Monday, December 29, 2008

In the meantime....

So I'm leaving this blog open in the possibility of one day being able to use it again (Lord willing). But in the meantime I'm chronicling day to day stuff at the other blog

Hopefully this isn't the end of my mission blog.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm back!

Well actually I've been back for just over 2 weeks now. But I figured I'd take a little time to refocus, reflect...actually I just was going to abandon this blog since I returned, but decided to put a little cap on it, for myself mainly because I'm relatively sure no one else will be checking it.

Anyway after Fuji-san the team took some time to relax and prepared to say goodbye. We had our final bible study in 1st Peter. That study was great and a highlight every week. Just getting to talk other Christians with different backgrounds has been a great learning experience. Sometimes at home the insights as far as studies go can get a homogeneous due to the similarity of the participants.
Wednesday we had our going away party. It was planned to have it at the river and swim and eat BBQ, but I guess God had other ideas. So it rained most of the day, but we still ended up at the river eating BBQ, we just didn't swim. So we spent most of the time eating the amazing Yakisoba and preparing ourselves to say goodbye to the students by making small talk with them and planning future trips to America.

Then came the tough part, the team sat on one towel and the students on another, then they had a student come up and read a speech to each individual team member and give them a gift. The speeches were really strong and a tinge sad, but incredibly meaningful. The gifts were amazing and I'm sure will be cherished forever. We then headed back to joyhouse to just hang out with the remaining students and give away some of the gifts we brought. It was a great time.

That was pretty much the end of the line as far as interesting things go. Later that week we went to Karaoke with a couple of students but mostly just as a team. the rest of the week was spent running last minute errands, packing, and cleaning.

After all that the team headed to Tokyo that Friday to debrief. The students saw us off even though it was really early in the morning. That was the saddest bus trip I've ever taken. We arrived in Tokyo around noon and had lunch at the olympic center with members from some of the other SIJ teams, and shared experiences, which was encouraging. After lunch they made us sit down and write out what we had learned this summer or something. Here's what I wrote at the time:

So I kinda hate journaling, I'd much rather internally process and move on. Especially for a summer so full of lessons and experiences as this one. We're supposed to write down some lessons we learned this summer, but I'm really not sure how to express the changes from 9 weeks ago to today. There weren't any "Eureka" type tangible differences, most were subtle and small. So I guess I'll just take a stab at some of the lessons I learned in no particular order:
  • Everyone is interesting, and has a story to tell if you'll just keep asking.
  • I need to demonstrate my christian life more in everyday stuff. 1st Peter 3:15 says to be ready to give account of why you are so joyful, and even though I DO feel joyful, I don't always show it, which I think might be a disservice to God. Everyone should know how happy I am to be a recipient of the most amazing gift ever.
  • To assist with that I also realized I needed to become stronger in the areas of prayer and bible memorization. I would sometimes become discouraged or feel alone, then I would find that I hadn't been praying or meditating on God's word day and night. When those things were firing I felt 100 times less alone and closer to God.
  • I learned hat God has created the most amazing people, and some of them are Christians.
  • I saw that 1st Peter 1:22 and Proverbs 17:9 are true and saw them in action many times.
So moving to the present, today I feel like I'm going to miss Japan a ton more than I ever dreamed I would. I'm going to miss my amazing team who have become as close as family to me. They made me laugh more that any group of strangers ever has. They helped me grow in my knowledge of God with their insights at Bible Study. Their philosophies on life and christianity and the attitude they approached everyday with. Gabi-quick to laugh and passionate. Kathryn- patient and disciplined. Amanda-gentle, loving and funnier than she gets credit for. Johanna- cares about people so much, maybe to a fault, and loves to make the laugh. Mandy-enjoys the small pleasures God gives her and sharing that joy and knowledge with others. Thomas-passionate in everything while still loving. Cody-A servant who loves to listen and encourage. Kevin-Creative and deeply striving for things he holds close (God, friends, music, Japan, and video games). Elbert-loves people, the God that created them and enjoying God's world with said people. Kanako-kind, gentle, unselfish, and seeking God with all her heart. Jumpei-excited about God, and desperate to share his love with others. I'll never forget these people or the amazing students who welcomed us so openly. Looking to the future, I feel unsure of what to do. I deeply enjoyed working in Japan and would come back in a heartbeat next summer, but things do change. I really need to pray that God would help bring my future into focus and allow me to prepare for the path that best serves him.

Not my most inspired writing, but I really wasn't in the mood to be processing that much stuff like that. Anyway we spent most of the time there in Tokyo as a team just holding on to what little time we had left. Some of us stayed up all night talking and spending time together. The next day we met early in the morning to take a series of trains back to Narita airport and head back home. After saying a final goodbye we split up possibly to never see each other again. Really sad stuff.
Anyway the flight went perfectly on the way home, I slept probably 7 out of the 9 hours the flight took.
It was really good to see my family when I got back, I missed them terribly in Japan and seeing friends at terminal was incredible. The reverse culture shock has been minimal, just the normal trouble sleeping, missing the people from the summer, and not really in love with american culture.
So there it is for the most part. My summer. It was the most amazing 2 months of my life thus far. If you're reading this and have any tiny bit of feeling like you'd be interested in checking this Japan trip thing out, then do it. You will never regret it and be changed in amazing great ways from it. Looking forward I'll be begging God for a chance to go back but you know, His will be done.

Monday, August 4, 2008


I going to break from the currently flawless chronological order that these posts have being in for a brief moment. Yesterday our team climbed Mt Fuji. So I just figured I'd post some pictures, and resume the retelling of my time later this week when I get some more free time.
Anyway so Fujisan (the Japanese name) is 12,388 ft tall, the highest point in Japan (thank you Wikipedia). We woke up at 3am to board the BEST club bus to the foot of the mountain. It took about 2 hours to drive and thankfully we actually probably drove up about a half of the mountain. So from around 7,000 ft our team and just over a dozen students started to climb the mountain. It took me about 5hrs 15 mins and 2500ml of water to get to the top. The climb was pretty ugly, the mountain is an active volcano that last erupted over 200 years ago, so the terrain is pretty soft and ashy. It felt a little like walking uphill in snow. The view though was amazing, the whole climb up the mountain we were above the clouds, and the sun gove them a really fantastic golden glow it was great.
So after getting to the top we had a quick lunch (apple, energy bar kinda thing, and water) took a half hour nap, bought some omiyage (souvenirs) and basically just looked around the top of this vast mountain. After about 2hrs of that most of the group started to get altitude sick (headache naseau) so we started down. It only took 3hrs to get down the mountain.
So everyone was safe, most said they had a good time, and even if they didnt say it was good, at least it's something they'll never forget.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Week 7 (or part II of the last post)

Actually, I'm a little short on time so the post will be relatively brief. In a couple hours we're headed out of town to participate in an English Camp with the students. It's my understanding that Bible reading will be involved somehow. There is a somewhat small group of sudents going so the hope is that the size of the group will allow everyone to act more like themselves. That's the hope anyway. Prayer for that reality would be greatly appreciated.
Now to fill in some of the blacks from the last post.
The following day after the dinner with the students, Kathryn and I had to prepare for our final wednesday night english class. The plan was to have dinner together at Lighthouse (the name for the house where most of the female staff lives) and then have the lesson about the Prodigal's Son. After a little bit of confusion due to the language barrier we ended up deciding to make hamburgers and tomato soup. We started at BLT's and soup, then make your own pasta was suggested, then another student hadn't had "American" hamburgers yet so it was quite a road to te eventual entree. A couple of the girls from the class pretty much took over the shopping and cooking and did an amazing job. Defintely the best hamburgers I've ever had in Japan. The lesson went really well also, the students acted out how they would have responded if they were one of the characters. They also chose which character they felt the greatest connection to, the overwhelming favorite being the older brother. That really characterizes alot of the feeling I've noticed here in Japan. So many of the students are working really hard, yet it seems that they are still missing that word of confirmation or love that could make all their hard work justified. It's becoming a little bit of an issue in Japanese society because younger generations are looking at the small rewards offered for all the hard work and deciding that it's not worth it. It will be interesting to see how that gets handled.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Week 6 6/7ths Part I

It's pretty late in Shizuoka right now, but I realized it's been awhile since I posted some updates (or called my parents) so I figured I start a post and fill in the empty stuff later.

To begin with, most everything since sports camp has been running really smooth. The students have really responded and have invited us to various dinners and various other smaller group activities. I've found this to be really great for the most part, but because they are smaller group activities a result is that the conversations need to keep moving for a longer time. You can only find out about a students hometown, major, and favorite hobbies once (the hobby question has been an unexpectedly popular question from the Japanese), then you have to move on. An artist of conversation is not a title frequently ascribed to me by those who have spent event the least amount of time with me, so I've been extremely thankful that God put me with teamates that can ably move the discussion along comfortably and get everyone involved. They've been great at filling in the uncomfortable silences (while leaving the comfortable ones), and making sure that our time with students is full of deeper learning about each other than "what kind of music do you enjoy" type stuff.

A quick runover of the events That have taken place since the last post. This is not really a comprehensive list, and as I said earlier will probably be added to later tomorrow.

We went to the nearby city of Shimizu with a few students and explored a festival they were thowing in their downtown area. The festival is called the "Tanabata" festival, the back story on the festivals origins are a little iffy according to wikipedia (by iffy I mean confusing and "I'm not sure why this warrants a festival exactly") but the people downtown all seemed to have a good time. There is a sort of main street where you walk and look at all these amazing paper creations, like the most amazing pinatas you'll ever see hanging from the ceiling on this main street/hallway deal. Along with the amazing pinata/floats there are also many small shops and the usual food being sold, shaved ice, tako yaki (octopus balls), yaki torri (grilled chicken usually on a stick), crepe's (german pancakes wrapped around fruit and ice cream or a similar filling) and other great stuff. Our small group really enjoyed all the paper creations and it gave us something to start conversations with later on with students.

We tried to have english class that Wednesday but because of sports camp, I think some students though maybe the class was over and we only had 2 students RSVP for the class and then only 1 actually showed. So Kathryn had some time 1 on 1 with the student I and left to rehearse some worship stuff with some of the staff for the upcoming sunday's church service. IT was a little disheartening to only have 1 student show to a class that we had been entrusted to keep alive after its primary instructor-Aileen had left. It felt quite a bit like failure, but we decided to redouble our efforts and focus on the final class coming up on the next Wednesday.

One of our Japanese roomates organized a trip to a Shimizu S Pulse J-Leage soccer game for the team and a few students. Soccer is realtively new to Japan but it is already fairly popular. This was confirmed by the charasmatic cheering from the crowd throughout the ENTIRE soccer game. We never sat down, and each section had its own cheer commander type person who made sure that everyone was still actively cheering. Most of the fun from the game was trying to figure out the cheers along with the students and then laughing at ourselves with the students as we basically butchered these cheers or in a best case, were so happy for understanding the cheer cheered embarassingly obnoxiously. The students found both cases pretty funny. The S Pulse unfortunately went on to lose the match, not for a lack of effort or cheering (maybe some shady judging). And our team and others ended up with about 24 new inside jokes that have yet to get old.

following that was another american night on the 13th of July. Gabi headed up the creation of some Sloppy Joe's for dinner, which was a new food for 98% of the students, as well as new vocabulary-Sloppy.It was a good turnout of students, and some of them even tried to sing along with the the worship songs. We again read a verse from the bible (presently it escapes me which one it was that night) and had sharing time with the students where we duscussed the past week and plans for the next week. The students really seem to enjoy most of the American night especially the music and sharing portions (they seem pretty indifferent to the bible part, possibly because its short). That night is usually quite encouraging and leads into our Monday morning bible study quite naturally.

Speaking of the Bible study, we took a break from 1st Peter last week and our leader Mark decided to have us study "Asking God for a Mate". He gave us a comprehensive list of verses to examine and extract truths from to share wth the group. The actual study was pretty fun and a bunch of us completed it together, laughing at the awkwardness of the subject and occasionally the content of the verses (Song of Solomon especially). At the group meeting Mark spent a good chunk of the time explaing how he had met his wife, a Japanese native named Yumiko and their amazing story of how God had brought them together. It was encouraging, yet frustrating as we all arrived at the answer to the question: "Just wait on God".

That Tuesday a small group of us met some students at a local Italian restaurant called Piso Lino's. The group that night was especially loose and talkative and the students talked relatively freely about plans to travel, learning english, the struggles of school, and the exhaustion of speaking english to us. Speaking a 2nd non native language is extremely mentally exhausting for the students, so its really a testament to their dillagence that they hang around us at all, with our constant demands for menu translations, and requsts for Japanes phrases. It was really enjoyable.

I'm going to stop here for a couple hours and fill in the reaming week tomorrow, in the meantime a couple prayer requests for the future:

We are traveling to Takayama early monday morning for a 3 day trip with some students sightseeing. Pray that our time is well spent, we remain safe, and our conversations rich.

We also have an english camp this Friday and Saturday, so please pray for energy and that the students would be curious about the Bible as that is a major topic during english camp.

We are climbing Mt. Fuji on Sunday, please pray for safety and good weather.

And finally our team has been together in a foreign country for over 6 weeks and some small crakcs in our "masks" our starting to show, so prayer for Persistent love in the team and patience with each other.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Week 4 3/4

Hey, I'm back. I seem to have disappeared for a week and a half or so and I was going to post something before Sunday, but I forgot we were going out of town to Sports Camp this weekend and I wouldnt be able to. Sorry about that.

So the relationships with the students have been really growing. Our team is a group of pretty likeable guys and girls (well I like them anyway) so the Japanese students have been hanging out with us more. A couple of big events happened this week.

We celebrated Elberts birthday last Sunday and also had our second "American Night".
Elbert turned 24 and we as a group of guys gave him a towel, and a medicine ball. clearly he was thrilled. The BEST club got together and bought him a couple cake rolls though which we ate alongside a homemade cake by Becky at American Night.
I cant remember if I explained "American Night" before but here's a brief summary. It's basically "church lite'. First we invite Japanese students over for American night and a meal. Then we all have dinner together, last Sunday night it was Hamburgers and Fries which were actually really amazing, (prepared by Masterchef Thomas with the help of Cody and Amanda). We then sing a couple really easy worship songs with the words on showing on the telvision, read a verse and share a thought about it, and have a sharing activity for the groups. I did the verse last week and just read Matthew 7: 3-5 about the logs and specks in eyes. It seemed like a universal truth which is kind of what we're going for with the students. especially when we have such a large group as we did that night (over 16!). It went well but I think I talked to fast which I tend to do in front of groups so I'm not sure how much of the english they all caught. After that we broke up into small groups for the sharing activity which was prepared this week by the youngest member of our group Gabi. In smaller groups of 4-5 each person picked out a subject such as Myself, My friend, a stranger etc and a adjective like suprising, good, bad, encouraging, awkward and had to share a evet that happened that week that fit the 2 slips they pulled. so for example for awkward stranger I could share about how I never know what to say to cashiers after they ask me a question so I just stare at them and smile and wait to pay. The activity went really well and was well thought out. The night overall was a good success.

Tuesday we went to dinner with some of the sophomore students. It was a smaller group than usual which was nice and allowed for the students to really interact

(sometimes when there is too many Americans the students will just listen, probably cause they cant get a word in edgewise).So it was a good time of getting more input from the students.

The following day was our second go at teaching english class. THere seems to be a pretty high turnover rate in this class as we again had a good number of students (4), none of them were repeat students from last week. Hopefully next class we'll see some students return. We went through Luke 12:22-34 where Jesus teaches to not be anxious and rely on God. Then we talked to the students about things that make them anxious and what they do to help with the anxious feeling, and we (when I say we I mean Myself, Kathryn and Becky) shared how we would pray and read the bible when we feel anxious. Hopefully all this and future sharing will at least plant some curiosity in the students about our way of life and maybe they'll ask some questions.

There was NO sports on Thursday as the students were preparing for "Sports Festa" the upcoming weekend. They did however have a farewell party for one of the midtermers, Aileen. Aileen has been here for 2 years I believe and is in charge of the english class that we're filling in for a couple weeks on Wednesdays. It was make your own sushi night which was....interesting. Basically makeing your own sushi is really easy, you take a square of "Nori" or dried seaweed, add a layer of rice, maybe some egg and then the fish dipped in soy sauce. You then roll it all up and go for it. So that's sushi, very different from the "Dragon rolls or California rolls in the states, but a little more on that later.

Overall it was a good time even though it was really sad when Aileen read her goodbye speech in Japanese. Even though I don't exactly know what she said it was still really moving based on the students around me. She will definitely be missed. Becky also gave a quick speech thanking people and saying goodbye as she would be leaving that weekend to go back home to Colorado. So I guess Kathryn and I are on our own now as far as the english class on Wednesdays go. We will really miss her.

Friday we had our last meal with Becky as a team and went to a restaurant called Sushiro.
By the way I'm just guessing at most of these Japanese words spelling as I only hear the word and never actually see it in Romanji or the letters english uses. So Sushiro could be SushiRoll, or SushiRa, etc. It was the 3rd sushi meal in the last 3 days for me and if you know me you'll know I'm not really a seafood aficionado. But Becky really enjoyed it and we got to hear the SushiRo theme song over the loudspeaker (which sounds like the word SushiRo over and over to the William Tell Overture it's hilarious) so it was a good time. That evening we left Shizuoka for Sports Festa.

Sports Festa is a yearly weekend long BEST club event planned by that year's Sophmores and is attended by most of the BEST club in Shiz and some members from surrounding areas, (this year I think Hamamatsu which is a nearby city, had a lot of members join). There was probably a good 150 participatants in the Festa. The Festa works like this, we arrive at a Hostel near Mt.Fuji friday night, and get welcomed by a speech from the Sophmore spokeman and woman (This year it was Waki and Ayako, Waki has been hanging around a lot with the team so it was cool to see him in the leader roll.) We then go to our rooms to sleep. The next morning the teams are posted in the common area and everyone gets ready for breakfast. The teams are your teams for the weekend, you eat together, you compete together, and you really spend a lot of time together. The competition was an array of sports that the teams rotated through thoughout the day. Sports included kickball, basketball, soccer, dodgeball, dodgebee (dodgeball with a soft frsbee) volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and a couple other games. The students take the competition pretty seriously so our whole team was pretty nervous about being the weak member of our teams. The weekend was super exhausting for the team both physically and mentally as we tried to understand the rules of the games and the strategies our team leaders wanted us to employ. I was fortunate though and actuall had Aileen on my team and she was awesome and translated whatever was going on for me and really saved me a lot of the guesswork most of the rest of the team had to do. Also on my team was a student named Akio, who alos sometimes comes to the english class on wednesdays so I had a lot of time to spend developing a better relationship with him which has been great. At the end of the weekend my team ended up tied for the 2nd place slot which was settled using a very popular game in Japan called "Janken".
As you may have guessed Janken is rock paper scissors and in that video our team leader (A young sophmore named Dice-K) just won our team 2nd place! It was really exciting for our team, especialy since we thought maybe we were doing pretty bad throughout the weekend, but apparently other teams had rough weekends also.

The Festa was a great chance to spend time with the students but also extremely exhasuting so we all welcomed the next couple days of rest and regular housekeeping activities.

We did have our weekly Bible study on 1st Peter when we returned though which is always really encouraging. THis week overall has been pretty laid back as the students recover from the Sports Festa and get back to studies (they have Finals in 2 weeks!).

Prayer Items
  • For energy as our team moves into our last month of ministry here in Shizuoka, that we wouldn't start to fade.
  • For the students that they would be curious and maybe ask questions that would lead to deeper conversations.
  • For Aileen and Becky as they head home, especially Aileen having been in Japan for the last 2 years, the adjustments she'll face are beyond my comprehension.
I think that's about it, for now. Sorry for taking so long to update this but it'sbeen busy and the longer I don't update it, the longer it takes to update (cause I keep experiencing more "content" if that makes sense ). I miss you all but am really having an amazing time here in Shizuoka, thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Week 3

Things have definitely been picking up since my last check-in. I still haven't located "my guy" but the more time we spend with the students the more apparent the curious ones become. So hopefully I'll be able to discern a student that I can develop a friendship with soon as we are almost near the halfway mark of our time and relationships in Japanese culture take a very long time to cultivate but they also last an extremely long time.

The students of BEST club have had quite a few events lately so that has been a huge help in getting some time with them and it relieves both sides of the stress of trying to create a meeting. It also allows the Japanese students to relax and be themselves with their friends. Spending time with Gaijin (GUY-jeen, or foreigners) is pretty tiring for the students as they try to communicate using the textbook english they learned at school or one of the classes they took. Also the students usually will compase an entire thought in their head in Japanese, translate it in their head and then deliver the message, so fir them it makes commincation a real exercise and eventually tiring. You can almost see the relief when they go back to speaking Japanese with thier friends so it's nice for them to have that option at these events and break up the "English Time".

So every Thursday we have "SPORTS" and basically it serves a similar purpose to ultimate frisbee for the ASU navs (which is to have fun and serve as an entry activity to the club). After SPORTS usually we will go get something to eat and then have "Creative Time", which is a different evening activity every week. The 1st week it was the trip to the mountaintop、and last week we were supposed to take a trip to the country to look at fireflies, but due to some complications with the transportation had to "settle" for setting off fireworks at the local beach.
Being from AZ where this is illegal, this was a huge treat for me, but probably just so-so for the rest of the club.

Anyways it gave me a good chance to talk to a few of the students as we just sat on the beach. I spent some time talking to a student named Toshi who is a sophomore at ShizDi (the local university) and we talked about some school, hometowns, and music. A lot of the Japanese really like American music so it provides a good conversation starter, Toshi is a fan of Muse, and Green Day (those are pretty popular american and british rock groups for the older folks). Really when talking to the students you make a lot of small talk because that is all they have learned so far, but hopefully the student becomes comfortable and breaks off script at some point. I also talked to a freshman named Vido who is studying economics at the university. Apperently he attend Elbert's (the mid term staff we are living with)
class regularly and understood a lot of English. We talked about baseball in America and Japan and living far from his hometown. Like a said a lot of small talk.

So after that we decided we were hungry so a smaller group of us rode to Gusto which is a late night restaurant similar to IHOP or Dennys。 It was another good chance to relate to students mostly by just making the effort to spend time with them.

Friday Kanako took us to Karaoke with a bunch of Japanese students. Karaoke is a little bit different than I guessed, its not a large room full of strangers with someone on a stage crooning some 80s song while the rest of us look on. Insted you get a small room with a booth and a large tv and so you and about 6 or 7 of your friends take turns singing songs. It was cool cause then your not singing for a room full of strangers but you ARE going to sing. you cant avoid it in that small a room. S o I went ahead and butchered some songs from the Beatles, Red Hot CHili Peppers, Toshi sang a Muse song with me,

and a couple others. We started at about 9p and finished at around 4am which is typical for a night of Karaoke.

That Saturday BEST had a BBQ at the beach where we ate Yakisoba (grilled noodles with vegetables and beef) and played some games. One of the neat aspects about the game portion of the BEST activities and even the SPORTS activities is that the guys make sure the girls are always included. So we played some dodgeball, had a wheelbarrow race, and a foot race. My team did pretty good at dodgeball and wheelbarrows but I and the rest of the americans got wasted in the foot race.

On Sunday we attended Joy Fellowship which is the local Christian church attended by most of the staff and a grand total of about a dozen other people. It was pretty small but the message was encouraging (he talked about the background people in Jesus life and how even they were part of God's plan) and I played along with the worship team on an instrument called a Cajon, which is kind of like a box with guitar cords and jingle bells inside.
Later that night we had the first weekly "American Night" meeting, which is basically a very quick worship service for our team and whatever students we can drag along. We ate dinner together, sang a couple songs, Cody read a verse and shared a thought, then we had a quick sharing time. The evening is mostly geared towards our team but the 2 students who we dragged into it seemed to like it. Last week we had M&M cookies and tomorrow we're supposed to try and make hamburgers and french fries.

On Monday we had our Bible Study on 1st Peter, and our meetings about general housekeeping stuff. Myself, Kathryn and Becky also had a meeting with Nagai-San to discuss curriculum for the Wednesday night english class we are taking over. Nagai-san gave us some good direction and really tried to explain to us that we need to start from square zero on every part of the Bible portion of the class as students have no experience whatsoever with the bible or jewish culture. He tried to explain that for years missionaries had been trying to reach the Japanese and had failed because they did not adjust to the Japanese culture and had instead tried to force the idea to a people that were far from understanding.

Tuesday Nagai-san and Brian Van Zante took our team hiking to Umegashima (Plum Island). It was about 2 hours away, but the drive was really beautiful
The countryside was full of small rivers and green mountains and fields of tea. We packed a lunch and headed out on the 1km hike which took about 20 minutes. At the end of trail is a 40-50 foot waterfall where we ate our lunch and just spent a little time reflecting.

Wednesday was the day of the English Class. SO we met together and ran through what was going on, I volunteered to lead this first class and then we'd rotate leaders from there. The class went pretty well we talked about the parable in Luke 12 with the rich man who stored up all his goods in bigger barns but then died soon afterwards and how then all his stuff did him no good. Only we didn't quite pull off the message. For the 1st class it went pretty well, there were 6 students there and everyone seemed to have fun, but even with Nagai-San's worning I think we still did not provide enough background information on the story and as a result the students ended up thinking that the rich man did a good job by building extra barns to store his extra crop, which then provided him with wealth to live and relax off of. So this next class our team will definitely try and be more deliberate about some of the activities and thought questions we use as we go over the latter half of that chapter about how "where your treasure is there your heart will be also" and not worrying about tomorrow as God takes care of birds and flowers and people are much more important to him than they are. So hopefully this week we can provide a much more focused and clearer message about the passage while still keeping it fun for the students. One of the students that has startted coming is actually one of the leaders of BEST club named Koturo, so he and I had a good chance to talk afterwards about school, mosquitoes and other things. I also helped him with some stuff for Thursdays creative time, a photo scavenger hunt, and tried to give him some ideas for the list of photos that people had to take (E.g. scene from a movie, spell out Japan with people, I cant believe we all fit in here etc..)

Thursday was SPORTS again (badminton) and for Creative Time we did the photo scavenger hunt. It went well and the students had a great time trying to get the americans to understand what they needed to do for the photos. Later we returned to JoyHouse and everybody presented their photos for the rest of the group. The results for most groups ranged from highly entertaining and creative to ......Ok .

Friday is our teams day off but we did split shifts babysitting one of the staffs baby boy, while he took Elbert, and Mandy to take the Japanese driving test which is an all day affair. Outside of that we just relaxed, I went to the beach and read some of Mere Christianity and tried to memorize more of 1st Peter.

Saturday our team had dinner at the house of the Leases. Mark and Yumiko Lease run the elementary and junior high ministry in the area and attend Joy fellowship so we just spent some quality time in fellowship.

Prayer requests

Health for the team
-the team has been passing around various colds and flu for a couple weeks now, so health would be a huge blessing

Clarity in locating my student

Dealing with homesickness
-the whole team has just started to talk about some of the things they miss from home and its really beginning to show that we miss our families.

Continued Harmony on the team
-So far our team has gotten along great but as we approach this 4th week people usually start to be less polite and a little more forward, so prayer for paitience and Godly attitudes toward each other.

I miss you all and want to thank you for your prayers, they are definitely being felt. I look forward to hearing from you soon, sorry about the length and dryness of this post hopefully in the future I'll be able to add more details.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Week 1 3/4

Hey its good to hear from you all in the comments and email, so keep that coming if you have time. It's been pretty slow since that first week. We're not yet comfortable enough with the students to call them up and make plans, and so we end up just spending time together as a team. Which is a good thing. Just not exactly why we're here. Things are looking like they are going to start picking up though, in fact tonight I and a couple of the female members of the team, Kathryn and Becky are going to sit in on one of the midterm staffs "english class". I put english class in quotes because while the idea is for the students attending to learn how to speak english it sounds like the way they are taught in this particular class is by reading bible stories that the midterm staffer (Aileen) has transcribed to a readable level. The scary thing about it is that Aileen will be leaving early next month and so for a couple weeks it's just going to be Kathryn and I running that show. So hopefully I'll learn alot tonight and be able to keep these kids interested enough in the class that they don't all bail when Aileen hands it over to the scrubs.

The other thing I'll be working on is trying to find "My Guy". That is the one or two guys that I will invest most of my time and effort this summer into creating a relationship with. There are a couple dozen guys so they advise us to just spend some time in prayer to find the guy that God leads you to and you can have the most impact on. I'm naturally impatient and wish that God would just throw a guy in my lap or give me an outright obvious sign of who he would like me to focus on so that will be a little difficult. The whole team is going through it together though soat least we have camaraderie.

Speaking of the team, every Monday morning (That's Sunday about noon to most of you folks) we get together and have a team bible study. This year they decided to go through 1st Peter and our leader here Brian VanZante has challenged us to memorize it before the end of the summer. I enjoy reading 1st Peter and looking at all the nuances of the letter but memorizing is a real weakness for me. I'm usually lucky if I can remember what I did yesterday much less a 13,000 word book. So if you're feeling particularly bored this summer you could memorize along at home and feel like your part of the action over here.

So the prayer things today would be:
Effectively lead the english class of 7 or 8 students that Aileen is handing over to Kathryn and myself, and be able to use it to also familiarize the students with Jesus.

That I would be able to locate the student that I could most effectivel minister to through a relationship.

and that I would be diligent about the memorizing of 1st Peter (if you have time).

Outside of that I guess a couple fun things

the exchange rate is pretty much 1 yen to one cent, so a meal usually costs about 600yen and its pretty easy to do the math from there.

Along with that a movie ticket cost 2000yen and no student discounts going on here either. Also movies here are about 2 months behind America, so the most popular movie at the theatres last week was 21 (about the MIT guy and blackjack) so theres a little bit of lag.

KFC here is a Christmas meal, and actually it sounds like a traditional present. So for Christmas to give your girlfriend KFC makes you basically a stud.

We did have a movie night here as a team and watched this movie called "Always- Sunset on Third Street" and it was pretty much the best movie I saw all year, but I can't seem to find it in the US, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Myself and the other 3 guys here are discovering that we know very little about cooking and have been making alot of Ramen, Cereal, and sandwiches, so if you have any easy quick recipes PLEASE email them to me.

I think thats about it, look forward to hearing from you and thanks for all your prayers.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Week 1

Sorry it took so long to get this thing up and truly rolling, things in Japan have just started to settle into the groove for the summer. Let me start at the begining with the flight.

The flight over wasn't as bad as I expected. It took just under 13 hrs, but the weird thing was that because we were chasing the sun, it never got dark. For the people in the plane it was something like a 36 hour day. It was hard to nap on the plane mostly due to lack of room. You could however watch movies until you passed out, so I tried that a couple times.

Thankfully when I and the rest of the people from the Sunland area arrived in Tokyo the SIJ team kept us moving so we could avoid jet lag for the most part. They immediately herded us to a train where we started our journey to the Olympic center where we would be staying. The Olympic center I believe was created for the Nagano Olympics a couple years back and has dorm like facilities and a couple classrooms. We slept in one person rooms a little bigger than a closet but overall the place was
amazing. It had its own convenience store, 3 restaurants and a whole bunch of sports areas. Mostly we just woke up early, headed to breakfast- let's talk about breakfast for a second. The Japanese have a very different idea of breakfast it seems. They go ahead and use lunch and dinner food for breakfast for the most part with no distinction. SO for my first breakfast in Japan it was Miso soup, spaghetti, Nato (fermented beans-I had to try it once) , and a whole lot of white rice. White rice is pretty much available at every meal. IT was different but not bad. typically after breakfast we would break into our teams for the previously assigned devotion of the day. This was awesome as it gave me some opportunity to learn more about my team and spend some time in the word together.

A quick rundown of the team-
Konoko is a young Japanese woman who travels between Shizuoka and Penn state recruiting people to come to minister in Japan. She always has an amazing attitude and even though she's very young she has that "wise beyond her years thing" going for her. She has acted as our primary liaison for the most part in Japan, and elps hold the Shiz BEST club together.
Mandy is what they call a "midtermer" in the ministry in Japan. which means she signed up for a 2 year term and for the most part is a fulltime in the ministy here. She is a great encourager, has a great sense of humor and is is actively seeking God while in Japan.
Elbert is the other midtermer in Shiz. He rarely runs out of energy, loves the Japanese people and culture and has been awesome showing us the ropes the first couple days. He did the SIJ thing a couple years ago and then finished up at Penn state and came back to minister more.
Thomas is from Oregon and would probably be considered the comic relief of the group. He sees things a little bit differently than everyone else and has a great attitude and optimism in every sitiuation.
Kevin and Cody are from Iowa state and went to high school together. They both shared a similar interest in all things Japan and so it seems natural that they would pick that as a summer mission. Kevin is a musician and plays an awesome guitar, Cody likes computers and both have been very quick to adapt to Japan.
Kathryn is from all over and previously served in Japan with her church. SHe also spent some time in the military so she often gets the team moving in the right direction by setting a great example.
Johanna is from Penn state and is the only extrovert in the group. She's going to be a teacher and already has that great teacher attitude where everything is fixable and new experiences are exciting.
Amanda is from Louisville and her father grew up in Japan. So it's been her goal for the last 2 years to come and minister to the people she has heard so much about. She is quick to laugh and very encouraging to the rest of the team. ]
Gaby is....well I don't know yet. Gaby just got out of school and will arrive at Shiz a little bit later.

So after devotions we would attend some orientation workshops helping us to adjust to the new country, what to expect ministry wise, and how to work as a good team. After a couple days together our team really clicked and so far has gotten along great. I think the most surprising thing from the orientation is much they stress patience in ministering to Japan. The Japanese people do not jump into life changing decisions quickly and really having not grown up in a "Christian" culture like the US have only a vague idea about the bible and Jesus, and for the most part that view is that the Bible is good literature and Jesus had some good insights for a fictional character. Mark told us all that we only have 2 months, and the most effective way to minister to the Japanese in those 2 months would be to love them, and show them a great example of Christian life. He said the the Japanese would not forget that and that is really all we have time for. Japanese culture and really Asian culture in general is constantly looking at the big picture and take life decisions very serious and take a very long time making them. For example one of the staff members here in Japan has been meeting with 3 or 4 guys in a bible discussion group for a few YEARS, and even though they faithfully keep coming back none have professed faith. They are very reluctant understandably and so our ministry will just be to shine a light on Jesus and the Bible to give them a picture of what Christians our. No small task.

Along with the orientation we also had some time to go to Shin-Juku (one of the burroughs in Tokyo) which is one of the busier down town areas and have dinner and get a look around. Konoko led the group on a quick tour of the area and through super busy train terminals. It was pretty amazing. She also took us to a shrine built to honor one of the previous emperors and is a huge forest looking area ion the middle of Tokyo where people come to pray.

After the orientation Nagai-San (one of the long term staff in Shiz) came and picked us up in an awesome older bus and took us to our new place. THe first night here we met the staff which consists of-

The Brians, Brian VanZante and Brian O'Donnell. Both have wives and kids and speak fluent Japanese. Brian O'Donnell did SIJ 4 years agoo or so and is noow back for a long term, and Brian VanZantehas been here for I believe over 4 years working with the students at the local unic\versity.
Nagai-san is the owner of the house where the guys in the team are staying. He was also the creator of the BEST club, the SIJ program and I beleive that's probably just scratching the surface of what he's done. He calls himself the last samurai and is a very strong Christian, he wakes up at 3am every morning to study a subject he's not yet mastered (currently its math) and keeps super busy throughout the day. He's done pretty much everything and been most everywhere, I would have to say Nagai-san is probably one of the most interesting men in the world.
Mark Rood is not part of the Shizuoka team but leads the SIJ program in Japan. He took all the "Summer Friends" (that's what they call SIJ participants like myself) through orientation and has been here in Japan for the last several years working in Tokyo.

This post was a lot longer than I initially intended, I guess I'll have tummarize better next time I'll end with a could of cool things,
This video was of the beach about a 5 min bike ride from the house that we're staying at. You can see most of the team in it and Ryosuke one of the Japanese students also staying at Joyhouse (the name of the place I'm staying) THe Ocean is very active and they told us not to go swimming for fear of riptides, but its an awesome place for quiet times.

THis video is of Shizuoka at night from a nearby mountaintop. A graduate BEST club member came back to visit so we went up there that night and just enjoyed the view. It was much better in person, that little camera doesnt really do it justice.

Real quick a couple of things that God has been showing me. I read through 2nd Corinthians 7 where Paul talks about how encouraging Titus was to the believers there and realized that that is really one of the main reasons I'm here. To encourage the staff here and revitalize them as they are pretty much on an island here by themselves. Also we went through the passage in John where he talks about the dying seed so I'm getting just a vague idea of what dying to yourself means.

A Couple things you could pray for
-Patience ministering to the students. There isn't going to be a whole rash of conversions this summer, in fact the possibilty of even one seemed pretty slim.
-Also patience with the language barrier, many of the students speak passable english and talking to them is doable but is very tiring.
-That Me and my team (my team and I :) ) will be able to be great examples of Christians and Christ's love and grace to the people here Japan at all times as they are watching us closely.
-That God would help me be more outgoing and approach the students aggressively, something I'm naturally comfortable doing.

I think that's it for now hopefully I'll be back soon to update in shorter and more frequent sessions.