Well that was fun. This past weekend I received a much anticipated visit from my mother and pastor all the way from my home church, Joyful Harvest, in Chicago. What was originally planned as a family trip became an impromptu 4 day ministry opportunity. Over far too quickly, it feels almost surreal that two prominent facets of my life, familial and spiritual, were finally here in a country I had always talked so much about.
Due to a late arrival, the first night was mostly relaxed, accept for a storm of six firetrucks rushing to an emergency call. It’s funny: I had taken just a step or two towards their station to ask for directions to the hotel when the sirens suddenly rang out and they came blasting down the street towards a cell phone store. We still don`t know what could have warranted so many firemen, gurneys rolling down the street, but prayers went up anyway. After settling in at the Business Hotel Sunlight Honkan in Fuchu, we headed out for some tempura and the ladies’ inner explorer came out. “Maybe this side street will lead back to the hotel…,” my pastor said. Music to my ears. They say an adventurer is never truly lost, after all.
The next evening we joined a fellow missionary and our joint bible study students for dinner at an izakaya, a type of Japanese styled eatery and pub. It was a great time and I believe one of the visions the Lord Himself would be proud of: one body in Christ spanning a kaleidoscope of colors and backgrounds. My guests from Chicago brought the spirit with them and imparted to a group that was already so full of joy and an open heart in the Lord. As for the food, well I’ll just say that I was blessed and impressed by the spirit of the missionary at work in my mother and pastor! Some items, like chicken gizzards, are common in southern United States cuisine, where a lot of my family hails from. Chicken hearts are another story.
We started Saturday morning with a trip to nearby Kamakura, the former political capital of Japan around 700 years ago. As much a research jaunt as a site seeing one, Kamakura gives one the feeling of having somehow stumbled back in time. The town is steeped in ancient Buddhist and Shinto tradition with dozens of temples, shrines and gardens. The giant Buddha demands the spotlight and buses shuttle tourists there from the train station quite frequently. However, the highlight that stood out for us was getting to our destination on the rustic Enoshima Electric Railway, or Enoden. Both train and streetcar, the Enoden weaves passengers in and out of seaside neighborhoods in classic wooden cars that bob and rattle along a 100-year-old train route. It idles along past orange trees, mountain shrines and small streams before hugging the coast with full views of the ocean. Make it a priority on your Tokyo travel list.
There’s no substitute for believers in Jesus Christ making you feel welcome in a new country. It’s a hopeful prayer of many a missionary, and the Lord answered ours. After returning from Kamakura we enjoyed the company of some close brothers in the Lord at my friend’s house. We were all relaxed in the presence of loving servants of God and everyone received and imparted whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to say. The next morning began a Sunday well spent on the Keio train line as we traveled between two churches: Ark English Village Bible Cafe and Grace House. At the cafe, we witnessed a lively one man telling of Mary Magdalene`s encounter with the risen Christ followed by tea and questions (my time as a kid was a popular subject apparently). Next we headed to Grace House where the pastor exemplified that name, mustering a large gathering to attend the bible art class as my own pastors observed.
Once again, “surreal” is the best word to describe the whole thing. As mom and my pastor recorded my class, iphone in hand, it confirmed the seriousness of the missionary call and reminded me of their vital support. When we parted ways that Monday, their faces continued to flash in my mind as I headed to work to teach English. I remember trying to look past the images and focus on the lesson, but I realized that one shouldn’t. We’re connected by spirit and blood, and next year can’t come soon enough.