Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life in Ibaraki...

is so wonderful!
I really do believe that this home-stay part of the PacRim trip is what makes it so so special. I have been completely immersed in Japanese life, culture, and language, and I really do think I'm learning! I am so blessed to have an amazing host family and second host family (Logan's house parents, Yasuko and Yoshihiro). Noriko-chan, my house sister, and Yuuki-chan, our friend, have been so welcoming and wonderful to me and Logan. And Noriko's family is just the best. Her mom is hilarious and so cute, and although she speaks hardly any English, we somehow manage to make some Janglish conversations. Nori's dad is so so smart, so he knows several really fancy English words, like constitution, atomic energy, etc. What Japanese person knows words like that? Only my otoosan. The Ibaraki Christian students have been so incredibly hospitable to us. I feel like an honored guest. And the days have just been so full of fun. Recently, we went to Tokyo Disneyland for a day while it was decorated for Halloween! So fun. And yesterday, we got to go to the most wonderful on-sen (public bath house) right on the ocean.
Today, we got to have a conversation with a Buddhist monk, and that was such a incredible experience to me. I've been struggling to find a way to communicate my religious beliefs in a culture and a mindset so different from mine, so it was really interesting to speak with a Buddhist monk about beliefs and practices.
As I mentioned in the last post, Japan has been both wonderful and discouraging and challenging for me.  More than anything, I have come to realize that this world offers me nothing that I can't gain from my relationship with Jesus. I am on an amazing trip around the world to some of the most monumental sites in human history. I have also had some amazing opportunities to cross cultural boundaries by having conversations with people from China and Japan. But those are not the moments that stick out in my memory from this trip so far. They are not the moments that most completely blow me away. I am most humbled, amazed, captivated by the moments when I see God working in those around me or in myself. And the more I meet people who do not have the privilege of knowing Jesus, the more I feel the urgency for the knowledge of Him across the world. While I have clearly seen that people can live good lives without Jesus, I can't find anything in the world that compares to the joy and blessing of knowing Christ.

I hope that all is well for those at home. I miss your presence in my life!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Discovering the Story.

I'm an English major, so I love words.
I love the process of finding just the right word to fit in just the right place. I love hearing and learning new ones. I love languages, literature, speeches, etc.  I especially love that moment in language learning when the new word no longer directly correlates to a word of my native tongue.  It takes on a whole new life... set free from the bindings of the foreign words used to describe it.
First in my heart when it comes to the love of words is writing and the process that goes with it.  When I write, I sometimes feel as if the story (poem, etc.) is writing itself.  It truly is as if I am discovering the words rather than writing them... like they've been written all along in invisible ink, and all I'm doing is taking a blacklight to them.  Today, I discovered that that's how my life feels, too.  Never in a million years did I dream that I could be living with a dear sister in Japan for one month.  Never in a million years did I dream I would travel the world as I'm doing now.  But God knew.  He has been preparing me, for the entirety of my life, for moments like this.  I think sometimes (particularly as Americans) we feel that we are writing our destiny.  But I'm not... I'm just discovering it.
And it's a good thing, too, because the Lord of the universe is a much better author than I.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I am now settled in Ibaraki, Japan, and it is such a blessing. 
I SO appreciate living in a home, having a routine, and having two sisters that I can spend time with, laugh with, love on.  Each day truly does feel like a gift.  Probably because they all are.
But, the days and gifts come with culture shock and identity crises and struggle.  I have been so encouraged here by the warm hearts of the people in Japan and the incredible hospitality, but I have also been discouraged in so many ways.  Since Japanese people live in line with a defined moral code and they typically have joy in everyday life, it is hard to see how Christianity is even applicable here... particularly with my generation.  Japanese people are mostly atheists, and I can now at least partially understand why.  To them, religion is not necessary.  They have a good time, they are happy, they are kind to each other, etc.   What's the point of religion?  I came with the task in mind of trying to represent Jesus well and glorify Him, but that task seems so large in light of the culture here.  And so it's been a little difficult to deal with.  But here's the truth that I have to continually repeat to myself: God desires that we know and love Him.  Not so that we will be good people, and not so that we will feel happy all the time, but simply so that we can know Him.  He is too good to ignore, too wonderful to go without.  So even if the Christian morality seems inapplicable here, Christ is more applicable than ever.  Please pray for me, that God would use me to reveal Himself.  I can see the beautiful love of Christ covering the people here, but they cannot often see it.  Pray that their hearts and eyes would be opened.  I don't take this task lightly at all, because I cannot think of anything more important than knowing the love of Christ.  But also, please pray that I do not let Satan use these circumstances to burden me, as if I were responsible for saving souls.  Pray that I would be confident and bold in doing the task in front of me, and that I could leave the rest to God.  

All that being said, I'm having an incredible time.  It seems almost unreal, how much fun I'm having here.  And I'm loving being completely immersed in the language in culture.  I pray that you, too, would have your eyes opened to God in a new way, and that His magnificent love would surprise you today!