“I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” Psalm 73: 28
I just got back from Tokyo. I posted a lot about the trip on social media. I was a bit afraid people would be thinking, “You’re on a mission’s trip, but you’re on social media so much! How does that work?” Basically, in Tokyo it does. The kind of work my team was doing was not exactly what you think of when you think “missions trip”. My old church in California used to go to Mexico for a missions trip, built a house, go spread love at the orphanage and pass out food at the neighborhood dear the dump. Those are amazing things and I’m so proud of my church for doing that, but that is not what I did at all here in Tokyo…
It was so neat to see how God used my skill sets here in Tokyo. The main goal we had as a group partnered with Tokyo Baptist Church Youth Group was to get kids our age to come to our “Let’s Be Friends Café!” Basically, this is a place where Japanese students learning English can come and just talk to us and practice their English and they get a free doughnut. If church, or the Bible, or God came up, we politely discussed it with them and tied to plant some seeds. Then of course, at the end of the night, we followed each other on social media. Then, as we posted about our trip the rest of the week, we could connect with our new friends and plan follow up meetings and have even more fruitful conversations. (God can even use social media for good guys).
In order to get people into Krispy Kreme where we were having the café, my friends and I had to pass out flyers the morning and afternoon before the café started. This was very difficult. First, some schools tell their kids not to take flyers from people at all, so that was our first hurdle. Another one was the heat. I know many of us got dehydrated standing in that blistering Tokyo sun. It was also disheartening to have people pass you by and pretend to not even notice your existence, but really, we all do that when weird people try to give you a flyer.
Passing out flyers was emotionally draining. Smiling for hours and hours zapped me dry. Praying constantly for the people you see on the streets can drain your emotional energy out of you quickly. But I did try my best to do it for the Lord, and in the Lord. He did give me strength. He taught me a lot by having me constantly praying and telling me what people needed to be prayed for. We really connected in a special way by trying to reach out silently for others. The Japanese people are stoic anyway. They keep to themselves, like order, and don’t go out of their way for strange things. So I needed to play by their rules in a way. One of the best ways I could reach out for them was to simply just pray for them! I really learned of the power of prayer on this trip. It draws you closer to God, and to people. It’s how I can love others when they don’t want me to love them, like when they pretend I’m not there when I hand them a flyer. Love is draining, but God’s love never will fail like mine.
I do not have a lot of emotional energy to hand out to my friends, let alone strangers. But you know what? God knows that, so he gave me the strength! I am also not afraid to talk about my struggles with anxiety on my blog. I was really worried that I would have a panic attack if I was pushed too far when people forget I am an introvert even though I’m loud. And as I did have a pretty bad panic attack alone in the hotel room, God taught me through it, and he gave me the strength to push back my anxiety and not let it control me when I needed to do my work.
I honestly knew that I was going into this trip with the ability to accomplish less then everyone else on my team. I have pretty bad knees from my years in gymnastics, which often caused trouble for me when I want to walk long distance. In Shibuya, we walked everywhere. I was taping my knees every day and leaning on the rail every stairway I went down.
“I’ll take the escalator guys, you go on ahead!”
I had a hard time just walking. Enter in this situation: God …At the end of the week, I didn’t need any tape and I was running down the stairs! That was my weakness – but also a place where I knew God could work with me. In the end, I really felt confident in the work I was doing, physically and emotionally. I promise everyone here and now, that God can use weakness and turn it into strength. He carried me through my weakness to do more then just survive, we got to go far and beyond together trying to find new brothers and sisters.
I got to meet so many nice people, students my age. They would come from school in their uniforms to Krispy Kreme to just hang out and talk with our team! We asked many of them if they go to church or not. They replied that they do, but it’s boring, and they don’t really believe in God. Church is just tradition. One girl said that she was of the Shinto religion, but she didn’t worship or have the dedication towards it the same way Christians are. Again, it’s more tradition then a real religion to many. We went to visit a large Shinto shrine and a Buddhist Temple. Both were amazingly beautiful. People would come to the temple and Shrine to pray, bowing twice, clapping twice, then bowing again. This is the same formula I’ve seen when bowing to a shrine in a dojo I trained at once. I can’t tell you where people’s hearts are, I can only ask my Sensei what’s going on and make conclusions on what other people tell me and what I see. I see the hope people have and the longing for a higher power, or spiritual force to look upon them with gladness and give them peace and prosperity. I know that every human feel that way no matter what kind of higher power exists. That is a longing that connects all humans together, but I’ve only seen one man who has gone farther then all the others to reach down to me and show me the love I crave. Jesus is a personal God. He wants to have a personal relationship with me. I wish I could have explained that concept to more people while I was traveling, because I want people to know how much they are loved. But again, most of what I could do was just pray for people. I really think part of the reason I was called to Tokyo was to just pray for it.
While I was in Japan, the holy sprit also led me to proclaim my love for him. It all started in the ramen shop. We had come out from the rain, everyone was soaking wet. It was so wonderful to have a warm bowel of ramen (I had clams in mine XD) while I was drying. Our Sensei was talking about how large the traditional Japanese bath was downstairs. Then it hit me, this was my chance to get baptized! I hadn’t been baptized before simply because – I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t ever felt like I went to a church that I felt apart of and I was very bitter about moving away from my friends when my sisters got baptized together in the Hawaiian ocean. But here and now, I was ready to show Japan that I love God, and I was working to show them how much he loved them! I had been asking God months before, if you want me to get baptized in Japan please make it work. I didn’t want to plan or even think about it until I knew it was God prompting me to take the step. Sitting in that ramen shop, my Sensei was so surprised, but so excited to do it. We all ran home after that, goggled how to baptize someone, then took my camera and ran down to the bath. Then I was baptized!
I took the video and just sent it with no context to my parents. “Surprise! I was baptized in a Japanese bath tub!” I knew my dad would get a kick out of that, but honestly, it was such a special time for me. God made everything perfect and simple, just me and my close friends in a small steamy room. There are many different ethnicities in our group, so it was wonderful to have my Sensei pray in Japanese and my friend pray in Pilipino.
Something that really struck me on my trip was the language. Not the Japanese language but language in general. I could not understand most of what was being said. There were words and sounds that had symbolic meaning behind them that mean something to someone else. The same principle goes for the English I speak. It really stood out to me how amazing language really is, that our mouths and brains can convey such complex ideas through just a few sounds! I felt so proud to have the skill of speech and writing. I felt like that was a sign that I was living out my true potential as a human being that God created me to be. With my mouth, I can love others, and I can proclaim how great God is in any combination of sounds I want! (This especially struck me when we would sing one praise song in English, then again in Japanese, or my friends post on social media in English then again in Japanese.)
The Japanese have a fashion that I used to have. They’re classy. Its wonderful. People dress up when they go out. They look sharp, clean, and collected. My friends and I looked like we had thrown on rags compared to them. Although half f my team was Asian, you could tell they were American just by what they were wearing.
The weird thing was that it was hot, and on other days it was raining cats and dogs. Going under the bridges in Shibuya, our umbrellas wanted to flip inside out. I had two people under my umbrella and I had to partial close it on the three of us when we crossed under the bridges. We called this the “friendship ship” as the three of us enjoyed not being wet, and each other’s body heat as the rain brought chill with every drip. Anyway, my point is that it was uncomfortable being so hot, and so wet. However, the Japanese do not sacrifice looking wonderful for some stupid weather. Not only were we baggy Americans, we were Hawaiian, and the Hawaiian fashion style is “Beach-I don’t care”. We stuck out so much.
This leads into the Gaijin card! Gaijin means foreigner. Often, we would do things that we didn’t realize were not quite socially acceptable so we would all look at each other and point whispering, “Baka Gaijin!” (Stupid foreigner) This happened many times each day. My mother was so glad I learned how to say, “You’re an Idiot” in Japanese. But often it felt acceptable. You don’t know how weird my friends are… If your reading this, you know how much I love you.
I think my favorite memory of Japan was after church on Sunday night. We had just come from a post service pizza party. I was dying for some American food so I was very comforted by my friends, new friends, and that cheesy goodness. I could be as loud as I wanted, unlike on the train, and I could be free to be as gaijin as I wanted. Afterwards, my friends and two of the kids from the church decided to go to karaoke! My one friend had been asking jokingly all week to take her to the karaoke place in Shibuya. I wanted to of course, but I didn’t know how to buy things well enough yet to buy some karaoke. But we were with kids who lived in Japan and spoke the language! We bought a little room and got the whole night free after we paid for two hours. We got free drinks, melon soda and strange colored substances as well.
My Japanese friends sang beautiful Japanese songs. They’re both also in a band so it was really funny to hear how wonderful they sounded up against how terrible we sounded! My Pilipino friend sang a song in Pilipino and a K-pop song, another friend sang that famous Italian love song, then I sang songs from musicals (I hit every note in On my own for the first time!) and the boys sang the Killers.
The last song we sang together was “I’ll make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. Then we stepped outside and saw how heavily it was raining. This was at about 10:00. My Japanese friends ran to the train station, and we ran the other direction. Problem was that I wore my flip flops, and I’m a terrible runner. My friends all ran ahead of me and I walked in the rain slowly soaking. My glasses were of no use without windshield wipers, and my flip flops were going to fall off my feet in the stream running down the sidewalk from the rain. I couldn’t believe I was running/walking barefoot down the streets of Tokyo at night. I was alone all, except for my friend ahead who was jumping over short poles (about up to your waist in height) in the middle of the sidewalk. Then, he missed the pole and kind of hurt himself in a not so fun area. So then we walked together letting the rain fall down our faces to the hotel. I was so wet, it was like I had jumped into a swimming pool, but goodness me, what a memory! That’s one I’ll tell my children in a dramatic way.
In the airport on the way back, I had some downtime. So I watched Durarara. I stopped it many times to show my friends that we had been in the same place the anime was showing. They took pictures of my computer and laughed and laughed. When we went to Ikebukuro, I had been telling my friends, “I want to find a yellow scarf…” We looked, but no luck. Still, watch Durarara because the way they draw the city is so accurate!
If you go to Japan, all the shopping is in Harajuku. Shibuya has Tokyo Baptist Church, the greatest church I’ve seen, and Ikebukuro has Animate, the Anime store that made me have a panic attack.
If you have any questions, even random questions that may seam weird, I’d love to discuss with you! I’m on a lot of different social media.
Goodbye for now Tokyo, I will be back! Love,