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!