“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.
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.
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.
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!