Day 0: God is a protector.
These past two weeks I had the opportunity to travel to Japan for a missions trip. The night before our flight, our team (Hokkaido) and team Aso met together to pray in preparation for ministry. 16 hours later we arrived in Chitose Airport in Hokkaido as we stepped out into the mission field. It was quite surreal. After months of prayer, fundraising, and baking numerous cookies, my team and I had finally arrived in the mission field. All through God’s protection.
After stepping foot outside of the airport, Osamu-sensei took us to the church (Airin Chapel). We were greeted by 20+ church members with a warm welcome and were invited to the rooms where we would be staying in for our time in Hokkaido.
Day 1: God is still.
Jetlag is quite a nuisance. 4am Devos as a result of jetlag, not so bad. After 5am it seemed like two of our members were also awakened by the spirit to read scripture. Our first meeting was at noon, so we decided to go for an early morning walk.
Stillness. As we walked, there was a stillness everywhere. There was a light breeze and a few bikers. Green. Everything was so green. Every 5 minutes, the train would pass by. Every 5 minutes. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this sort of stillness in a city. Cars are also very boxy.
After our two hours of wandering, we met Manabu-san and Masaru-san both of whom worked full time at the church as staff. We toured the church campus. It was incredible. There was a basketball court, indoor cafe, hall with a beautiful art design, etc. Everything was beautiful. The church was so blessed with an abundance of resources.
After the tour, I was warmly greeted by a few children, who saw my face and shouted, “MAIKERU”. Me (with my limited Japanese), just responded, “はい”. These children just finished school and were at church to attend the weekly “children’s prayer meeting”. At the prayer meeting, the children played games and prayed with the staff and a few of their parents.
Day 3: God’s hospitality.
We went grocery shopping and the college students prepared a spaghetti dinner for us. We love Hospitality in the form of pasta.
Day 4: God created.
We chopped firewood this morning and we were definitely humbled. However, God created trees as resources. For dinner, our team leader, Minako-san, cooked なべ物. God created that too and OH was it delicious (and nutritious)!
Wood is ok, food is cool, but God created humans. That evening, we attended the adult prayer meeting and over 50 people attended. It was such a God-glorifying event to witness so many adults come together and pray for the church, the people, and each individual prayer requests. We were prayed for as well. Surreal.
Day 5: English Cafe
Light Rain. We went to a nearby university, Hokusei-Gakuen University to promote an English Cafe that was going to take place in the evening of the same day at the church. As we arrived, it was just in time for lunch. Swarms of university students came to Shokudo to eat. To be honest, it was quite ovewhelming. We were tasked to strike conversations with the Japanese students and hand out flyers to the students. It definitely wasn’t an easy task and we came out to only finding three students who were willing to converse. One of the students, Genki, was one of the PK’s from the church, so he showed us around. We ended up playing board games with Osamu-sensei, Genki, and a few of his friends.
At the English Cafe, we hung out with 20+ people over good food, board games, and opportunities to share conversations with new people (most of them church members). Tasuku, one of my roommates, Masaru, and I had a short jam session at the end. It was a blessed time. It’s always a blessed time when there is music involved.
Day 6: Cherries
Early Saturday morning we traveled two hours north accompanied by some of the grandparents and grandchildren to a small farm where there was a cherry-picking festival happening. All I can say is that it was amazing. We went to a local scone cafe, and ate wild mushroom curry. WILD
Also, if you’ve made it thus far, you’ve probably realized that all of this almost doesn’t even sound like I was at a missions trip. More on that later.
After cherry-picking, we spend the afternoon hanging out with the kids again. A storm was passing by, but the kids didn’t seem to be disturbed by it because they took the bubbles we brought with us and started to run around with the lids opened. Children are interesting creatures.
Then the storm came.
Day 7: MEBIG
Sunday. Church service. Thankfully I was sitting next to Leighton, who translated everything for me. The sermon was encouraging despite me not understanding most of it. The pastor talked about how we can find joy even in the smallest things in the world because God created it.
For lunch, the kuru-kuru (middle school, high school students) prepared lunch to fundraise for their summer camps.
After lunch, we participated in the weekly Sunday MEBIG events. MEBIG is the children’s program designed to prepare all of the children in the church to shepherd them, pour into them, and to create a space for them to have fun in. MEBIG was split into three different age groups: LOVELY (toddlers), SPECIAL (elementary), and Kuru-Kuru (middle school-high school). At Kuru-Kuru, the students participated in worship, which involved lots of dancing (Yay for dancing for Jesus!), games, and a time of sharing of reflection on the week. After that, the students and staff made boba and “myungrang” korean hot dogs. Japanese people really like trends and it was neat that the church was able to provide the students with these kind of experiences.
In the evening, we traveled out another hour to watch the Hanabi (firework festival). Hundreds of people gathered together to watch. This picture sums it up.
Day 8: Sapporo
On Monday, we went to Sapporo, the capital of the Hokkaido region. We saw the skyline of Sapporo, visited a chocolate factory, had an amazing bowl of soup curry, visited the mall, won a squirtle plush, visited UNIQLO, and had some amazing sushi. We are literally being blessed. No Sapporo beer for us though because two of us aren’t 20 yet! Tomorrow we start teaching!
Day 9: Green
Tuesday. Everything is really green here. Today we went to the Rakuno Gakuen University. At the university, we were split into pairs (Leighton and I, Michelle and Geneva) to approach students and start a conversation with them in English. Just like last time, it wasn’t the easiest task. However, I believe God really showed us what it means to truly trust in His Sovereignty. Leighton and I ended up talking to three students who we got to know pretty well through various topics like their majors, their favorite tv shows, or even their favorite dog breeds.
Green. Green. Green.
On day 9, we also taught our first English lesson! In the beginning of class, only one student showed up! However, two more came along afterwards. Despite the lack of students in terms of numbers, we still made the most out of the time we were provided and taught the students English through games, dialogue practice, and asking them to ask us questions in English.
Day 10: Joy
The 10th day in Japan was quite interesting for me. We had only been here for a little over a week, but it seemed like we were starting to become a part of the family with all of the kids, parents, staff. It’s one thing to experience joy for yourself, however sharing that joy with other people is different. Children are joy.
Day 11: Blessings
Our last visit to the Hokusei Gakuen University. There were many blessings. Here’s a picture of one of them.
Day 12: Darts
For our final MEBIG English Camp, all the guys at end played darts together. For dinner, they prepared a lavish menu with many different options. It was おいしい! I probably almost cried, or something…
Day 13: Costco
So we went to Costco. After the trip to Costco, we came back to the church with (just enough) ingredients to prepare our meal for the farewell party the next day! Everyone loves Costco.
Chalk Art created by MEBIG x AACF
In the afternoon, the kids were just hanging around with us as their parents were in a meeting, so we took them to the konbini and Michelle treated everyone to an ice cream of their choice. Here is our haul :). Afterwards we played board games.
Day 14: The Farewell
Farewell. One of the hardest things to do. Our last day in Hokkaido. After service, we had lunch with all of the church members. The rest of the day went by too quickly. We brought over 1000 water balloons from the states and the church decided that we use all of them to have the largest water balloon fight in the world. We all got wet; even though Leighton and I were taking pictures :).
The Farewell Party. Before the party, we were asked the night before to prepare a worship set. We decided to sing two songs that meant a lot to us and also happened to have a Japanese translation (All I Have is Christ and Let Your Kingdom Come). Leading worship in English and Japanese was such a surreal experience. Through the challenges of language barriers between our team and the people of the church, we were not separated because of our shared faith in our Lord and Savior. The rest of the evening was filled with lots of good food (from Costco!), and fellowship. Towards the end of the night, we all started to sing “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever” among other worship songs in Nihonglish! At the end, we got pied with mashed potatoes! What a day!
Just like that, our time in Hokkaido had come to an end.
Day 15: Reflection in Tokyo
If I had to take one thing away from these past two weeks, it would be that God’s Sovereign plan is perfect. Before going on the trip, I had many doubts about whether I was capable or prepared. Fundraising was tough, I was overwhelmed with many burdens, and many relationships were difficult to maintain. However, I was reminded constantly of God’s grace in every aspect of my life. Even though I didn’t know Japanese, wasn’t completely mentally or spiritually prepared, God still used me in my weaknesses to bring more glory to His name and His kingdom.
God is working in Japan. The Airin Chapel is so blessed with so many resources, hard working staff, and children’s + their parents who love the Lord so much. However, these people lived in a country that is complete opposite of what they are called to live by in Christ. May we continue to pray for the continued faithfulness of the church and steadfastness in the assurance of the gospel for the people of the church and other Christians in Japan. Sure, my time in Japan has come to end, but the mission field doesn’t just end here. If God used a team like us from America (with all of our in-capabilities) to even bring a small light of joy to the people of Japan, why can’t God use us in our daily lives where ever we are?
Psalm 96:3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
We read through 1 Timothy + 2 Timothy throughout our devos in the morning and this particular section stood out to me.
2 Timothy 4:1-8 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season”
What is our purpose as followers of Christ on this Earth? Where is your mission field?
Brothers and Sisters, it has truly been a blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of a mission that’s larger than me, my team, or my organization, but is God’s mission in Japan as he calls my team and I to be vessels for the Gospel and ultimately to bring glory to God. I’m invariably grateful for God’s grace in my life and my hope is that the people in Japan would continue see the same loving, eternal Heavenly Father that we all need, but don’t deserve.