Leaving Montana for Japan on September 30th, 2013 happened quite quickly as I left at about 6:20am with the help of my parents at the airport. The first day of travel went quite smoothly overall. I recall that the first flight to Salt Lake City, UT was with a man who was on a business trip that did not much want to talk about anything. Somewhat dejected with the start of my mission trip I boarded the second flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. This trip was quite different as I sat next to a business man named Mike Horton who had done mission work to India for a year, was part of a ministry called (http://www.PursueGod.org/), and was very open about talking about Christianity. Also, a Catholic woman from Billings, Montana was sitting next to us when a conversation started. Both I and Mike Horton spoke about our life experiences and eventually spent a considerable amount of time showing and explaining to the woman next to us about what it means to be a Born Again Christian from the Bible. Needless to say, she was excited about learning, and said that she needed time to think about what was being said. She also stated that her daughter went to a Christian church that was different from her Catholic experience. Later in the Los Angeles airport I saw her on two occasions to which she was talking to people about her flight in an excited manner. Next, I exchanged some Dollars for Yen in the Los Angeles airport and waited for the flight to Tokyo. In this time I prayed about talking to some people while waiting. I went inside a McDonald's and carefully tried to offer to buy breakfast for about ten people to no avail. I finally went to another restaurant, and without any luck just decided to purchase the meal for a man standing behind me. He did not say anything. Later the man working behind the counter asked me why I purchased a meal for a stranger, but we could not understand each other very well as it appeared that his English understanding was mixed. Next I boarded the flight for Tokyo. This is when i first encountered many Japanese people. As I stood in line I thought that I was a towering giant! Upon arrival at the flight I was seated next to a woman who was a preacher's wife traveling with her husband back to the Philippines after attending a church related conference in California. Later I found out that his name was Ferdinand, an Independent Baptist Pastor, who gave me his information and told me that he would be praying for me about the trip. She then decided to switch seats with another man, so that she could sit next to her husband. The new man that came was also from the Philippines, spoke English well, worked in Las Vegas, and had worked in corrections in the Philippines for 15 years. Needless to say we spoke for a good 4-5 hours on that flight. This man was also a devout Catholic. I remember thinking that it was amazing that this man traveled to the USA to work for two years and was away from his family during this time. Sometimes as Americans we forget what some people around the world go through to provide for their families. The flight to Tokyo took about 11 hours. By the time I arrived it was October 1st at about 500pm. I quickly went through customs with no issue. I don't recall any metal scanners. I recall the sense of silence and peace when I arrived in Tokyo. Even though I was in a huge airport it appeared to be very quiet. I then called my host family the Arias to find out what to do next. I then boarded a bus to Kichiyogi (?) station.
This was the first image of Tokyo, Japan from out of the Limousine Airport Transport bus. It took about two hours from the airport to get to the station to meet the Arias. When on the bus I recall seeing much of Tokyo. Even though it was fairly late in the day it appeared that people were working late in the skyscrapers. I recall getting a sense of anxiety from the area. Also while driving I was able to look down at the highway below and see a single homeless man sleeping in cardboard. He would be the only real homeless person that I saw in Japan. Later I arrived at the station to meet Nobu Aria, who welcomed me warmly. He took me to his car to meet his wife and Katie. (My missionary contact) I recall that we spoke, but I was so tired that I do not remember much. Katie also told me that my English needed work!
I slept on a futon at the A's house for about three hours before I woke up and went outside the first day. The next three days would be disorienting as I experienced jet lag. Most of the time I would get up early, go to bed late, and not get much sleep. During these times I often went outside to pray or read. I think that the Arias thought that I was odd! So, the first day I ate breakfast with the A's. The family consisted of Nobu A, Mrs. A, Chorlie A, and Miyoko A.
The A's are very gracious and loving people. They also speak English fairly well. I don't know what I would have done without them. So, the first day Katie and I went to church to teach a English class to some small children and their mothers. I prepared a lesson on the names of God and was able to speak to them.
Needless to say, it was a nice break from working with Criminals back in Montana! You can't have a bad time working with small children. This is an intentional class that uses Christian concepts and English to reach local families in the area. Many of these families attend church because of outreaches like this. Next we saw some of the local area and eventually came back later for Wednesday night church/prayer. I was able to speak with an pray with Pastor E.
On this day again I would only sleep a few hours on the futon due to jet lag, but was surprisingly energetic. This energy I can only attribute to God's answered prayers of those supporting me on this trip. On this day I would be exposed to Metro Tokyo as well as the Tokyo train system around the time of rush hour. For a Montanan who does not usually take trains this was quite a learning experience. Literally thousands of people jam together in trains often touching each other shoulder to shoulder without saying a word. Most of these people were going to school or work, so they appeared to be focused.
After taking the trains we arrived at Seijo University ( http://www.seijo.ac.jp/en/index.html ) to meet Taku, who had worked with one of his old professors named Shinozuka to give Katie and I the ability to speak about American Culture and Christianity over the course of three lectures. Taku was my first Japanese friend that I met at the University of Montana friendship program about a year and a half ago. He largely influenced my impression of Japanese people. (What a task!)
We were able to pray before entering the classroom. As we arrived into the class I did not know what to expect from Japanese students. I found them to be very quiet and respectful. This class did not speak English well, so the professor did the translating while I spoke about American Culture and Christianity. I was able to address the five big questions as well as the Christian answers to them in class. These questions include: 1) Where do we come from? 2) Why is there evil/sin/suffering? 3) Is there any way out? Is there redemption in this life? 4) What is our purpose for living? 5) What happens after we die? The answers according to the Bible are as follows: 1) We were created by God in his image. 2) Mankind chose to disobey God, thereby introducing evil and suffering into the world. 3) Yes, through belief in Jesus Christ according with what the Bible teaches we may be ultimately saved from sins, evil, suffering. 4) Our purpose is to live according to how God intended us to live as found in the Holy Bible, and to follow Him. 5) We are either found to be saved by Jesus Christ's sacrifice for accepting His taking our place for our sins and reside with Him forever in a place the Bible calls Heaven, or be held responsible for our sins for eternity in a place the Bible calls hell. Either way we are held accountable for our decision. Katie then gave her testimony in Japanese to the students. I do not speak Japanese fluently, but I believe that her speech moved the students greatly. After the presentation the professor had some questions about Christianity including overpopulation, abortion, and some other topics of which I do not remember. The students in this class did not have many questions, but I could definitely sense a heavy sense of darkness lifted followed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God was at work. After the question session a student came up to me and told me that she wanted to learn more about Christianity and potentially come to Montana to study English. Katie connected with some students quite well from my observation.
After the class another professor came to meet us and showed us his brain monitoring device. He indicated that his machine monitored brain waves while people spoke their primary and secondary languages. He was studying brain patterns in relation to languages. We then met up with Taku and Megumi for lunch, met a University of Montana student studying there and left. On our way out we saw three girls sitting on a park bench. The middle girl caught my eye as she was dressed like an American, and it was evident that she liked R&B culture. I started a conversation with her which led to a lengthy talk about American Culture, Christianity, and life decisions. They asked about relationships of course. Katie was able to share some of the gospel with them and give them her church handout. Later one of the girls contacted Katie via the internet. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of them. We then headed to the Korean portion of Tokyo to attend a church that was hosting a conference with David Platt and Francis Chan.
We sat in the front row next to David Platt. Ok, so I am not a huge David Platt fan, but I know some of you are so that is why I am mentioning it. lol. Despite my stubbornness and lack of enthusiasm for the conference, it ended up being pretty good. David Platt also prayed over the mission trip and Katie's ministry, which was the highlight of the conference. (And no, this was not my confirmation for doing mission work in Japan!)
After the conference it was about 10:00pm in which case we went back home which was another two hours or so. Needless to say, it was a long day. On the way back on the train many people were getting off of work. Apparently in Japan it is typical for the salaryman (working man) to get off work at 10:00pm. I noticed that after people were getting off of work the trains were lively and talkative as opposed to the dead quiet of the morning rush to work. I got home and was determined to sleep, so I took out my air matress and set it up. I know, I know, that's cheating. While in Japan do like the Japanese do right? Ok well, a lot of Japanese have beds. Not everyone sleeps on a futon!
On this day we would essentially repeat the same routine of getting up early in the morning and boarding the trains to get to Seijo University before the last two lectures began in the morning. Katie had struggled all week long with whether to go to the lectures with me or go to the conference on this last day. Fortunately she decided to go to these two lectures. Upon arrival at Seijo University we met up with Taku and Megumi (Megumi also went to the UofM for a year to study).
We were able to again pray. We went to the first lecture with professor Shinozuka, who again translated what was being said followed by some more questions. This time it was a little easier as we knew what was coming. This class had about 30 students and they were able to write down the five big questions followed by the Christian answers. Katie was again able to give their testimony with the students watching intently. The response was decent for this class, but they had to go so that the next class could arrive.
The second class was a lot smaller, but it had a crucial factor: the students were fluent in English so no translator was necessary. This was perhaps our best class as we were able to freely communicate. Again, the students were able to write down the five big questions as well as the Christian answers to them. They were also able to ask a lot of questions. One student in the back I recall had a lot of questions about Abortion/Overpopulation and had likely never heard about the Christian response to those issues. Then, finally Katie gave her testimony. However, this time it was different. The professor went and sat down with the students and sat on the edge of his seat. The students were listening intently when I believe that the Holy Spirit really moved in that place as the intensity increased. I could see students moved by the speech, and it was evident that God was at work. I saw a girl tear up, and another girl in back said openly in front of all the students that she used to be Catholic and was away from God, but now she wanted to get back to know Him. Also, another student had questions about Christianity as her friend was apparently a Christian. This was an incredible and powerful moment in the mission trip and goes to show you that if you do not hold back with God, He will not hold back.
The professor, Taku, and student (to my left in the picture) then took Katie and I out to lunch in the teacher's cafeteria. We again discussed Japan, America, Christianity, and History. It was a great time. We then said our good-byes to the professor and spent some time with Taku. The professor later sent me an email stating that he was moved by his experience and wanted to have us come back in the future to talk again! After we left we went to Shinjuku to look around with Taku, spent some time talking with him, and eventually departed for the last time. (I was unable to meet with him the last week due to time conflicts.)
At this time Katie and I again went to the 'Multiply' conference to see Francis Chan speak. Again we were exhausted after a long day. After Francis Chan finished preaching he asked people in the audience to pray with someone next to them. At this time I met a Japanese man who spoke English, but was not a Christian, and did not know how to pray. I asked him if he knew what it meant to be a 'Born Again Christian' to which he said no. So afterward we went out into the parking lot and sat down for about 20-30 minutes while I explained the gospel from the bible to him. He appeared to be on the verge of believing, and informed me that he was doing a bible study on the book of John online with a friend from the USA. It was evident that God was working in his life. I gave him my name and we added each other on Facebook. Katie and I then ate and went back home on the trains for another long trip before finally arriving home. It was so late that when I arrived at the last train station no more buses were going. So I sat there for 30 minutes until I finally asked a Japanese person who said the buses were over. So, I ended up taking a taxi home. That was fun! Good day overall.
Now it was Saturday, so we had the day off essentially. Nobu Arai (host father) took Katie and I to see a park that had a lot of historical Japanese building types. We spent most of the day seeing places. We also met with Katie's old Korean room-mate.
This day was Sunday so we got up early to be involved in the events at T Baptist Church. First, I sat in on the AM Service in Japanese. Then, I went to the teenager's Sunday School and was able to basically introduce myself and say a short word. After that service we went out with the teenagers to hand out some flyers for the church in a local neighborhood apartment complex. We then ate lunch at church. In Japan it appears that church is quite an all-day project where people spend a lot of time together. IMAGINE THAT?
missionary ray and Pastor E
After church we biked around town and saw some places before the day ended.
This would be the end of Week 1. Week 2 will be in the next post entry.