KEEP CALM AND GAMBATTE KUDASAI!
After a long trip with several connecting flights, missing luggage, and lay-overs in two different countries with their respective languages, the team finally made it to Japan to serve for a total of four weeks.
Pastor Masato Ito and his wife, Nobuko-Sensei greeted the team and welcomed us to what would be a month of serving the community and church with different ministry projects, engaging each other’s cultures, and exchanging kingdom strategies to reach the people of Japan. We were excited to arrive to our original, Japanese-style home in the town of Shonan. The house has the typical shoji doors (a shōji is a door, or room divider consisting of translucent paper over a wooded frame), Fusuma or sliding panels, an Engawa (an edging strip of flooring which resembles a porch or sunroom), Amado (storm shutters to seal the home for security, privacy, or in case of a storm), a Genkan (a lower entrance where you remove your shoes before entering the home), and Tatami floors (mat floors made of rice straw), among other features.
It may seem ridiculous to think that the style of a house could say much about a culture, but in fact, after spending a day or two in the house, we began to understand many things about the Japanese people. For instance, the Japanese value silence; therefore, the house is built in such a way that encourages no excess of noise. The shoji sliding doors with their translucent paper provide much illumination, which, as we learned, is important to the culture. That is why even their flag has a blazing red sun at the center and their motto reads, “Land of the Rising Sun”. Light is at the center of this culture.
The neighborhood where we stayed was quiet, with the occasional cyclist heading to the nearby market, work or school. The streets were extremely narrow, and immaculately clean. The Japanese culture is rich with history, and politeness seems to be at the center of their way of life. Japanese are detailed about how they do things, from how they use their chopsticks to why the toilet and shower should never be in the same room. We learned all kinds of new and interesting ways of doing things. For instance, recycling in Japan is no easy task! Trust us on this one, we didn't figure it out until the day before our departure. With that being said, one thing every member of the team appreciated was the fact that there are vending machines at every corner of the neighborhood. The vending machines were unique in that they provided cold and hot beverages. Some vending machines even provided fresh produce! Wait, what?! Yes! You read that correctly.
The team worked diligently to meet the needs of the local churches we served at, giving themselves selflessly through the ministry of presence to the young people from several congregations as well as to some of the youth leaders who were suffering from recent loss, sickness, relationship problems, and the daunting task of reaching their unbelieving family members for Jesus. Even though most of our time in Japan was spent serving the local churches and a couple of convalescent homes, we were treated with a day off at Mount Fuji and a day to explore Tokyo. Mount Fuji is simply inspiring and beautiful as shown in many art pieces, and Tokyo is a unique city that is both full of excitement and possibility for kingdom work.
While in Tokyo, we walked alongside thousands of pedestrians at the world's busiest crossroads in Shibuya, where our host church is starting a training school for evangelism and outreach purposes. We toured Shibuya’s busy streets and closed our time in Japan by worshiping and praying for God to send a flood of his love to the busy streets of Shibuya. The work is great, but the laborers are few. May God lead us to represent Jesus well in places where apathy and fantasy have been people’s only reality, where the gospel of truth gets obscured by fear of human connectivity, and the advancement of technology is celebrated more than the Cross. These types of challenges are what the church in Japan is faced with, and we were called to come along and support their efforts to meet these seemingly impossible needs.
We encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can represent Jesus in your own communities. The silver lining in all this is that our actions speak louder than our words. May God help us to speak less about our accomplishments and more about our resurrected Messiah. May God help us to love people more and boast less about ourselves.
Please continue to pray for Japan and for the rest of the world.