Mission-Hearted

We’ve been back in America for three months now. Much has happened in that time. Many decisions have been made that bring us closer to Japan and prepare us for ministry there.

Yet it worried me how quickly we fell back into the day to day “American Dream” mentality when we got home. We were going through life with the Mission in mind, but not always in heart. My heart still longed for that little house with a white picket fence where I could sip sweet tea on my front porch and read books. There may be a time in my life where I’ll be able to live in such a way, but as for now, that is not what we have been called to.

Life in Japan will be very different from my Southern Living dream of comfort, ease, and lemonade. But God has been reopening my eyes to His Mission; to why I’m here. There’s too much at stake. There are too many lost people for me to sit back as if I’m already in Heaven. There’s a war to be a won and I’ve only been given a short time here on earth to do my part to help win it. I cannot justify such dreams of comfort and ease now that I’ve been reminded of all the lost in this world. All those who don’t know that they’re loved, who have never heard that they were made with a beautiful purpose, who are unaware of a beautiful Savior that can break chains, bring healing and bless them with unspeakable joy.

It’s actually kind of sad. I’ve been to third world countries, I’ve seen poverty first hand. Yet how quickly I forget. I needed to see first hand the of the toll of the spiritual poverty that wreaks havoc in Japan.  It’s not as obvious to the eye, but the heart can see that it is undeniable.

So as we prepare for our departure, though it seems a lifetime away, we will be diligent. We won’t lose heart. We will be mission minded as well as let the mission live in our hearts.

In preparation we will study the Word, we will study Japanese and we will live as if we’re already there. The time we have in Bradenton/Sarasota is just as vital as the time we will spend in Japan. There is brokenness running rampant in our very neighborhood. There’s so much to be done if only we’d open our eyes and hearts to see.

Lord help us see. And help us love. Help us love deeply those who washed their hands of “love” long ago. Help us show them Your love and the restoring indescribable difference it makes on the souls of man.

Help us love as You love.       -K

Hello from China :)

One flight down- two more to go! Our next one is 16 hours, we’re hoping we’ll be able to sleep on that one.  Matt and I don’t really have that “fall asleep anywhere” knack. But we’re hoping that it’ll kick in just this once. Well we’ve got about 5 and a half hours until our next flight- so I’ll post some pictures.

Below is a picture Matt took just moments ago when we landed in China. He said it still doesn’t count as being in China because we’re not leaving the airport. (Totally counts).

Now rewinding back to the last few days in Japan:

Below is a picture I took as we were exploring Kyoto. It summed up Japan for me- here’s this little old wooden building and they built this shiny modern building around it. Japan, at least the part we saw, is an interesting mix of old and new.

 

Below are some more pictures of our adventure in Nara 🙂

Well it’s taking about 10 minutes per picture, so we’ll post some more later!

Sayonara Japan, また会うまで

Our last three days in Japan went by far too quickly! We spent a day riding bikes around Kyoto and exploring the area. The 5 story Bookstore downtown was AMAZING and inspired me to try harder to learn Japanese so I can someday read those books! (They had about an 8 foot section of books in English).

Then the next day was by far my favorite! We managed to figure out the train system to get about 45 minutes north to meet with a missionary who has lived in Japan with his family for 20 years! We got to know each other over Green Tea Lattes and Coffee. His stories were inspiring and convicting. His advice was challenging and encouraging. We definitely found a kindred spirit in Japan!

He shared with us some of the different ways of getting to Japan- with an organization like the one he is with (Converge), verses being a “tent maker” missionary and getting a job in the country. There are positives and negatives to both.

Then afterwards we had a very sobering lunch at Subway (we thought we were doing pretty well with Japanese until we had to make 45684756 decisions about a sandwich in Japanese). We’ve got a lot to learn. (Rephrase- Matt has to brush up and I have to learn more than the 27 words I learned in Archer’s Japanese alphabet book!).

We then hopped on a train to Nara where we walked around the beautiful deer park! They were everywhere! I loved them 🙂

It was a refreshing break from the city life of Kyoto to spend time in the hills and mountains of Nara out in the fresh air. Since our trip to Nara we’ve been letting all of this new information sink in and “counting the costs” before we build in either America or Japan. We’re so grateful to have had the chance to come to Japan and see firsthand what God is doing over here and what the needs are. We appreciate every one of you for helping us to get here and even though this trip was short, it was so valuable to us and we’re beyond grateful! I’m not sure how the wifi will be in China (8 hour layover), but we may post from there too with some more pictures of our travels 🙂

Prayer & Ramen

 

こんにちは! Above is a really cool picture I found by some missionaries in Tokyo. They did a great job laying out The State of Missions in Japan and I really wanted to share it here! Below is the link to the pin, they get every bit of creative credit on that one!  🙂 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/540502392766342501/

On to our journey here- we’ve already found some favorite places, the grocery store (located in a giant mall), and made a few awkward attempts to communicate in Japanese. (I feel like my awkwardness is magnified times 10 here). But it’s fun! We’ve also walked more in the past 2 and a half days than I have in such a long time. DID I MENTION, The Ramen Street. OH MAN. It’s got like 10 different Ramen Shops, all a different type of Ramen from a different area of Japan. I have never had such Heavenly goodness  before and can now never go back to those 99 cent packaged Ramen imitators in America ever again! Oh my goodness.

Jetlag has given me a couple of opportunities to spend time with God in the quiet of 2 am. At first it was frustrating to be awake in the middle of the night but I’ve come to savor these quiet moments alone with God. Before we left I was reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and we’ve kind of taken him along on our journey so to speak. I brought a few of  his other books and was listening to some of his sermons last night. I love how God works. The things Tozer has been preaching on seemed to be unrelated to our journey here, but the more I think about who God is and who I am in the context of some ideas presented by Tozer, the more I feel I’m able to adapt to life in Japan and love the Japanese people even more. It’s amazing how at home we’re beginning to feel here even after 2 days. (Though of course we miss our little boy more than anything)!

We’re still spending quite a bit of time praying, we’ve done some prayer walks and randomly pray as we’re out and about and see the need (a perk to no one really speaking your language is you can just walk along praying out loud and they just assume we’re in conversation only with one another!). It’s kind of weird for me because most Mission Trips I’ve been on were service oriented and we were constantly working and serving the people. It’s been a little hard for me to adjust to our Vision Trip, I keep thinking that I’m not doing enough, but I’ve been reminded of the power of prayer, that just because I may not be actively serving a certain group of people, I can still make an impact. I kind of had the notion that we would set foot off the plane and immediately know if we were to pack up and move to Japan or never return after this visit. Of course God doesn’t work like that. So we pray. And we listen. And we explore and listen some more. And take a ton of pictures… and of course, eat Ramen.

-K

Our First Friend

Hello all, this is Matthew posting from Japan! We’re finally here! After a long flight and using my super rusty Japanese skills to find out where we needed to go, we are settled in at our hostel. Despite having arrived around 8pm Japan time, and going to sleep not long after, my body woke me up at 2:30 am. So there I sat for 4 hours, waiting for the sun and Kristen to get up. But, I was able to use the time to refresh some key phrases in Japanese.

As for our first day here, I have to admit it was a little over whelming. Right off the plane we were hustled through customs by a small army of employees; pointing, typing, and directing. A short whirlwind later and we had arrived, officially in Japan. Crowds and colorful posters abounded as Kristen and I tried very unsuccessfully to find a place where we could stand out of the way and figure out what were doing. After some searching, and a couple of failed attempts, we managed to buy our train tickets. (Which then lead to a fun game of ‘watch the foreigners try to figure out how to use the automatic ticket gates’.) Once through the gates and on, our best guess of, the correct train we found that it was mostly full and there were not seats left next to each other. So Kristen and I spent the hour train ride sitting next to strangers on the train.

Now to preface the next section, from what we’ve learned of the culture in Japan, they are a very ethnocentric people. Often, outsiders or foreigners are treated, not with hostility, but with and general disregard or understanding that they don’t quite belong. From the start we’ve gone in with an understanding that building relationships with Japanese people would be difficult and they may never quite accept an outsider on a deeper level. I was determined not to let that, or my fear of embracing my self by speaking terrible Japanese, stop us from trying. So when I found myself on an hour train ride sitting next to a young Japanese girl, I figured this would be a good a time as any to start. So after I finally felt confident I could say ‘Do you speak English?’ in Japanese, I turned to ask her just in time to see her put her headphones in and close her eyes to go to sleep. Well, that was a good try.

Fortunately, I was given a second chance when, after returning from the rest room, the young lady asked me in English if the sun was bothering me as she offered to pull the curtains shut. Since she seemed to have a good understanding of English I chanced a conversation by telling her I actually enjoyed the view because this was my first day in Japan. At this her eyes brighten and she began to ask me questions about our trip. Once we had finished some recommendations she had for us we moved on to backgrounds and differences between Americans and Japanese; including politics, English classes in Japan, and the embracing lack of perspective that Americans often exhibit. (Which she agreed with haha.) She even helped me brush up on my Japanese a little. All in all, it was a great conversation, better than I’ve had with many Americans. But most importantly, God showed me that no one is beyond His reach. For all the fear we have of being outsiders and not being accepted, of failing to build meaningful relationships, or of not knowing the language well enough, God has reminded me that He is greater. What’s more, the more adversity or greater the challenge, the more we get to see His mighty power at work. If this mission field was an easy one, what would we need God for? No, this is the perfect place for God to show Himself, so that no one can question whether it was Him or not. Only He is capable of breaching that gap and reaching out to his children in Japan, and in His unending grace He has allowed us to be a part of what He will accomplish.

As for the girl on the train, I never even got her name, but I will always remember her as the first friend we made in Japan, and not the last.

And continues….

“You go where you’re sent and stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got until you’re done.” -Jill Briscoe

I got to hear Jill speak at a conference I went to recently with some of my Bethel family. I had never heard of her before but she quickly became my favorite speakers. She’s a British woman who I’d venture to say is in her mid 80’s. The above quote is one she gave at the conference. I had forgotten that the IF conference had given us little card reminders from our weekend. I found this card yesterday as I cleaned out my purse for the trip, it the was perfect timing and I put it right with my passport in my snazzy passport holder that Chelsea got me.

I’ve read it a couple of times already and I have to say I find such comfort in her frank and to-the-point words. Especially coming from a woman who has spent so many years devoted to Christ. Here’s this woman in her 80’s still traveling the world, diligently going where she’s sent and doing what she is called to do.

Inspiring. Truly. Godly advice and encouragement seems to be so much more impactful when it comes from the lips of someone who is producing fruit. Who is living it in an undeniable way. So as we sit here, waiting to board our third and final flight that will bring us to our destination, I can’t help but hope that our little family is just as devoted to God and willing to go where we’re sent for the rest of our lives, not just this one trip. But a lifetime of “yes, Lord”.

Another thing Jill said was that when you get where you’re called- unpack as if you’ll never leave. 

That was huge for me. For the past 3 years since we’ve felt called to Japan, I’ve felt in between. We wanted to go, we were trying to find a way and  yet at the same time we started a family and bought our first home in America. It didn’t seem to add up. But I’m learning to be more flexible, well, to try and be more flexible and accept that I just can’t see the whole picture. But Japan is on our hearts, and we’re finally going!

So this week while we’re in Japan, we’re going to unpack like we’ll never leave and give all we’ve got! We pray we remember to be intentional with our time there as it is short. We pray that we make the most of every opportunity and see everyone we meet as God sees them.

Thank you for following along this far and praying with us- your prayers have power! Praying this last flight goes well and passes quickly.  As a dear friend reminded me, we may not necessarily like flying, but it’s part of the job.   -K

(Watch for our next post- Matt will be writing our first impressions of Japan!)

 

The Journey Begins

Today is the day! We’re on our way to the airport for the first step of our journey! As I sit in the backseat soaking up the Florida sun and listening to Oceans on Rachel’s iPod, I’m reminded of the first time I heard it and our call to Japan immediately came to mind. Three and a half years to get to this point. Three and a half years to get here. It seems so much longer and yet so unreal that we’re finally here, step one of our long journey to Asia. We’ve equipped ourselves with entertainment for the flights- though I’m praying that during these flights God prepares our heart and minds for what we will find when we land in Japan.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders, let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me- take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

That was my prayer then and I smile as I see just how big of a prayer it was. Bigger than I had ever imagined. We’ll be updating as we go along and we thank you all again for your support and ask for prayer that our hearts would be prepared and our minds focused and open to the task before us. We pray for the Japanese people, that God stirs in their hearts to be open with us even though we are “gaijin” foreigners.

さようならフロリダ Sayōnara Florida!    -K

 

The Final days of February

are filled with anticipation. March is almost here and our departure time is just around the corner. I’ve deactivated my Facebook for the time being, I need to focus on the task at hand, no distractions. I’ve been pouring over my Bible, trying to draw from it every ounce of strength and guidance that I can. I came across a verse over the weekend at a women’s conference and I’ve been holding onto it.

It’s in Acts-  Chapter 9 verse 6, when Saul is being transformed into Paul. Jesus says to him,
“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 

That’s how I feel about this trip. I feel like we needed to just get up and go, and I am p.r.a.y.i.n.g. God tells us what to do when we get there. If I may ask my friends who are reading this to lift Matthew and I up in prayer. I pray we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and renewed minds to understand God’s beautiful will. Pray for our hearts as it will ache us to leave our son behind for these 9 days (though he will be in the loving care of his grandparents). Help us to trust that God will keep him safe and comforted while we are away as this will be his first time without both of us for more than a weekend. And lastly, I ask for prayer through our preparations. That we remember to not only pack our bags, but prepare our hearts and minds for this journey. I pray we are in the Word and praising and trusting God so much leading up to this trip that the week we are gone is just an overflow of all the love we will have stored up, just an outpouring of God’s love on the Japanese people. Help us to spiritually fill up for this trip so we can spill over into them. Thank you for your prayers dear friends. I’ll post with some more requests and praises soon. We’re praying for you all too and thanking God for you faithful hearts!   -K

It’s Official!

I think I’m still in shock. There’s no way we just raised every single penny needed for this trip. Even the pennies I didn’t think to account for, like traveler’s insurance and little costs that crept up here and there.

I have to admit I’ve had some doubt about the trip. Who are we to think we can afford to do this now? We’ve been waiting more than 3 and a half years, trying to find ways to be in Japan, and here we are, pinching our pennies as it is.

Was it arrogant to think we could pull this off? But waiting for the perfect conditions wasn’t working. Waiting for an easy way to just fall into our laps wasn’t working either.

This had to be a leap of faith. A big giant, cross country, cross pacific leap. And I was reminded this as my son played with my necklace from a sweet friend of mine, that in my necklace was a tiny little mustard seed. And as I ruffled his hair and told him not to eat it, I shared with him, more to my encouragement than his, that that was all the faith we needed to move mountains.

So even though our leap will be big, my faith wasn’t much bigger than that mustard seed. But the overwhelming support we have received and just being in a position to watch God provide for us through our community has made my little  mustard seed of faith swell.

I still have to keep my eagerness to plan every single detail at bay, so as not to plan God right out of this trip. But knowing that we can go, that we really can spend a week in prayer in this beautiful country with these beautiful people has reassured me that God will use this trip. It is in His hands and I know it’s what we’re supposed to do and where we’re supposed to go!

Thank you all so much for every ounce of support. Every prayer, every monetary donation, every hug and word of encouragement. We cannot wait to finally be there and love you all for helping make it possible. Honestly my heart is so full!

I’ll continue posting prayer requests and hope you’ll join us in lifting up every aspect of our trip. Today it’s all about praising God and thanking Him for His provision and His faithful children listening to the tug on their hearts to help support us in bringing God’s love to the people of Japan. Thank you so much!    -K