The Olympics Shrink Our World

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Good morning good morning! If you’ve been paying close attention to my blog, I’ve been posting in the morning California time, which is around midnight here in Osaka. It’s been getting more and more difficult to keep my eyes open long enough to make sense of a blog post, and last night “difficult” transitioned into “impossible.” Unless I was going to give you a delirious dissertation rambling on about why sushi restaurants are hard to come by in Japan, I needed to wait and blog this morning. You don’t mind, do you? I’ll take your silence as a yes.

So let’s dive into the day we call Saturday here in Japan. There was a firework spectacular happening near Osaka yesterday called the Yodogawa Firework Festival. It is the biggest and highest attended firework show in Japan, which for us meant all the hotels in the city were booked months and months in advance, making it impossible for us to find a room for Saturday night. But it worked out well as Jay and Caitlin offered to house Matt and me for the night, and Seth and Megan took in Mark and Mike. I asked around and researched a little on the internet, trying to find out the meaning behind the firework festival, but based on my gathered data, it seems like it’s just for fun. And that’s fine by me! I was really hoping we’d be able to see the firework show ourselves, as I’m obsessed with lights of any kind, but it turns out it was outside of Osaka, a long train ride away, and the crowds and crowds of people made it sound less and less appealing. But I’d love to attend some time in the future!

Anyway, all that to say that we had to pack up our hotel room and make our way to Jay and Caitlin’s home. If you know me at all, you know that our hotel room was a complete disaster zone. I joke that the maids cast lots every morning, and the loser has to clean our room. So we threw all our stuff back in our bags and hopped into Jay’s car.

As we opened the door to the Greer’s, the smell of American breakfast hit us like a ton of bricks you’d happily smack yourself with every day. And guess what, Miss Wonderful Caitlin made me vegan waffles! How awesome is that?!? I’ve been eating the oatmeal I brought from home every single day since we’ve been here and suddenly I was able to eat a delicious waffle…okay two delicious waffles – one covered in mixed berries and syrup, and one smothered in crunchy peanut butter, bananas and honey. Oh yeahhhhhhh. When Mike learned that Caitlin made vegan waffles for me, but regular waffles for everyone else, he finally wiped the disgusted look off his face. It’s so funny how people automatically assume that vegan = gross, I mean my waffles were made with yummy coconut milk for goodness sake.

While eating our enormous breakfast, we watched the Olympic opening ceremonies. It was quite a trip watching the Olympics in another country. Of course we couldn’t understand anything that was being said, except for the songs in English, but it didn’t seem to matter because the Olympics were designed with the world in mind. Everything was structured to be communicated to people of various languages. Sitting in a living room in Japan, surrounded by 17.4 million Japanese people, watching a program that 2 out of every 3 people in the world are watching, suddenly made this earth feel very small and comprehendible. I felt united with the world, a feeling I’ve never had, and I felt that sharing the Gospel with every person in the world suddenly wasn’t impossible. God can do anything and He certainly is in the business of doing things that bring Him glory. If we would all make ourselves available to share His love and grace throughout the world, He would do the hard part of making decisions for Christ happen. I became emotional as the opening ceremonies came to an end because for the first time in my life I felt proud to be an “earthling” and not just proud to be an American.

Once our tummies were full and the Duchess Kate TV sighting was accomplished, Matt, Caitlin and I started practicing for the “Street Live” we were doing later that evening. A street live is basically just a casual mini-concert on the street, a time to play music for passersby in a highly traveled area. Surprisingly, for the most part, Japanese people love American people, so we decided to play to our strengths and sing our American rear-ends off using all American songs, mostly in English. We practiced some popular worship songs as well as pop tunes, as Japanese people love American pop, like Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift. The majority of people who would be walking by can’t understand us, so it was most important that we created a “buzz” with familiar sounding tunes that make sense for a bunch of young Caucasians to sing.

After the song list for the street live was nailed down, we headed to lunch. I was told we were getting pancakes. Boy was I lied to. My “pancake” was covered in noodles and soy sauce, but after one bite I knew I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over lunch Caitlin talked to us about her adventures as a missionary in Japan, and how God has faithfully provided for her and her family over the years. She has a very different life than the one she could have created back in the states, but she feels blessed to be where God has her. It is so impressive to observe a seemingly normal woman do such abnormal things for the sake of being in God’s Will and bringing Him glory. I mean, she gave birth and is raising two young boys in a non-English speaking foreign country. Wow oh wow.

Once lunch was finished, we hopped on a train that goes in a big circle around the entire city. We didn’t have a final destination in mind, as we just wanted the opportunity to ride through every part of town, for the purpose of praying over the people in that particular area. Usually this type of thing is called a “prayer walk,” which just means Christians walk around a neighborhood praying for the people of that neighborhood. The thought is that as you physically walk through a place, you see specific needs that are prevalent and are able to pray for them on the spot. Perhaps you see a toy truck in the front yard, so you pray for the children that live there, or you hear a couple arguing, so you pray for their safety and kindness. Here in Osaka we decided to do a prayer ride instead of a prayer walk because not only was the train air-conditioned and full of places to sit, but it also gave us the ability to cover more territory.

So for about an hour we sat on the train, staring out the window at the millions of apartment, restaurant and business buildings, praying over the specific prayer requests Jay gave to us, as well as anything that came to our hearts as we observed our surroundings. Prayer is a powerful thing. God has done many crazy things in the Bible because of the prayers of His people. I am not a prayer warrior, but I do know the value of prayer, and want to get better about praying for others and the salvation of the world. In a place like Japan, where there is a language barrier and the number of non-Christians is so large, prayer goes from being nice, to being essential. The ONLY way all of these people can be saved is through the miracles and movement of God. May we all be praying for God to move and do miracles here in Japan.

Our train ride around the city passed surprisingly quickly, and then it was off to the street live. We grabbed our instruments and our church flyers and hopped on the subway. Our performing destination was the center of a bridge at Osaka train and subway station. We must have passed 5 other bands on our way, but they were all selling CDs, so I knew the fact that we had nothing to sell people would set us apart. The band consisted of Matt on guitar, Mike on tambourine, Seth on guitar, Caitlin on every instrument ever created (guitar, violin, accordion), and me on…voice, I have no musical instrument talent.

While we belted out our worship and pop songs, the rest of the team handed out flyers inviting people to attend Sunday service the following day. Mike, Haze and Cassidy handed out over 500 flyers in the 75 minutes we were singing! Isn’t that a crazy number! And each one of them had a few meaningful conversations with complete strangers. A little after 9:00pm a Japanese reggae band (I didn’t know they existed either), started playing right near us with their drums and sound system, so that was our cue to wrap it up. It was hilarious to see people take our picture and record video like we were actually somebody special, and it was moving to see the flyer team get in there and do the difficult work for the sake of sharing the love of Christ with those who don’t know Him.

Here is a video of our last song. It’s filmed VERY close, so you could get the sound. Thanks Mike for the up-the-nose-shots! Ha ha!

Clearly it was yet another wonderful day. I can’t wait to share with you on tomorrow’s blog about Sunday church service. Thank you again for taking the time to read about what’s going on here. It feels so good to be connected to an awesome group of people back home, cheering us on.

Love, Jessica

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