Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

Recently I've come to appreciate the people around me a lot more than usual. It can be so easy to take relationships for granted, and I'm made more aware of that as so many friends of mine have left Japan recently. Within the passed month alone, I've said "hello" and "goodbye" to so many faces. People are flowing into Japan with the arrival of summer, and at the same time dear friends are leaving the country. For a while it was a bit overwhelming and confusing for me, as I was trying to adjust to so many things happening at once. What a whirlwind of emotions! On one hand, new people were coming and I wanted to make them feel as welcome as possible and be happy at their arrival; on the other hand, some of my close friends were leaving, making me very sad to see them go.

While it is incredibly sad to see so many people leave, it's given me so much joy to look back on the time we've had together and see how God has truly blessed my life because of them. What a blessing is the gift of fellowship!! With every departure, there is always a "bye bye party." I really enjoy these, because there is always a time for people to share how they have been blessed by so-and-so  in their time here. It is so incredible for me to see how God can use a single person to affect so many! Praise God for the beauty and love of our Savior seen through these saints!

Along with the joy of Christian fellowship, I am also thankful to God for the close friendships I have here with Japanese non-believers. I was talking to a couple of my Christian friends yesterday about how different it is for me to have close friends who are non-Christians. All growing up, I had the same group of close friends, all of whom were from my church where we knew each other from the diaper days. I really didn't have non-Christian friends until I entered the world of workers when I was 15. It was such a different environment for me, and I didn't really know how to respond to non-Christian coworkers. Because of this, I never got very close to anyone at work. Now, here I am on the other side of the world with close friends who are non-Christians and I'm realizing how different it is! With my Christian friends, there is something - someOne - who connects us, creating this bond between us that is very difficult to break. Is it easy to have these relationships? Of course not! Every relationship is going to have its hardships at some point or another, but thanks be to Jesus Christ for His grace and mercy bestowed upon us! I may say things or do things that hurt those around me, and vice versa, but I am thankful for my grace-based friendships. Yes it can be hard, yes we can become impatient with one another, yes we can hurt each other - but if my God can forgive my dirty, rotten, sinful heart, surely we can forgive one another!

It is so easy for me to have a conversation with my Christian friends. It almost seems like these conversations require no effort at all. Now, as I converse with my non-Christian friends, I realize how important every word, every action is! I don't want to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, because these relationships are so important! Oh, how badly I want to see these people in the kingdom, rejoicing around the throne! It is heartbreaking to be close to these people and know that they don't yet believe in the most important person in my life. But I also praise the Lord that they have an interest in the Bible and are attending worship every Sunday!! I pray that God would give me wisdom in what to say, and what not to say, that He would use me as a witness. "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." - 2 Corinthians 5:20 Please join me in praying for these friends, and for Japan as a whole - a country where only a fraction of 1% of the population professes to being Christian.

To give you all a very brief update - I've been keeping busy as usual! This passed weekend we had our school's annual bazaar to raise money for the Japanese track. It was a lot of fun with a flea market, craft corner, and lots of international foods! My job was to help with the craft corner, which was a whole lot of fun! It required talking to a lot of little kids in Japanese, which I absolutely love doing. The day after the bazaar, we had graduation for the high school seniors and one boy graduating from elementary school. It was a whole lot of fun, but definitely a tiring weekend! This Saturday, we will be having our school's talent show, which I have been put in charge of. I'm really excited, and it's been so much fun hearing about all the acts the students will be doing and watching them practice at school. This week is the last week of school, and next week we have three days of "Spirit Week" where the teachers and students dress up in costumes, and we have fun Bible-based events scheduled. It should be a lot of fun! I can't wait!

As always, thank you for your love, support, prayers, and interest in my life here in Japan. I am blessed every day beyond belief, and still find it hard to believe that God has called me to be here in this land my heart sings about. May His name be proclaimed to ALL nations!


P.S. I recently had the pleasure of doing a home-stay with a dear Japanese family from the church I attend here, and while I was with them they helped me come up with kanji (Japanese form of Chinese characters) for my name! Normally, foreign names are written in the Japanese form of writing called "katakana" which is designated specifically for foreign words. (In katakana, my name looks like this: メラニー and doesn't translate to anything buy "Melanie.") However, this family decided to give my friends and me Japanese kanji characters! I absolutely love this, and have wanted my own kanji for so long! So, here it is: 芽来新, which translates to "new coming bud."

My housemates/sisters, all of whom I've had to say "goodbye" to over the passed month! :(

Spending time with friends at Chiba Zoo on our day off!

Disney Sea!

The Japanese teachers at CCSI invited Tara and me over to try on beautiful kimono!
So thankful for the opportunity to try on kimono and have a traditional Japanese tea ceremony!
It doesn't get more Japanese than this.
Eating DELICIOUS food (boupan) with friends at our school's bazaar

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