeing how God is working in them all they time, and watching them grow in their relationships with Him!

The bride and me! Congratulations, my dear friend Megumi!

Our Sunday morning Sunday school class (our Sunday school teacher, Mark, is the groom)
Interns with the newlyweds
The face of a teacher. :) (Lesson planning for the week)
Afro English class
Normal day at the office
Stage crew for Narnia!
One of the costumes for Narnia I spent most of my time hand-sewing together. MINOTAUR!
Tokyo lights

Ramen with friends
I really do love these people so much!

Helping a construction crew from America work on Oyumino Chapel





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