Wednesday was our first full day in Osaka, and when I say full, I mean full! We left our hotel about 9:00am and didn’t return until nearly 10:00pm, giving us loads of time to get acquainted with our surrounding area and connect with missionaries and Japanese people alike.
We started the day with breakfast at this rare and exotic gem of a restaurant…McDonald’s. The guys indulged in breakfast sandwiches that would make a die-hard-vegan parade around protest signs, but this push-over-vegan just laughed at the vast difference between their sausage, bacon, ham, egg, and sausage meal and my oatmeal with almonds and apple meal that I brought with me from home and “cooked up” in my hotel room before we left. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll post a picture of my spread of food that traveled with me over 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been able to find some great vegan options here, but I wasn’t sure how it would all play out, so my backup plan has taken over our hotel dresser space.
After breakfast we met up with Jay. Remember from yesterday, he is the Senior Pastor of Mustard Seed Christian Church here in Osaka. He helped us navigate the train and subway system, leading us to a popular shopping center downtown. Although it was only about 11:00am by this time, the temperature was 95 degrees and super duper humid. Needless to say, we’ve been consistently sweating for the last two days. It is quite common for people to carry around a sweat rag to wipe their face when needed. Actually, I’ve only seen men do this, as the ladies here don’t seem to sweat at all. They have a beautiful glow as this American pig drips from head to toe. Lovely Jess, just lovely. People are definitely going to want to talk to a salty human sprinkler.
Anyway, we arrived at the shopping center, and the first place we stop is the restroom. Long story not-short-enough, I’m in the bathroom for 10 minutes…9.75 of those minutes are me trying to figure out how to flush the darn toilet. Check out the pictures and YOU try to figure it out. Only after Jay went in the guys’ restroom and took mental notes on flushing instructions to pass along to me, was I able to successfully flush the toilet. It’s the small victories people.
Now on to the goodd stuff. If you haven’t already picked up on this yet, this mission trip is not the kind of trip where we get our hands dirty building houses or digging ditches. This trip is about making connections, developing relationships, supporting Christian movements that are already taking place here, and hopefully creating new movements based on our unique giftings. So on that note, once the bathroom stuff was worked out, we sat down with Jay and he shared some specific prayer requests with us. I want to pass them along to you, in hopes that you might incorporate them in your prayers today, tomorrow, indefinitely.
Prayer Requests from Jay for Japan:
- The church would connect with seekers – With 17.4 million people in Osaka alone, there are no doubt people who are seeking God and His Truth, but without God’s help it’s seemingly impossible for those few and far between to miraculously locate Mustard Seed Christian Church.
- Negative perceptions of Christianity would be done away with –Very little is known about Christianity in Japan, and what is known is often incorrect. Many Japanese people are leery of Christianity because they’ve been told it’s a cult that practices scary and terrible things.
- People would be convicted, even if their sin is only known by God – Sometimes in Japanese culture, conviction or shame is only felt if the person’s wrong doing is found out by someone else. Therefore, if the sin is kept secret, conviction is not experienced, and repentance or turning from the sin is not a natural response.
It was beautiful to hear Jay speak with such great love and care for a people group he has only been among for less than 5 years of his life. The passion he has to see Japanese people come to know the Lord as he knows the Lord is inspiring and contagious.
After good conversation, I grabbed a soy hazelnut latte (mission trips are so hard, I know), and we headed to a city landmark called the Floating Garden Observatory. But on our way, I “made eyes” at this beyond adorable Japanese baby. She stole my heart in about 0.72 seconds and her mom was sweet enough to let me snap her picture. Though her mom didn’t speak English, and I haven’t become fluent in Japanese in the last 48 hours, we were able to connect over our mutual opinion on her daughter’s beauty. Big smiles all around!
Following a very long and sweaty walk, we made it to the top of the Floating Garden Observatory. Check out the video below of me telling you about it…
Here you can see that at the top of the observatory there is a unique place where it is tradition for “lovers” to place a lock with their names on it, to symbolize their love is forever and cannot be broken. My ever-so-sweet and thoughtful husband bought this lock when he was here last year and had it engraved with our wedding anniversary. Rather than attaching it by himself, he waited until I could return to Osaka with him and we could add it to the lovers lock area together. What a guy, what a guy.
By this time our stomachs were asking for a kick back, so Jay took us to one of his favorite restaurants in the area for lunch. We met up with Seth, another Pastor at Mustard Seed. Side note, Seth’s wife Megan just had their first baby, Asher, only 6 weeks ago! Isn’t that amazing news?!?! Anyway, it was great to meet another key player in the movement for Christ in Japan. Over lunch, Jay and Seth shared the awesome journey Mustard Seed has taken over the past five years, from a few young couples picking up and moving from the US with nothing but good hearts and great passion, to now having two successful church plants and hosting events that have had attendance over 300 people!
Once our bellies and spirits were full, we traveled to the Greer household, where we were greeted by Caitlin and her two cuter-by-the-minute boys. Check out Frankie’s “don’t I make your heart melt” look.
The main reason we’re staying at a hotel instead of at people’s houses, like on most mission trips, is because the homes here are so small there is not room for guests. Often family and friends will gather at restaurants, bars, or karaoke lounges because their living room can’t possibly fit everyone.
I had to share this picture with you because it continues to demonstrate what a strong and sacrificial woman Caitlin is. Here is her master bedroom closet. I desperately wished at that moment that I could share one of the four closets in my house with her. Ha ha!
After amazing guacamole, swapped stories and fellowship, Matt headed to a men’s small group Bible study, while the rest of us headed back to the hotel. Most church events don’t even start until 8:00pm because everyone works such long hours. People here have to really really want to go to church because it takes up the very little free time they have in life. It makes it that much more touching when you see 60-hour-work-week-people participating in church.
Well that’s the end of this day. And a great day it was. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about interactions with the locals as we handed out language exchange flyers and our experience at worship team rehearsal.
Before I sign off, I must say I am so thankful for all of you. It makes my heart smile to read all of your overly kind comments and words of encouragement. I feel so connected to a large group of God-fearing people and it has really motivated me to pass along your love and care to those I come in contact with on this trip. I can’t thank you enough, but I will try.