So I was just doing some work on my blog page, and came across this post that never published! this is from when I went on a two-week missions trip in July/August this year. I haven’t edited anything so it’s exactly like I wrote it right when I got back. Enjoy!
Konichiwa! I’m home! I know this is a bit late, we got home on August 10th, but so much has happened between now and then. But that’s another post. Here’s a report on the trip… well, as much as I could fit into one post.
before I begin I would like to quickly state that the love, pain, joy, and exponential growth that I experienced on this trip can not be contained in a letter. The feelings that were and are in my heart are impossible to explain. I can’t convey the amount of emotion and connection that I felt in Japan. I want to express my deep gratitude for all who prayed for me and financially supported me. God made it plainly clear that He wanted me on this mission.
On to the report…
We left Wichita Kansas on July 25th and arrived in Tokyo (after driving for nearly eleven hours to Chicago and catching our connecting flight in Taiwan) on July 26th. The flight to Taiwan was fifteen hours long, and the flight to Japan was three and a half. I did discover that flying is not my favorite way to travel, I got very nervous during takeoff and landing, but the pilots did their jobs very well, and your prayers for safe travels were greatly appreciated!
After landing in Japan, I didn’t believe I was actually in Japan. Even after running to Mayu and giving her a huge hug, I couldn’t believe it was real. That day we took a two-hour train ride to the Meguro-Ku district at the heart of Tokyo. This is where Mayuko’s family house and art studio, komorebi studio, which we affectionately called “K-studio” resides. We arrived safely, and I experienced no jet-lag. Many of the other team members either had trouble going to sleep or woke up very early, but I was blessed with a blissful night of sleep. Jet lag returning home was very bad so I more than made up for it!
Within the first week of the trip, we learned many things about the Japanese culture and way of life, as well as volunteered every morning to the Tokyo Baptist Church VBS. VBS was so much fun! The theme was “In The Wild”! The worship songs were in English, but anytime someone was speaking on stage to all the children there would be a translator. We were split into Japanese speaking groups and English speaking groups but partook in all the same activities. I led an English speaking group of preschoolers and, though it was quite challenging at times, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was sometimes difficult to get them to speak and engage in the lesson or game, but one of my kids, a five-year-old girl named Zuri, accepted Christ on day four! After we prayed together I asked her how she felt. She gave the most genuine smile and said: “I’m just so happy”. Her attitude and mannerisms spoke to her overflowing joy. And just for that, the whole trip was worth it. Over twenty kids came to Christ that week!
A few days into the trip Mayuko’s mother, Humiko, wanted to make dinner for the team and invited us over. A few of the Shono’s family friends joined us as well as some of Mayuko’s personal friends. We got to show them some of our VBS dances and some fun songs from camp and they were so happy to join us! Later that night I played guitar with Mayu’s dad and we lead some worship songs. The friends and family were so happy to join in with the music, even if they weren’t Christian. Later into the evening, Shawn (our team leader) showed them our camp video from 2018 and began to share his testimony. After sharing how God saved his life and called him to the ministry he presented all of Mayu’s friends and family with the Extreme Kansas Camp t-shirts. He explained that our theme this year was “wilderness”. The shirts had “wilderness written in Japanese under a cut-out of Mount Fuji. He explained that we learned how Jesus experienced times of “wilderness”, just like us. I then felt the spirit pulling at my heart. Telling me to share my testimony. I asked Shawn if I should share my wilderness experience.
I stood up and began to share. Slowly, so that Mayu could translate. I shared how I struggled with wanting to be accepted. I share about how I used to feel like no one wanted me, that I had no friends, and that I was alone. I shared how much I struggled with self-image and trusting God’s plan for my life. I explained how after I gave everything I was to God, that my problems melted away. God took care of me. I encouraged them not to seek satisfaction in earthly things, but to always look to God for comfort.
Personally, I didn’t think I did that good a job at sharing everything I wanted to say. However, when we listen to the spirits call and are obedient to God, things will work. You can’t mess up God’s plan. One of Mayu’s friends burst into tears. This is a big deal since Japan is a very reserved country. No one shows emotion. She cried, and Mayu held her. I ran to sit next to her and hold her hand. She and Mayu talked for a while in Japanese. Mayu then asked Shawn if he could pray for her. We gathered around her, even Mayu’s non-christian friends joined us in prayer. Mayu’s friend struggled with the same things I did, and she thought she was the only one.
I laid in bed that night, exhausted, thinking to myself… What if I had ignores that tug on my heart? What if I had brushed off that call to share? But I didn’t ignore it, and I do believe that a seed was planted in that girl’s heart that night. God works in bigger ways than we will ever, or can ever understand. Everything that happened that night was perfectly planned and timed. God’s timing is perfect.
It was an indescribable experience to get to meet Mayu’s friends and join them in worship to God. The next day we got ready for VBS and prayed that God would continue to move in these kid’s lives. And that God would give us the energy we needed to keep up with them!
Mayuko took us sightseeing sometimes after VBS. We saw the famous Shibuya crossing and went shopping in some of the biggest stores I’ve ever seen! Japan is very good at using space efficiently. Car garages are all underneath houses or built almost like a basement, but not many people drive because it’s usually easier, faster, and cheaper just to take a bus or train. All of the buildings are super tall and thin. Most houses and apartments would have a garden area, either just outside or on a balcony, but never big enough to even need a mower or high maintenance.
The day we finished VBS we left Tokyo and made our nearly four hour trip to Lake Yamanaka at the base of Mount Fuji. We arrived at night and, after eating at Denny’s, went straight to our cabin and to sleep. The next day, for me, was spent for personal restoration. We were all exhausted from VBS so we spent the day resting and practicing the presence of God as we recovered. Later in the day, I went with a few other team members to swim in the lake. I guess I hadn’t realized that we were literally right next to Mount Fuji because after swimming for a little while I looked to my right and nearly screamed. A thin outline of the biggest and most beautiful mountain I had ever seen in my life jumped out straight at me! I didn’t realize how big it would be! And we were several miles away! It became part of the team’s morning routine to see the mountain with the sunrise.
Our second day at the Yamanaka Chalet was spent hiking up Mount Ohira, a great Mountain to view Mount Fuji from! The hike was challenging, physically, and emotionally, but we all made it to the top and celebrated by drinking a lot of water and eating some rice balls Mayu had made for us the night before.
Our last day at the Chalet was a sad one for me. I adored the beauty of Mount Fuji, and it pained me to leave. Leaving Yamanaka is what made me start to think about when we would be leaving Japan. The end of the trip was coming into view and I wasn’t ready.
We arrived safely back in Tokyo and rested to prepare for our next activity. The next day we took a roughly two-hour commute to a lovely beach area on the shore of Japan. It was a wonderfully hot day, and you could see Mount Fuji from the beach! This warmed my heart. We enjoyed a meal together before playing in the cool waters and then gathering together to witness the baptism of Yoshi and Yoriko Shono. Mayu’s father and sister. I spent a lot of time with Mayu’s sister at camp back in 2017, and I was honored to witness her baptism.
After the beach, I could feel the trip coming to an end. I wasn’t prepared for the heartache that hit me the night before we left. We threw somewhat of a “goodbye party” to see Mayu’s friends and family one last time. It was a wonderful blur of joy, sadness, and love. We prayed together, ate together, laughed together, cried together, and said goodbye to one another.
The next day Mayu traveled with us to the airport, and we said goodbye.
I struggled a lot on the trip. I had a mental breakdown before we even took off on our first flight leaving Chicago. I was so scared to fly for fifteen hours! I dealt with near-constant motion sickness and nearly passing out a few times and never knowing why or what to do to feel better. I struggled with energy levels and containing my emotions. I struggled to understand God’s plan sometimes but found comfort in trusting him. I’m sharing my struggles because I would do it all again. In a heartbeat, I would get back on a plane and go to Japan again.
This is where I am going to ask for more prayer. I know that that wasn’t my last time in Japan. I know that I’ll go back, but I don’t know when, why, or how. I need prayer for patience as I steward this dream I have received from God. I need prayer to remember that God is in control, and will bring the opportunity when the time is right. Please pray that I can be sensitive to the spirit and I do my absolute best to go where He leads when He leads.
Thank you, again, to anyone and everyone who prayed for me and financially supported me. You have no idea how thankful I am, and I won’t ever be able to explain it to you. Thank you for your continued support, and may God bless you.
No matter where you are in the world, never forget to Live Differently.