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.