Rambling Notes from Japan
Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.
Things I Didn't Know to be Thankful for
Living in a different country and missing something for awhile makes one thankful for little things. Things I didn't know to be thankful for until leaving for Japan. Here's a few things -- in no particular rank or order -- that come to mind since we've returned to the States. These are just trivial sacrifices we gladly (usually) do without to serve God in Japan. They pale in comparison to what other missionaries gave up for the kingdom of God in history past.
But here they are. You won't find these in Japan. So, I'm thankful for:
* The cereal aisle in any grocery store.
* Christian radio. Christian Literature.
* Abundant parking.
* Church steeples all around.
* A western breakfast with pancakes and eggs.
* Corporate worship in English.
* Coupons. Sales. Easy Returns.
* Cheap electricity. Cheap gas.
* Instruction manuals in English.
Volunteering Once More in Miyako
Clear blue ocean water laps gently ashore. Sun glints off gorgeous white rock formations and cliffs that enclose the bay. Sightseers laugh aboard the many boats exploring caves and shoreline. This scenic sanctuary is panoramic eye candy. You can easily see why it is the pride of Miyako. In spite of its remote location, the beach attracts many people to an area that is otherwise just another set of fishing towns along the Iwate coastline.
Give Me this Mountain
A Trip to the "Tree of Hope"
I’ve written before about the “Tree of Hope” in tsunami-struck Rikuzentaka, Japan. It’s official name is “The Miraculous Solitary Pine Tree.” Out of a glorious forest of some 70,000 Edo-era trees, this one alone survived the waves of 311. It was heralded as a miracle, a source of hope for a devastated country.
But 16 months later, despite the best preservation efforts, its roots finally succumbed to saltwater poisoning. So it was sawed down in sections. The wood was treated, the leaves coated with a synthetic resin, and a metal spine inserted down its trunk. The $1.5 million price tag for all this preservation work garnered a lot of criticism. Many felt the little city’s relief money might be better spent.
A ceremony for the restoration of the tree was held on March 10, 2013, a day before the 2nd anniversary of the 311 triple tragedy. Here, Yoshihisa Suzuki, president of the association for its preservation, said, “It’s returned at last. I’m convinced that the tree will cheer us up.”
A recent trip up in Tohoku took me close enough to Rikuzentakata to visit the memorial. Though I wasn’t quite sure of the location, it turned out to be hard to miss. The glint of the afternoon sun off the metallic skeleton led me to the spot from a distance. I pulled into a stone parking lot on the beach front and walked the kilometer or so to the base of the tree. A half dozen other onlookers stood nearby.
To be honest, I felt it difficult to be “cheered up” by the sight of the tree. The dead, lonely pine posed so artificially. The scaffolding holding it up as though it were a crippled patient in traction. The desolate, brown “moonlike” beach front. It all had the feeling of melancholy to me.
When Garbage Refuses to Die
The problem is a matter of simple physics. An unlimited amount of matter cannot occupy a limited amount of space at the same point in time. And our tiny Japanese home is, well, pretty limited! Like most Japanese houses, we have no basement, no attic, no garage, not even a large hall closet. Sending an unused item to storage limbo is simply not an option. But eventually things get used beyond usefulness. So we need to aggressively (and continually) sell, recycle, and throw away. And herein lies the greater problem. Sometimes things just refuse to leave you.
After my "generous" offers of such gently used items are rejected by friends, I turn to the local recycle shop for hope. Now, my castoffs are generally of such a pathetic nature that the recycle shop only takes on my case pro bono...out of pity...and perhaps a little amusement. I must say, though, that they are very gracious. And I've appreciated their mission of mercy. But I may have exceeded my limit. These days they want original packaging, instruction manuals, dent-free and scratch-free quality, and (of all the nerve) they want for the item to actually work as it was intended! My humble offerings are rarely up to that kind of scrutiny. And the clerks, in the gentlest Japanese way possible, have apologetically asked me to take the item back when I leave.
Her Season Changer
Those were her exact words to me...in English. God, however, had a different, better plan for Mrs. E, a changing of the seasons of her heart.
The Cross in the Tragedy
Take two weeks for Japan, spending just 10 minutes a day to read each chapter and pray! This is my best effort to share with you our experiences from the March 11, 2011 triple tragedy in Japan, and to look at them through a spiritual lens to see what God what want us to know.
Singing a Sojourner's Song
Buddy Greene said it best in song: "I don't belong. I'm a foreigner here just singing a sojourner's song. I've always known. This place ain't home. And I don't belong."
It didn't used to be that way. Up until we left for Japan in 1999, I was decidedly American in my outlook, cultural identity and sensibilities. But things change when you remove yourself from that cultural milieu for any long stretch of time. Things no longer look the same when you return to them. You're different. People are different. The environment and culture are different. And you sense a lack of fit with a people and places you really were eager to call home again. That's disappointing, surprising and frustrating all at once.