One Year Later

One year ago today, our plane came to that screeching halt on the runway that throws you forward and signals the long awaited arrival in a new city.

We took a deep breath.  Though we didn’t say it, we saw the excitement and the apprehension in face of the other.  The memory of our loved ones’ tear streaked faces and choked last messages were fresh wounds still in our hearts as we waited to arrive at our gate.  Still, I grabbed my husband’s knee, looked at him and said, “This is the beginning”.

We presented our papers, received our new identification cards and maneuvered through customs with three luggage carts piled high.

It was almost surreal as we drove through Tokyo, on a new side of the road with exits on the wrong side, signs that gave us little sense of where we were, and city lights galore that bedazzled our eyes.

It was just the beginning.

Since then, we’ve come a long way.  A year ago, we were constantly attempting  to search through suitcases, convinced it was in that other bag. Tonight, I sit in my tidy living room, the light of the Christmas tree illuminating picture frames and book-lined shelves.

We’ve traveled miles and miles of road on the language map. Vicente this evening was even texting some in Japanese while I read through paragraphs and paragraphs of my Japanese book on the train, one hand holding onto the hand rings to maintain balance.

We’ve explored the city, discovering our surroundings and learning those things that surprisingly become pertinent to cultural acclimation– from who sells the cheapest fruits and veggies, to what areas need some serious prayer work, from what train stations are not stroller friendly to where to get a real slice of pizza if you really need it.  You know… the kind without corn on it.

We’ve asked lots of questions.  LOTS. How do you say ___ in Japanese?  What just happened in this situation?  How do I respond without taking sides in a disagreement?– I better choose my words carefully in this new language! Are Chinese and other Asians considered foreigners or just Westerners (we were surprised- just westerners are considered 外国人- foreigners or outsiders).

We’ve had moments of excitement, overflowing joy, that top of the mountain type feeling.  We’ve had moments of frustration, mountain ranges of challenges and disappointed tears.

And still, it’s only the beginning. At the end of one year, we feel gratitude.  It’s been an unspeakable privilege to have begun discipling one person each and see them coming to faith, growing in the Lord, and excited for what He has planned.  It’s a small beginning, but it’s a beginning. We pray that we will be able to share the message of God’s love with many others as well in the coming year and see them grow in all that God has for them.

Though we’ve changed and grown throughout this last year, we haven’t arrived.  There’s more to learn.  We’ll do all of the above more and more this next year.  We will have more challenges, but we will also see more victories.

The best is yet to come.

Thank you to you many, many wonderful people who have all contributed in making year one possible.  May He receive all the best.


On School

So, some of you may or may not know, but I was asked to take a position at the local elementary school teaching English a couple times a month.  It’s not much really, but it’s been a whole new experience for me into a side that I’ve not had the opportunity to see into yet.

One of the most interesting things that I noted was lunch time.  Although I don’t have to, I’ve been eating with the classrooms and sitting with the students to be able to establish more relationships within the school.

It’s a vastly different experience that what I’ve seen elsewhere.  The students eat in their classroom with the teacher.  A lunch cart is rolled in front of each classroom.  The students set out a cloth mat on their desk and everyone puts on a mask until lunch time (making it difficult for me to understand them!).

A handful of students put on white smocks (and gloves? I don’t remember) and serve the other students as they go through the line.  Once all students are served and seated, then one student calls out a check to make sure that everyone has received everything.  Some announcement is made then everyone says:

“Itadakemasu!” (I humbly receive)

Time to eat!

I literally watched this procession and the smoothness of it all (given the quirks of first graders) as if I were watching a sci-fi movie.  It was completely astounding to see these kids all serving and later properly disposing their plates and dividing their trash, as per… well… Japan.

Overall, in my experience, I am just amazed at how these kids behave. Children entering the main office open the door and announce themselves and their purpose before proceeding.  Students come down to “retrieve” me from the office and carry my belongings to the next class.

At the teacher’s command, a student will stand and make announcements about what’s going to happen next.

It’s all quite fascinating.  Besides getting to know the teachers and vice-principal, I’ve had the opportunity to glimpse into the types of “conditioning” that the students grow up with.  Growing up in the American school system, we are conditioned as well (just in different ways), so it’s not a bad thing I’m talking about.  It’s just the foundation for how they will move in that society later on.

I’m glad I took the time to eat lunch with these little ones!

*There are some schools that do eat in a cafeteria setting or that students have to bring their own lunch, but many operate just like this public school I’m at.