Monthly Archives: August 2012

Final Fantasy: Last Two Days in Japan


Konnichiwa from far away Fullerton! Okay, so this might be in bad blogging form, as I’m already back home, but I still need to share with you the events of our last two days in Japan. I had good intentions of blogging during our 13-hour plane ride, or our 4-hour layover in Hawaii, but you know what they say, “The road to laziness is paved with good blogging intentions.” Or something along those lines. So yes, it’s true, I arrived home late Monday night and have been experiencing the nightmare that is jet lag ever since. So please forgive me if I don’t make sense, or start to ramble, though we all know I have that tendency on my best day too.

Sunday was one of the most exciting days we had during our Japan visit, so I’m eager to share it with you! Our Sunday at the Nagoya church was similar to our Sunday at the Osaka church, except with a lot of differences, ha ha! Matt, Mark and I walked from our hotel to the church office, arriving at 8:00am, yet somehow already sweating. Oh Japan in the summertime, why do you hate us so? But luckily the church office is well air-conditioned, so we spent some time there, cooling down and praying with the Mustard Seed staff and volunteers. We prayed for the people we came in contact with throughout the week, that they would be moved by the Spirit to come to church; we prayed for Andy’s message that it would be from God and would greatly impact all who heard it; we prayed that the music would go smoothly and would be a blessing to the congregation; and we prayed that a specific young man, who had been attending the church in the past but had unexpectedly stopped coming for the past month, would miraculously show up that day. It was a great time of connecting with God and fellow believers, who I somehow felt very close to even though we had only met a few days prior.

Next on our agenda was moving all the instruments, chairs, toys and equipment needed for church service. Just like Mustard Seed Osaka, the Nagoya church rents a building to hold their Sunday service in, which requires setting up and tearing down every single week. Similar to the week before, feelings of gratefulness and humility arose in me since at Knott Avenue we have the ability to leave all of our stuff in our permanent location. Nagoya has it extra hard because their office is on the 3rd floor, and stairwells are the opposite of air-conditioned. Needless to say, we were hot and sweaty servants of the Lord, ha ha, carrying large tubs and instruments down the seemingly endless flights of stairs. Mark was the standout of the group, and I’m pretty sure Mustard Seed wants to hire him as their official mover, flying him out from California every Saturday and returning him Sunday evening. Go Mark!

Much like the Osaka church, the Nagoya church uses a dance studio for their service. But the way they transform it, you would never even know what it was, aside from the walls of mirrors of course. The staff and volunteers did a great job setting up; it was obvious they had already solved any previous problems and now have a perfectly executed setup plan.

I helped Jenny lay out the foam mats in the children’s room, as she got everything prepped for her Biblical lesson for the kids this week. Then I proceeded to unintentionally break the instant water boiler used for coffee. Yes, that’s right, all I was asked to do was fill it with water, and somehow I ended up breaking the top to the point at which it couldn’t even open. After secretly asking Matt to help resolve the issue, to no avail, I sheepishly confessed to Jenny what I had done. The sweetheart that she is, she told me it was no problem and that it was on its last leg anyway. Way to go Jess. Luckily, eventually, some unknown hero, I think Will, was able to pretty much fix it. Needless to say, I will no longer be in charge of water filling of any kind.

Jenny, Jo & Lyndsey Getting Everything Ready

Will on Sound, Making Things Happen

At about 11:00, friendly faces, both known and unknown began to wander through the doors. The room was abuzz with peppy talk and laughing babies, and before we knew it, Jared and the worship band starting playing.

It was so uplifting to look around and visibly see that everyone who was there, truly wanted to be there. They were excited to be in the house of God among believers, though many of them not yet believers themselves. Everyone, including us, felt like we were part of something special and wonderful.

Jared, the worship leader, was kind enough to ask Matt and me to sing a duet for the congregation. Although nervous, I felt blessed to be asked, as it was such a unique opportunity…singing for a church plant in Japan! Believe it or not, Matt and I rarely get the opportunity to sing duets even back home, maybe just a few times over the past 7 years, so I was excited for multiple reasons. Lyndsey was kind enough to capture the song on video to keep as a memory for us and to share with all of you.

The worship was full of powerful, beautiful songs, and the congregation really seemed to connect with the music. I will say though, the Japanese are not so much into the clapping, so I had to clam down my normal tendencies to “raise the roof” a bit, ha ha! Here is a clip of Jared and Viviane singing, as the amazing worship band plays along. I could really get use to hearing praises to the Lord in multiple languages, so darn cool!

Looking around the room, I soon realized that God answered prayer and performed two specific miracles. One, he brought a young man that had heard us singing at a street live earlier this week to church! That’s crazy! A guy who knew nothing about Jesus or Christianity, sees us on the busy streets of Nagoya, singing songs in a foreign language, talks to some of the team, gets info on the church service, and COMES! He was able to hear the Word of God, preached by Andy, that day! He could very well become a Christian, share the Good News with other Japanese people, and spend eternity with our Heavenly Father! What a miracle!

Second miracle was that God brought to the service the guy we have specifically prayed for earlier that morning – the one that had not been to church in over a month. He just walked through the door, like Jesus himself had escorted him there. Awesome, just awesome.

Andy, with the help of his amazing translator Naoya, preached a great message that day. He focused on the story of when Jesus healed a woman who had had a crooked back for 18 years.

Andy & Naoya

The religious officials reprimanded Jesus because he did “work” on the Sabbath. Andy explained that while it is important to obey rules and guidelines given to us by God, we must be careful not to expect people to follow rules created by men, even Christian men. We must constantly check ourselves to ensure that what we condemn others for are truly God’s rules, and not just our own opinions or traditions. This is an important thing to remember, especially as we are engaging with people from another culture. Are we expecting them to be American Christians, Protestant Christians, or just followers of Christ?

Just as at the Osaka church, the congregation hung out for about an hour or so after service. Unlike most American churches I’ve attended, no one was in a hurry to rush off to somewhere else, not because they weren’t busy, but because they saw the community that church brings as one of its main draws.

As mentioned before, many of the people who attend are not believers, but they continue coming back because they enjoy the people and are interested in understanding what makes these Christians so joyous and kind. It was wonderful to meet lots of new people and be able to chat with many of them as, lucky for us, the majority spoke English.

Although Japanese people seem even busier than Americans, for this 90 minutes, everyone was eager to relax, eat, laugh and enjoy community with one another. It was beautiful.

Mark & Justin

After church about 25 of us, yes 25, meandered down to a local Indian Curry House. Our group took up an entire room, and we all feasted on curry and unlimited naan. Mark even ordered a dessert naan filled with chocolate and covered in melted white cheese. I think I thought it was good, but it was such a foreign taste combination to me that I couldn’t be sure.

Later, Mark, Matt and I wandered around downtown Nagoya and stumbled upon something completely random, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. No, we weren’t imagining things, right there in the middle of downtown is a small park, called Central Park, and it has its very own replica of our Walk of Fame back home.

Apparently, back in the late 80s, the LA Mayor and some important Nagoya guy decided that Los Angeles and Nagoya would be known as “sister cities” from that day forth. So random! Now we’ve got to go looking for the Nagoya dedication site somewhere in the streets of LA!

Oh, and one of the greatest parts about Sunday was that Jay from the Osaka church told us that Sadako had attended church again this week! Remember Sadako was the lady we met at the language exchange who miraculously came to church after we invited her and the guys got to pray with her after service. Well she came again this week and spent more time after service talking to the Mustard Seed staff! Such exciting news!

Monday was pretty much a day of packing, window shopping and traveling home. The highlight was the unexpected time we got to spend with the Henke family. Even though it was their day off, they graciously guided us around the shopping district and accompanied us to a very Japanese authentic lunch…pizza, ha ha!

Henke Family

It was a wonderful time of winding down and continuing to get to know one another. Gosh, and that baby Micaiah is such a sight for sore eyes. I miss him already.

In the afternoon we met up with Hideki, one of the members of the Nagoya church. He so generously offered to escort us to the airport. Now that sounds nice, but it was much more than nice when you realize escorting us entailed a 45-minute train ride each way, costing $20, waiting in the check-in line for an hour, eating dinner in the airport for an hour, and watching us make our way through security. Oh, and all the while rolling around my pink-checkered bag for me. What a guy, what a guy.

Hideki & Matt

It was wonderful to have him there, and so indicative of our trip experience and the heart of Mustard Seed. Hideki spent half a day with us, just because he wanted to! And did I mention he worked the night shift and got off just hours before? You all would LOVE Hideki, and hopefully we can convince him to come visit us one day so you can meet him!

Well the time came to say goodbye, and we were flying from Japan to Hawaii. As soon as the plane took off, Mark said goodnight to me, and I was out. Eight hours later we arrived in Hawaii, had some lunch, and boarded our flight to LA. Matt and I have been in Hawaii together 3 times now, but not one of those times have we left the airport, ha ha! Another 5 hours of sleeping and we were finally back home. Mark’s friend Ali so kindly picked us up from the zoo that was LAX. The rest of the evening was a blur but I know it involved french fries and the Olympics, which were finally in a language I could understand.

Needless to say, it was the trip of a lifetime. In the next week, once I’ve recovered from jet lag a little more, I’ll blog about my trip reflections.

You guys reading this are the best, and it means a whole-heck-of-a-lot that you’re taking the time to care and pray about what I care and pray about. Give yourself a big hug from me!

Love, Jessica


Fish Smell Before 4:00pm is a No-No


“Hi” from Nagoya! If you said “hi” to someone in Japan they would think you were saying “yes” because that’s what “hai” means here. I think it’s the only Japanese word I have fully mastered, and we actually use it a lot, so don’t be surprised if you catch me saying it and bowing slightly at times in our future conversations. (-:

Our mission trip in Japan has been spectacular, and the last couple days have been no exception. Let me give you a rundown of what we’ve been up to!

The hotel we’re staying at offers free continental breakfast every morning, and I am all about the free…except when it involves fish before 4:00pm. That’s right, Japanese breakfast is nothing like American breakfast, as they basically serve you items that you should only find at a dinner table or maybe never. For example: bologna slices, egg salad, potato crab cakes, fish eggs. Again, my nose cannot handle fish before 4:00pm, much less before I have my coffee. So I opted for the oatmeal I brought from home and let the boys have at their unique cultural experience.

Friday was a busy day for us, but that didn’t stop me from reflecting on many of the facts various Mustard Seed staff members have shared with us over the past couple of weeks. I’ve mentioned in a few of my blogs that Japan is less than 1% Christian, which is mind boggling when you learn that the population is 127 million. That is A LOT of people walking around who do not know the Lord and the love and grace He has for them. Andy shared an illustration with us that was really helpful in trying to grasp just how few Japanese Christians there are. Even though the average church in Japan is about 20 people, just imagine that a church plant was very successful and miraculously was able to grow to the size of 1,000 people, made up of all new Christians. Then imagine that the church plant planted another church, and it grew to 1,000 people. Then they did it again, and again, and again. Imagine they planted 170 churches total, all consisting of 1,000 new Christians each. That would be absolutely crazy Christian growth right? 170,000 converts! Even if that happened, the country of Japan (which is roughly the size of CA), would still be less than 2% Christian. The need for Christ is HUGE here, and the need for laborers is just as huge, because someone needs to share with them the Good News.

Some of the Mustard Seed staff has expressed that it can be difficult at times to get other Christians to see the need for sending church planters or missionaries to Japan, because most Japanese people’s physical needs are already being met. We don’t need to build them a well for water, or a house for shelter, or provide food to their starving children. It can be much easier to convince Christians to give their time and money to a cause that involves hunger or disease because we can see the need visually, and it automatically evokes emotion within us. But at the end of the day, and the end of every person’s life, we all need the same thing, salvation. Millions and millions of people in Japan have not heard how their spiritual needs can be met, and how their eternal life with Christ can be secured. They might have food, water, shelter and a Gucci bag, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need the love of God – love that we should be sharing with them.

Well anyway, those are some things I’ve been thinking and praying about. After some good conversation and delicious lunch made by Jenny, we headed to our first “Street Live” since being in Nagoya.

Andy & Jenny

For those of you new to my blog, a street live is basically a mini concert on a busy sidewalk. For about two hours we sang and played instruments as people passed through the bustling train station. Jared led most of the songs, but allowed Matt and me to sing a quick ditty ourselves.

The rest of the team, consisting of Andy, Stephanie, Lyndsey and Mark, handed out cards telling people about Mustard Seed and inviting them to church and the language exchange.

Stephanie & Micaiah Working the Crowd

It was a great time of getting out of our comfort zones and initiating conversations with strangers, many of who didn’t speak English. But a smile and fellow teammates who speak Japanese go a long way. The team is out there doing these at least weekly, so they’ve got it down to a science and it’s awesome to watch them work their magic.

Jared Leading Worship

After the street live, Matt, Mark, Lyndsey and I rushed back to the Mustard Seed office to participate in the weekly language exchange. Remember we were involved in one of these in Osaka last Friday night. This one is run by Will and Jo, a young married couple from Minnesota, who are here teaching English. It was a really great event consisting of six native English speakers and six Japanese speakers. To open the night, each person shared a story about their week in their non-native language…except for us of course since my story in Japanese would be very very short, basically “Hello, please, thank you, excuse me, and yes.” Pretty riveting story right? Next we broke into groups of four and talked about the evening’s topic: travel.

Lastly we played a game of Pictionary, and although our team did a great job, the other team had some kind of Japanese-Pictionary-Wizard on it and they annihilated us. But we ended on a high note, as we got to converse with everyone following the game.

I had great conversations with a few of the ladies and was able to invite them to church on Sunday, as well as tell them about my favorite store: Anthropologie. They loved my dress which I recently brought from Antrho on major sale. I really hope I get to see all of them again on Sunday, but at the very least, we’re Facebook friends!

Now on to Saturday. Jared and Stephanie Henke, the worship Pastor and his wife, graciously invited our team over for breakfast at their house. Doesn’t Stephanie look like Taylor Swift? YES!

We enjoyed coffee cake, omelets, fruit, and most importantly, time with their 10-month-old baby, Micaiah. He is the cutest! I don’t know how two skinny parents produced this adorable chunk, but I love every single inch of him! We had a wonderful and informative time discussing the unique opportunities and challenges posed to Christians living in Japan. What I found most interesting is that in general Japanese people are “rule followers,” meaning they do what is expected of them and don’t like to stray from the status quo. While this sounds all positive, it can be terribly negative as they lose their God-given individuality and usually don’t pursue, or even have, unique life dreams they’d like to accomplish. Americans tend to swing to the opposite extreme. We’re told our entire lives that we’re special and can do anything we want in life, which can lead to feeling and acting entitled, and producing little results. Perhaps we all need to strive for a happy middle ground.

After breakfast, the Henkes escorted us to a historical site down the street from their house. It is a memorial site formerly known as the Senbonmatsubara execution ground. In 1664, during the era of the “Prohibition of Christianity Policy, ” over 200 Christians were executed here.

Additionally, it was a place where Japanese people would register and were forced to step on a picture of the virgin Mary to prove that they were not Christians. As you can imagine, it was quite emotional to be standing on soil where Christians were murdered for witnessing to Japanese people, when that is exactly what we Christians are trying to do now.

On a lighter note, we ate lunch at a yummy sushi restaurant. Believe it or not, it’s the very first time we’ve had sushi since being in Japan! Isn’t that funny? I thought people ate sushi all day everyday here, but they’re much more into curry and ramen, which is fine by me. Anyway, check out a bit of our experience there…

In the afternoon, Stephanie let us tag along with her to a group birthday party. She belongs to a “foreigner friendly” group of families and they were celebrating a few of the children’s birthdays in the months of July and August. Holy mole, was it awesome! There were about 60 people there, from countries all over the world. The most hilarious part was that we were told it was a pool party, so naturally we expected for it to take place at a pool. Oh no, not here in urban Japan. Rather than a large in-ground pool, many of the families brought their mini blowup pools and pushed them all together. Ha ha!

But of course the kids and adults alike had a marvelous time, and we were able to meet many new people, not a single one being a Christian, if I remember correctly. It is quite impressive how Stephanie has just jumped in with both feet, using her big smile and bubbly personality to strike up conversations, form friendships, share the Gospel, and invite people to church. As with all the “Wives of Mustard Seed,” she is doing an amazing job of living in the world but not of it, and people flock to her like moths to a flame.

In the evening we participated in another street live. This time I sang less and handout out church invite cards more, which was a good experience for me. I got to talk to a few people throughout the evening, in addition to the dozens of people I handed cards to. One girl told me I looked like Carrie from “Sex and the City,” which was hilarious. The ONLY thing Carrie and I have in common is our above average nose size, ha ha! The highlight of the evening was my conversation with an older Japanese man. He clearly just wanted to practice his English with me, but I took it as an opportunity to talk God stuff. He said he was Buddhist, but he would consider coming to church to hear the sermon in English and Japanese the next Sunday he wasn’t working. I pray that he follows through on that!

Well, it’s 1:00am here, so it’s definitely time for me to hit the hay…or the rice I should say since all of the pillows here have rice in them.

Tomorrow will be an exciting blog as I’ll be covering the events of Sunday church service!

We’re nearing the end of my blogging, so thanks for sticking with me through the trip! I can feel your love and support and it is so encouraging!

Love, Jessica

Baby Micaiah

Movin’ On Up to the Eastside…of Japan


Konnichiwa from Nagoya, Japan! We’ve officially completed our time in Osaka and have spent the last couple days in our final destination, Nagoya. I know I’ve explained this before, but for those of you who don’t memorize every word I utter, Nagoya is the city where Mustard Seed planted their first church in Japan. The Nagoya church plant began about 3 years ago and was going so well, that about 10 months ago the Mustard Seed team split, sending half of them to Osaka to plant a second church. So we spent the first week at the second church plant and will be spending this week at the very first church plant.



But before I start covering our adventures in Nagoya, I want to introduce you to some friends we made in Osaka. We visited them every morning because they made awesome Americanos and expressed their love for practicing English. Just like the Starbucks on our street corner in Fullerton, these baristas quickly learned our names and how we liked our drinks. Way to go Starbucks. I want to be annoyed with your success, but I must concede that you’re internationally wonderful. We were able to share with them about the language exchange and the church, and Kaya (far left) even friended me on Facebook!




After our coffee and cinnamon rolls, Jay helped us board our train for Nagoya, a two hour trip. While I had big plans to blog and spruce myself up during this time, instead I did a whole bunch of this…

Andy, the interim lead Pastor of the Nagoya church, met us at the train station. He immediately led us to a pretty spectacular shopping center, filled with shops and restaurants. We then did what we do best here…eat. Jared, the worship Pastor for Nagoya, and Lyndsey, a staff intern, joined us for lunch. It was a great time of getting to know Andy, Jared and Lyndsey personally, as well as learn about the church as a whole.

Basically right next door to our restaurant was a massive and visually beautiful temple called Osu Kannon Temple. We spent the next couple of hours walking the grounds, observing the local customs of temple patrons, and praying over the location and the people who visit it.

I talked about some of the customs practiced at Japanese temples in an earlier blog, and we saw very similar things take place at this temple. One difference was that this temple sold “trinkets” that could be placed in front of the main shrine.

The trinkets came in all shapes and sizes and sold for anywhere between $2-$10. They filled up a glass case and looking at them made me feel like I was in a place of business rather than a place of worship. But the visitors we observed took themselves very seriously, and looked intense as they placed their trinket at the altar and said their prayers.

As many of the items for sale were translated into English, I could read what they were intended to do. Each item had a different purpose. You could buy ones to bring you good luck, or good health, long life, or financial wealth. They even had ones labeled “success in study” and “pass examination.” You were basically buying a blessing. I think the most upsetting one to me was labeled “bring happiness.” Can you imagine the people who buy that one? The only reason for choosing this one is because you are unhappy and unsatisfied with your life. If only they knew the God of joy and peace. I pray that they meet Him one day soon.

Here a woman is “bathing” herself in the smoke from the altar, in hopes of bringing good luck and protection from evil.

These tablets have been filled out by people. They put their name, address and prayer request, so the gods know where to find them.

The combination of the tragedy of the temple, the let down of having to leave Osaka, and the extreme heat was too much for me to handle, and I had a mini meltdown behind the restroom. Knowing there was nothing else that could rescue me from having a full-fledged breakdown, I began to pray that God would surround me and lift me up. And He did. After just a few tears and several deep breaths, I pulled it together, thankful I didn’t have time to put on mascara that day.

Soon after the temple, we said goodbye to one of our team members, Mike. He is heading up a church plant with Knott Avenue back home, and couldn’t be away as long as the rest of us. We were quite bummed to have ¼ of our team leaving us, but we knew him and his jokes would be with us in spirit for the remainder of the trip.

As we waited for dinner time to come around, Matt, Mark and I chatted with Andy about some heavy issues that plague Japan. Earlier in the week Seth had touched on very similar things, so we knew it was serious. Basically, the most common sin here in Japan is sexual sin. As you read this you’re probably thinking, “Well, it’s that way in America too.” And while it definitely is a problem at home, it’s on another level here. Seth told us that many Japanese people have told him that they do not know a single couple where one or both partners has not committed adultery, not a SINGLE couple! Isn’t that crazy and heartbreaking. Megan and Andy told us that many Japanese women who come to church say that they want to marry an American so they can have a good marriage. The staff tries to tell them that their marriages are not good because they’re American but because they’re Christian.

Another sexual sin that runs rampant in Japan is pornography. To give you an idea of the severity of the problem, Americans spend $70 per person per year on porn, whereas Japanese people spend $300 per person per year on it. And 70% of child pornography is made in Japan. I share all this only so we Christians become aware of the need, pray for it, and find a way to help address it.

On a much lighter note, in the evening we met Jenny, Andy’s wife, for red miso pork tonkatsu. Andy and Jenny have only been married about 6 months, and she joyously agreed to move to Japan after just visiting Andy here a couple times. Andy has been in Japan for 4 ½ years and is basically fluent in Japanese, making Jenny’s transition into the culture easier than it would have been going in cold turkey. It was wonderful to hear how the two of them met and how they made a very long distance relationship work.

We spent Wednesday night at Andy and Jenny’s house, which is quite spacious by Japanese standards. They prayed hard for this apartment because they wanted a large living area to be able to have parties and invite new Japanese friends. Most recently they had an Olympics party and handcrafted colorful rings that are still hanging above their dining room table.

Thursday morning we woke up to the oh-so-delicious smell of homemade banana bread, baked oatmeal and omelets. Oh, did I forget to mention that Jenny is basically a chef? She really outdid herself on this meal. And she was so sweet to make amazing vegan options, using coconut milk as a substitute. These Mustard Seed ladies are too good to me!

The morning was filled with church chores. It was basically a church work-day, meaning we took direction from Andy and Jenny on how we could give the church a makeover – dusting, wiping, organizing, tossing stuff, buying supplies.

One of my jobs was being the label maker lady. I don’t know how many of you have ever used a label maker, but believe me, it is addicting. Once you make a few labels you start thinking, “What else in my life needs labeling? Everything! Desk, Phone, Husband, all labeled!”

We whistled while we worked, and rewarded ourselves with ramen down the street. Do you feel like we eat a lot? Me too! I’ve never eaten more in my life, but I suppose there are worse things, ha ha!

The afternoon was filled with prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Andy, Jenny and Lyndsey took us to the most amazing spot overlooking the entire city – a restaurant on the 52nd floor of a luxury hotel. All we could swing was a $10 cup of coffee, but it was more than worth it in exchange for the spectacular view. I mean you could see everything. I was so overcome with the sight that I forgot to take a picture for you, but to give you an idea, here are some pics from just the 12th floor.

The six of us looked over Nagoya as we prayed for God to do a mighty work here among people we know He loves. Aside from the prayer requests I’ve already shared with you all, Andy added the need to pray for God to raise up additional Christians to come to Japan to church plant. There is no doubt that the harvest is plenty but the workers are few in Japan. And of course, if there are more workers, there needs to be more financial supporters to pay for those workers. Would you join me in praying for God to bring more Christians to Japan to share His Good News and that the funds to support them would not be an issue? Thank you!

Following prayer time, Matt and I headed to band rehearsal. Jared is the worship Pastor for Nagoya, and we got to witness him working his magic during practice.

The band sounded great and Matt and I just observed their awesomeness. And check out the youngest member of the team.

Last time Matt was in Japan he said he wanted to adopt her. Only problem was, she already had a mom, ha ha! Vivian, her mom, has a beautiful voice and is just learning to sing in English.

After rehearsal we got to meet Stephanie, Jared’s wife. I haven’t been able to snag a picture of her yet, but believe me, she is beautiful – she reminds me of Taylor Swift. We were also greeted by their baby Micaiah, who was brought into this world only 10 short months ago. He is the literal definition of a cutie, and I promise to deliver a picture soon. This family of three drove us to our hotel, but first introduced us to the “Conveni” experience. Basically this just means eating dinner at your corner convenience store. Now it’s not just the usual hot dog and corn nut options you get at American 7-11s, they have full-on meals here – hot, cold, fish, beef, salad. I wouldn’t exactly call myself adventurous with food, so even though it all looked on the up-and-up, I opted for a fruit popsicle. Matt got the chicken wings, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

We made it back to our hotel, more than ready to settle in for potentially our best night sleep since being in Japan, when…IT HAPPENED. My eyes darted around the room in an utter panic and with sheer fear written all over my face I asked my husband, “Where did you put Henry?” We scoured each of our bags, clothes and shoes flying into the air, already knowing that it was all in vain. Henry, my purple unicorn pillow pet, was not here. Matt had packed the bags while I was running church errands and he had left Henry behind, supposedly unintentionally. I knew Henry would be safe at Andy and Jenny’s, but I also knew he’d be very lonely, as was I. But my exhaustion allowed me to still get to sleep quickly. (-:

Tune in tomorrow for one of our biggest days since we’ve been in Japan – a “street live” and a language exchange all in one day!

We’re starting to approach the end of our trip and I’m so grateful that you’re staying faithful in reading my blog and praying for our team and Japan. You are awesome!

Love, Jessica

I Am Ninja


I’m back, I’m back! Did you miss me? Most of you, except for Krissy, probably didn’t even notice that I skipped a day of blogging. As much as I love communicating with you all everyday, the late nights and early mornings were really started to get to me, and I had to choose a full 7 hours sleep over 5 hours of sleep and a blog post. Yes, you did the math correctly, between recalling what I did that day, typing it out, choosing pictures and video, waiting for them to upload, and organizing the post, it usually takes almost two hours. But it’s so worth it to be able to have the connection with you all, and the permanent “journal” of my experience here.

This blog post I’m going to cover 2 days, so I can catch you up on what you missed. On Monday we had a “day off,” as all of the Mustard Seed staff take Mondays off since Sundays require a lot from them. So we gave them a break from work and from us, and just our Knott Avenue team traveled to the city of Kyoto for the day to do some sightseeing. After taking the subway, the train, the bus, a cab, and walking, we finally arrived at a popular tourist destination called The Golden Pavilion. Why is it called this you ask, because it’s made almost completely of gold! Wasteful? Yes. Awesome? Heck Yes.

This literally glowing villa was built in the 1220s, which blows my mind. It is surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens that are so breathtaking they can even be enjoyed while you’re drowning in your own sweat…which we definitely were.

You are not able to enter the pavilion, one: because it’s surrounded by water on all sides, and two: because I guess when things are that old they are only meant to be admired from afar. So we found our way inside the next best thing on the grounds, which was a small and quaint tea house. The crazy boys ordered hot tea, while I sipped my cold tea, my face following the path of the oscillating fan nearby.

Naturally drinking tea eventually leads to using the restroom. Turns out, I’ve been spoiled on this trip up until now because on this day I found myself at a bathroom with no western toilets, meaning there was just basically a hole in the ground. AND they didn’t provide toilet paper; you had to buy it. I thought free toilet paper was a basic human right like water or the internet.

Anyway, after some choice words aimed at the porcelain hole, we hopped in a cab to take us to…wait for it…wait just a little longer…Ninja Village. You won’t be surprised to hear that this was Matt’s idea, and boy oh boy were all the guys excited to channel their inner ninjas. (Apparently every guy comes with an inner ninja just waiting for the appropriate chance to come to life.)

I won’t go as far as to say I was bored at ninja village, but it has been confirmed that I do not possess an inner ninja of any kind. I will say though that it was pretty neat to be able to walk around the sets where they film countless ninja films. Matt and I were even inspired to create our own ninja film. Don’t think we’ll be winning awards anytime soon…

Such a Ninja, This Guy

We waited in line for the Ninja Mystery House, paid our 500 yen (about $6.50) each, and made our way into the house to discover the major mystery. Well, the joke was on us, because the entire presentation was in Japanese, so it turned out the mystery was trying to figure out why we wasted our money on something we couldn’t even understand. But we did figure out that the ninja tours were demonstrating how ninjas get around sneakily using spinning walls, trap doors and hidden holes. As the ninjas demonstrated how stealthy they were, I demonstrated how stealthy I was not. No joke, I hit my head and stepped on my own foot right in front of the ninjas. Who’s ever heard of someone stepping on their own foot? I’m such a pioneer.

On our way back to Osaka, we stopped to eat dinner at a restaurant in the train station. It sounds like a strange place to choose, but their train stations are like small cities – more like a mall with transportation included. After a lot of Japanese food in the past week, we decided to eat at an Italian joint, all ordering some kind of pizza. Of course, since we don’t know Japanese, we were dependent on the menu pictures and plastic food display in the window. Jared, Nagoya’s Worship Pastor, jokes that Japanese people say American’s favorite food is “this,” because we always point and say, “I want this.” And that’s exactly what we did.

Once bellies were full, we hopped on an elevator to head to our evening plans of karaoke. It was hilarious to see the look on Japanese people’s faces when we started making our way into an elevator. Looks of horror, as they were concerned our large American bodies would not fit in their seemingly children’s size elevators. Which was a fair concern, as every time someone needed to exit a floor we had to get off the elevator just to let them through. Oh well, at least I got a laugh watching Mike’s shoulders fill up the entire doorway.

As an amazing cap to our day off, we joined the entire Greer clan for karaoke. Ryan graced us with his presence as well. “All the single ladies! All the single ladies!” (Remember, because Ryan’s single.) Anyway, Japan really knows how to karaoke because they take everything I hate about karaoke away – strangers, strangers singing, strangers talking, strangers watching me sing. They have these rooms of various sizes you can rent by the hour, and only your group gets to be in your room. AND unlimited coffee and soda! It was so fun to let loose and sing a bunch of silly American songs. Even Mark and Jay sang, which they both swore they wouldn’t. I do have to express some legitimate concern for Ryan’s ability to know the words to every pop song originally written for teenage girls to enjoy. It started to get down right scary when he sang boldly along to “Popular” from “Wicked.” Ha ha!

Look how much I’ve blabbed on and we’re not even to Tuesday yet. I’ll be much quicker recapping that day…okay, I’ll try my best at least. Tuesday it was back to mission mode, as we started the day with staff meeting, led by Jay and attended by Seth and Ryan. It was a great time to get a glimpse on how the inner workings of the church operate. My favorite part of the meeting was how Jay led prayer. He allowed anyone to pray as the felt led, but before you prayed you had to read some Scripture to the group. It was beautiful to hear The Word of the Lord right before prayer was lifted up to Him. It is a process I’m going to adopt into my personal prayer life. Thanks Jay!

After prayer we talked some top-secret church strategy followed by lunch at a Japanese curry house. Megan and baby Asher joined us, and Matt and I had another great talk with the Philips family. Prompted by my quite personal questions, Megan shared her experience of being pregnant and giving birth in Japan. Even though her nurses didn’t speak English, Seth taught them the phrase “You can do it!” so they were able to encourage her by repeating that saying over and over until Asher successfully popped out!

In the afternoon we packed up our luggage as Wednesday we are traveling to the city of Nagoya, a two-hour train ride away, for the remainder of our time in Japan. Once the suitcases were in order, we headed to Koshien Stadium, as we had tickets to see the Hanshin Tigers play a professional baseball game.

One of the players, Matt Murton, is an American who is also a Christian. He has worked with Mustard Seed in the past, using his major celebrity status in Japan as a way to witness to the masses. All week we’ve been passing out “baseball cards” that have Matt Murton’s picture on them and his testimony (in Japanese) written on the back.

Jay Handing Out a Matt Murton Testimony Card

Kids and adults alike have been grabbing them like crazy because he is an icon here. It was awesome to use his popularity as a way to connect with strangers all week, and now we were watching him play professional baseball in a stadium that seats 80,000 people.

The game was exciting, and full of surprises. And the best part is, the Tigers KILLED it! We won! Check out this video of a very unique and fun tradition that happens every game in the middle of the 7th inning.

Once again, if you made it to the end of this post, you are dedicated, and appreciated! Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about our first day in Nagoya, Japan. This is where the first church was planted by Mustard Seed in Japan, prior to them adding the second church plant in Osaka. Pretty sweet stuff!

Love, Jessica