Hello again from Japan! We had intended to update the blog every week, but that didn’t end up happening – sorry about that!
I can hardly believe we only have 8 days left here. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience (so far!), and we’ve been so welcomed and accepted by the people 🙂 Everyone is so friendly!! There have been two Japanese individuals in particular who are not part of the church and who have made us feel so welcome and have been eager to show us Japanese places and give us new experiences. The way that they’ve really opened their lives to us and also been interested and inquisitive when we talk about our faith has been surprising and nice. I’ve also felt very much inspired by a young Japanese woman in the church who seems to be always encouraging people, praying with people and showing real excitement for God’s word – this challenged me as it reminded me in part of how I used to be when I was younger, and I would like to return to some elements of that. The most prominent highlight of the time here so far though has been our hosts Peter and Renate (English and German) – they are so loving and easy to talk to, and have really gone out of their way to make us feel at home here. In their lifestyle too, they are such inspiring people whose love for God seems to shine through every part of their life and work. It’s been so wonderful staying with them.
Just over a week ago I fell ill and was bedridden for two days, and in considerable pain for about a week. Had some sort of intense stomach bug, which may have been related to the raw (still alive) shellfish that we’d dug up from the beach and eaten… During my time ‘horizontal’ I felt like I was being a burden to our hosts and not being helpful as I should. For a while I felt that I wasn’t fulfilling the purpose for which we came, and felt guilty about that. However, some of the time away from the activities provided abundant space for prayer, and I was able to take time to think in depth about many things which wouldn’t normally cross my mind. Through spending a great deal of this time trying to distract myself from feeling ill by praying for church members and church activities, I developed a deeper feeling of love for Hatazawa church (where we’ve been working) and its members. Ben preached a really good sermon at church on God’s strength in our weakness, from 2 Corinthians 4, which thoroughly encouraged me during this time.
Other difficulties for me have been my daily headaches, the language barrier, and how much I dislike green tea. I’ve tried and tried to make myself like it, especially as we’re given it everywhere we go, but still struggle. Also (even after recovering from my stomach bug thing) I’ve been feeling sick after Japanese meals – not great! Ah well…
It’s been wonderful to experience short-term mission work alongside Ben, being able to prepare sessions together for church meetings and being seen as partners in mission work. We had experienced this to a certain extent when we lived in Bolivia two years ago, but it was very different there since he had come as part of a larger team and we were working in different parts of the ministry (me with the girls and Ben with the boys). I think being here together has been helpful preparation for married life and for working together in future, even though we haven’t been here very long. Ben’s also far ahead of me in learning the language, though is still a little frustrated at not being able to converse in Japanese!
Our time ‘working’ here has not been one specific task throughout the whole of our time, but a variety of time with different church activities and services, other everyday tasks such as distributing church leaflets and weeding the garden, and spending time with local people. We’ve been shown around many interesting and fun places, and there’s been a very helpful work-rest balance for every day. This variety has made the experience extremely enjoyable, fulfilling and very much sustainable. It’s been nice that we can be involved with so many different aspects of church life, including services, cleaning, prayer groups, Bible study groups, Alpha courses, one-off events, English classes and more, and have been given more than adequate notice and preparation time for every element that we were expected to lead.
Things I think I’ll miss when we leave:
– heated toilet seats
– everyone wearing slippers in church
– friendly music in all the streets at 11.30am and 6pm
– Peter and Renate, our wonderful hosts
– lovely hot (but not horrible-hot) weather
Things I don’t expect to miss when we return to the UK:
– green tea
– language barrier
– rice for almost every meal
….But hey, still another week to go! Bring it on 🙂