Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Merry Christmas from Japan

so it's Christmas Eve here in Tokyo...i'm sitting here in the living room listening to A Muppet Christmas Carol while Michelle makes chili. our Japanese-style Christmas tree (aka, a tiny one) is all decorated behind me, in front of me are the stockings my mother made us and shipped...hopefully Santa fills them tomorrow. today i got a huge package from my aunt and uncle- a present (which i am refraining to open til tomorrow- aren't you proud?) and candy canes and a gigantic can of homemade holiday chex mix- it was such a wonderful taste of home. but it also reminded me that, well, i'm not home for Christmas. to be honest, as much as we try to make it feel like Christmas here, it doesn't really feel like it. i've lived in the same house my whole life, i've always been with family for Christmas, we always do the same traditions...without them, it doesn't really feel the same. but at the same time, as a friend of mine reminded me last night, if i were home, i wouldn't have the opportunities to serve God that i'm getting here- mainly, the homeless church, our STINT Christmas party, and getting to bring students to church and share the Gospel with them during the holiday. if i were home, i'd just be sitting by the fire eating cookies and waiting in anticipation to open presents. tonight Lyndsey, Michelle and i are having dinner together, then i am meeting 2 students to go to a Christmas Eve service at church. in the morning, we are waking up at 5 am to go serve the homeless at the Yoyogi Park homeless church and sing Christmas carols (in Japanese- eek!), then going ice skating, then hanging out with students who aren't doing anything on Christmas and watching movies and making food together. so basically, this Christmas will definitely be more productive in terms of serving God than my Christmases normally are, considering every other Christmas my focus has been on me, and my presents, and my desire for more cookies and hot chocolate, whereas this year my focus is finally starting to align more on God.

i mean, what is Christmas really about? in Japan, it's about cake and KFC. in America, to be honest, it's become mostly about presents and decorations. i was listening to a podcast by Tim Chaddick from Reality LA today on the True Meaning of Christmas. the true meaning? GOD LOVES US. GOD. the Creator of the Universe. He loves YOU. and ME. And He wants to have a relationship with YOU. and ME. He loves us so much that in order for us to even comprehend even a bit of what His love looks like, He became a man, He sent his Son Jesus, who has always existed as God the Son, to Earth in the most lowly and humble way, as a baby with no place to be born other than a manger in a stable. He then lived a perfect life and died in the most gruesome, horrific and painful way possible, on the cross, taking on all of our sins, and then resurrecting in 3 days so that sin and death would be destroyed forever. so why do we celebrate Christmas? BECAUSE GOD LOVES US! how crazy is that? the Christmas story doesn't end with Jesus being born. and it doesn't end with Jesus dying, or even being resurrected. it's always being told, because God is constantly loving us, if only we would accept His gift of love and follow Him. so....who are you going to tell? how are you going to share the Christmas story to your friends, your family, to strangers? how are you going to show God's love to the world today?

because Christmas isn't about giving or receiving. it is first and foremost about God's love for us, and how He showed it to us through Jesus Christ. i pray that the Lord would bless you with an amazing Christmas, but that it wouldn't be amazing because of the presents or festivities, but because you would be able to forget about the food, the wrapping, the presents, the preparations, the family feuds, and just for a second pause to focus on the amazingness that is our God, our Father, and our Creator who loves us more than we could ever hope to imagine.

here are some pictures from the past week: a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

the Homeless church in Yoyogi Park- about 100 people show up every week

Making food bags for the homeless church

Our STINT Christmas Party: MCs talking to the audience

one of the students, Haruka, sharing her testimony of how she became a Christian last Christmas

STINT Christmas skit

David thinking he'll get a date for Christmas....

David in despair about not having a girlfriend or date for Christmas. Enter Henry, and Henry's "Linus Moment"

Lyndsey, myself, and 2 students- Kanae and Yui

3 different spiritual conversations during the party- i know taking pictures of them is kind of sketchy but i was just so excited!

Tokyo STINT Team 2010, otherwise known as the Special Team Infiltration Ninja Taskforce

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Countdown

so i realized today-

there are only 10 DAYS until Christmas. 10 DAYS. where did December go??? to be honest, even though there have been Christmas lights on the trees here since November 1 (since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving), it hasn't really felt much like Christmas. maybe there's just a lack of Christmas spirit here since the only things Christmas is about here is KFC, cake and presents. and you thought materialism in America was bad. the majority of Japan has no idea why they celebrate Christmas. but at the same time, they really have no idea why they celebrate most of the holidays they do, nor do they really know why they have the traditions they do. granted, many Americans don't know what Christmas trees or candy canes symbolize (for the record, evergreen trees have been said to not only represent the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden but also God's everlasting love for us, and for candy canes, the shape is the same as a shepherd's crook, the color white represents Christ's purity, the red the blood he shed, and the presence of three red stripes the Holy Trinity) but at least most have a general basis for why we celebrate Christmas. the encouraging thing about Japan is that Christmas is a fantastic time to do outreach. but there's also a strong sense of urgency during Christmastime because so many people commit suicide around this time because they are so depressed and without hope.

SOME SCARY STATISTICS OF JAPAN:
76% of teenagers feel like their lives have no purpose
11% of teenagers wish they had never been born
32,845 people committed suicide last year


approximately 1 person commits suicide every 15 minutes -- in the time it took you to drink a cup of coffee this morning, someone took their life. please pray for the healing of this country.

sorry to pull the serious card, but hopefully you now have a better sense of why i'm here and what my purpose is in being in Japan. these are my people, and it breaks my heart that so many of them have no hope, no purpose, and no reason to live.

in other news, our Christmas concert last Saturday went amazingly well. we had a joint concert of Student Impact's Gospel choir (Free) and our dance team (Holy Spirit). Saturday we spent from 11 am- 5:15 pm rehearsing, preparing, decorating and praying, then we had 15 minutes to get ready and it was time to start the show! it went really smoothly, and it was so fun to perform again in front of an audience, and really just dance for God and worship Him through dance. the coolest part of the night- one of the guys who sings in Free decided to accept Christ! he had been singing Gospel music for awhile but it never really clicked until he heard one of the other guys' testimonies. praise God! here are a few photos from the concert:
the hula girls- hopefully someone took a video i can put up soon, but for now, we danced to the song "My Saving Grace" by Hillsong - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCkfu4nzBtk
skit about Jesus by some of the Student Impact guys
combined Sign and Jazz dance
the entire Free and Holy Spirit ministries

it was an awesome and rewarding experience, but not gonna lie, it was a lot of work. however, this is also a rather busy week for the STINTers. this Saturday we're having our own Christmas outreach party for all our friends we've met on campus. we're preparing dinner, a Christmas song, games and a short musical about the true meaning of Christmas, complete with songs and dances. i'm excited, but also nervous about all the preparations, especially because we aren't sure how many students will come. please pray that many, many students come and are able to hear and understand the Gospel! we only have 2 more days on campus to get the word out, so that ups the pressure a bit too.

in fact, we only have 5 more days of campus until Christmas. that in itself puts a ton of urgency into how i spend my day on campus. not too much other news for now, just preparing frantically for our party!

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- for energy and strength: we're all really run down, and it's hard to be motivated to press on
- for spiritual protection: the Enemy has been working hard this month to specifically discourage and weigh down each one of us in different ways- he knows this is an important month, and is trying to hinder us in every way he can
- for our Christmas party: that the Lord would lead many many students to us, and they would hear the Gospel
- for boldness in sharing the Gospel this month
- for kanae and yui: lyndsey and i haven't been able to meet them for the past few weeks, and it's getting frustrating that we still haven't been able to have Bible study with them
- for yuki and kaori: that we'd be able to share the Gospel with them and their hearts would be open
- for Hitotsubashi University: we're still struggling to see exactly what God wants us to do there; it's also a very hard campus and we have to fight off discouragement and other spiritual attacks every time we are there

God bless you this Christmas season! ps it's not too late to decide to send me presents in the form of puppies, chocolate or anything else ;)

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Christ alone...

December is crazy. it really needs to slow down. even though it's only been a week, i feel like i've been just frantically running to catch up with life. it is basically our biggest ministry month because of Christmas. the Japanese celebrate Christmas but they have no idea what it means- every time i ask a student what they do on Christmas or why Christmas is special or why do they think they celebrate it, i've gotten answers of "i don't know" or "it's a couples holiday so we spend it with our boyfriends/girlfriends" or "we eat Christmas cake and KFC" (not kidding). SOOO it's a wonderful opportunity for us to say "well hey can i tell you the real meaning of Christmas?" Student Impact is have 3 Outreach parties/concerts in the next 2 weeks. this Saturday our gospel choir and our dance team are joining forces for a big Christmas outreach concert- between last friday night and saturday morning Holy Spirit (the dance team- i know, it's confusing) practiced 7 hours. my muscles were rather sore. on top of that, the STINTers are having our own Christmas outreach party on the 18th, so we've been furiously planning for that as well. myself and Kat are in charge of the "Heart of Christmas" skit/performance/musical, so that's been a lot of work. on top of that, of course we've had our every day ministry on campus, meeting with students, etc. it just has felt like everything has fallen like an avalanche all at once.

it's been a bit frustrating to always feel so behind, because one thing i really wanted to do in November was set aside time every day just to sit and listen to God, to be fully in His presence with no distractions, nothing, just resting in His presence and listening. Mother Teresa once said, "Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart." i regret to say i did not do this every day. i became very frustrated with myself that i was putting other things in my life before time with God. a song that really spoke to my heart was "Something's Gotta Change" by Josh Wilson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DewDmDm3YqM

i realized i had been putting God on my To-Do List. that time with God was simply one more thing to do in the day. i remembered something i'd heard over a year ago, that we shouldn't be making God a number on our to-do list, but making Him the TITLE of our to- do list. that everything on our to-do list would fall under the title of God's Plan. God's To-Do List, not Kimi's. it was good to remember this, but i started feeling guilty about it, to be honest, guilty that i had been putting my things i "needed" to do before time with God. we were having worship time as a team, and we were singing "In Christ Alone" and i just started crying. i heard Jesus saying "kimi- look what i did for you. I love you. I love you. that is enough." if you've never heard "In Christ Alone," it's absolutely amazing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcpLZgCwcEE&feature=fvsr

i was going to just put my favorite lyrics, and then realized i couldn't choose, so here are the lyrics: they are the Truth, and through Christ we have FREEDOM. pretty exciting, yeah?

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life?s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
?Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

last night henry said something i needed to hear:
there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.


may we never forget that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TWO MONTH ANNIVERSARY

Oh hey, December. where the heck did you come from? have i really been in Japan two whole months???

seriously, this is crazy. it's hard to believe i may only have 7 months left in this country; which, don't get me wrong, is quite a long time, but is definitely shorter than it seems.

AWESOME MINISTRY MOMENTS OF NOVEMBER:
- Kanae accepting Christ and her friend Yui wanting to do Bible study with us
- Sehee wanting to meet up every week to study the Bible and learn how to share the Gospel with her friends
- Ngoc wanting to meet up and getting to reconnect with her after 2 years, being able to share the Gospel with her and talking about deep issues and her wanting to start coming to English Lunch every Tuesday at Hitotsubashi
- at least 1-2 people hearing the Gospel every day
- going to the homeless church in Yoyogi Park, getting to talk to 3 homeless women and seeing one of them give the pastor a yennie

REFLECTIONS ON JAPANESE CULTURE:
Things I Love but Also Don't...
1. TRAINS: love the convenience, hate the price, the insane crowdedness and the ease in which i take the train going the opposite direction to where i want to go half the time
this is 12 am train on a typical Saturday night in Shinjuku.

2. EVERYTHING IS CUTE: love that everything in Japan is adorable and/or pretty, hate that it makes me buy things i don't really need because the cuteness is overwhelming. i'd put pictures of the cuteness, but i'm not sure you'd be able to handle it.
3. SUSHI: love that it's so amazing, hate that i'm forever spoiled and will now never be content with American sushi
4. SWEETS: love that they are all SO FREAKING DELICIOUS, hate that they are making me heavier and my wallet lighter
5. BIKING: love that i get exercise, and every morning we ride past a preschool and sometimes we see the little asian babies being carted around in big rolling laundry hamper like things and it's too adorable to even describe, hate that i have near-death experiences at least once a day-- oh and today i had my first legit crash when another biker turned into me. woo.
6. JAPANESE TEA CEREMONIES: love the sweets, love the tradition, hate the tea and the sitting on my knees. my old roommate amanda from SC is now living in Saitama. she invited me to a tea ceremony- neither of us knew what to expect. turned out to be an all day thing and we went to 4 ceremonies back-to-back-to-back-to-back. i felt i was about to burst of macha (green tea).
THINGS GOD HAS BEEN TEACHING ME THIS MONTH:

this month has been kind of a rollercoaster in all ways possible- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. but the cool thing is through it all, God has remained constant. i had my ups and downs, in ministry and my own personal life, but God was always there, and is always there, and always will be there for me, walking beside me, picking me up when i fall, dancing with me when i am full of joy.

as part of our training, each of us had to prepare a "Three Minute Testimony." basically, we had to write out our story of how God's changed us and try and present it in 3 minutes. this is not easy. there are so many things God has done in my life- it was hard to know where to start. i decided to focus on how God's been breaking me of perfectionism, because it's very relatable to the Japanese and a huge part of me learning how to surrender to God. while writing out my testimony, i reflected back on everything God's done for me. it's crazy to think of where i used to be, and where i am now. who i used to be and who i am now. i used to find my identity in my perfectionism and in my abilities. now i find my identity in Christ. it took a semester of pushing God out of my life for me to realize how much i really needed Him, a semester of trying to find satisfaction in everything of this world for me to realize that the only thing that can truly fill my empty heart is God's love. the only way i can truly be perfect is not through what i do, but what Jesus has already done for me, by living a perfect life on earth and taking on all my sin and dying on the cross and then conquering sin and death 3 days later and ascending into heaven. i've said i was a Christian my whole life, but i didn't start really living like it til December 2007. i thought i was, but i was living for me, my life was in the center and God got added in where He fit into my life. that's not a Christian life. a Christian life is one where God is in the center, where you cast off your old life and dare to step into the amazing abundant life God has for you, where you tear up your plans and rely solely on God's. but even though i know this now, i still have my moments where i want to revert back to my old ways. even after i started focusing on God as the center of my life, it was a slow process of learning how to trust God more and more. to be honest, even a year or two ago, if you'd told me that i'd be a missionary in Japan i'd probably just laugh. and to be honest, if God had called me to Japan a year ago, i may not have said yes. in fact, i probably would have said no, because i still remember saying i'd never work for Campus Crusade. thankfully God has brought me to a place now where i'm no longer making huge plans and expecting to control my future, and thankfully God's plans are always better than mine anyway so i don't need to plan anymore. anyway, i would challenge you that if you've never really taken the time to reflect on all the ways God has grown you over the years, it's worth doing, and it's worth praising Him about. and most importantly, it's worth sharing with others. our testimonies are quite possibly the most powerful tools the Lord equips us with to share His love. He reveals His story through our stories- never hold back from sharing God's story.

God's also been showing me that His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). the girls have been going through character studies of people in the Bible, and the more i read the more i realize that every single person God used in the Bible was not nearly equipped for the tasks He gave them. for example, David- he was a skinny kid with a slingshot, how on earth was he going to defeat Goliath? with God's power. my friend joel once told me, "Don't let what you don't have disqualify you from the work that God is calling you to...God likes to use the broken crayons." and it's so true! this month there have been times when i've felt like i'm not qualified enough to be a missionary, not good enough, not wise enough, etc. well, of course i'm not by myself. but God always uses the broken crayons so that when He uses us for his masterpiece, it is not our glory that shines through, but HIS.

one more thing i've been learning is that faith is like a muscle- if we do not continue to build it, it will atrophy. how do we build faith? by leaving our comfort zones and stepping out into the unknown, by leaving the path we think we want and trusting God to know the path that is right for us. a question posed to us in Bible study was:
what would look different in your life if you had a greater hope in God? God has been challenging me a lot lately to take more risks, to think of risks not as risks but as reality, to pray bigger and to allow myself to have a bigger vision of Him and His plans for me. i challenge you to do the same.

what is holding you back from experiencing the abundant hope and joy God has for you? my natural reaction to problems is to immediately try and figure out how to fix it, but i've realized i need to go IMMEDIATELY to God instead of rely on myself, because when i try to rely on myself, i worry, and joy and worry cannot happen simultaneously. an acronym for JOY we learned was:
J esus
O thers
Y ourself

when we put Jesus first, others second, and ourselves last, all other things fall into place.

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- for a movement to explode on both Waseda University and Hitotsubashi University
- for strong male leaders in Student Impact
- for Kanae's growth as a new believer, for her friend Yui to also trust her life to Christ
- for wisdom and discernment in who to continue to meet up with and that the Spirit would lead us to new contacts
- for team unity, for supernatural energy and strength (December is a crazy ministry month)
- for God's provision while the exchange rate is still so terrible

"Now may the God of peace...equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us taht which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." ~ Hebrews 13:12

Sunday, November 28, 2010

KANSAI WHIRLWIND

November 18-21 all the STINTers took a roadtrip with 5 of the JCCC staff to Kyoto and Osaka, otherwise known as the Kansai area. it was really awesome to get out of Tokyo for a little bit, even 4 days. i had never been anywhere else in Japan, so it was also really exciting to go to 2 of Japan's most famous and beautiful cities. it was a perfect time to go, since the leaves were at the peak of their autumn hues. Kyoto's about 6-7 hours from Tokyo, so most of Thursday was spent in the car. we did stop at "the best Starbucks in the world" - it had a view of the ocean, mountains, a river and Mt. Fuji. it was really gorgeous. if only clouds hadn't covered Mt. Fuji... view of the mountains from Starbucks
first team picture of the trip

once we got to Kyoto, our first stop was the Rokuon-ji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion. it was absolutely gorgeous, but also extremely sobering knowing that even the most beautiful things of this world are, in the end, still of this world, and constructed to worship false gods. it makes me sad that shrines and temples characterize Japan, that the country is known for images such as this one: just like i desire to change Hollywood's reputation, i want to change Japan's. i don't want people to see Japan as a country of apathy, of pointless religious traditions, of shrines and temples to false gods, i want people to see Japan and say, "That country is on fire for Jesus." the temple closed at 5 pm, so we then met up with one of the Kyoto staff and prayer walked on a university they go to often, then went to the place we'd be staying and had dinner. there are currently only 2 Kyoto staff and 1 STINTer, and they are all Korean. please pray for more workers in Kyoto, especially for Japanese staff to commit to working in Kyoto- apparently there are over 1 million college students in Kyoto who need to hear the Gospel! friday morning we went to Arashiyama, a famous mountain in Kyoto across the Oi River. we only had about 30 minutes to take pictures and get souveniers, but it was still gorgeous. Arashiyama
Arashiyama Bridge
me and michelle on Arashiyama Bridge

After Arashiyama, we were off to Osaka. as soon as we arrived, we split up into 3 groups to go to 3 different campuses and do outreach with the Osaka STINTers and staff. it was really cool to see what the Lord is doing on the different Osaka universities and encourage the Osaka CCC. that night we went to their weekly meeting, Acts, and got to meet the students and have a great time of worship, prayer and fellowship. Saturday was our training/sightseeing day- after some training on effective ways of sharing the Gospel, we went to Osaka Castle, famous for its formidable defenses. we decided to take a picture scaling the castle wall. we then got yelled at by an old Japanese man and had to run away. but it was so worth it.

after Osaka Castle, we went to the Osaka Expo/Park to have fellowship time with the Osaka STINTers and staff. then we went to Dotonbori Street, famous for shopping, restaurants, a giant crab & the “running man." we ate foods famous in Osaka, including takoyaki and okonomiyaki and bought some souvenirs (it is Japanese custom to bring back edible gifts for friends whenever you travel- seriously).
the Tokyo & Osaka STINTers on a bridge famous for guys picking up girls, with the Running Man in the background.

Sunday we went to church and headed home to Tokyo shortly after! it was a crazy whirlwind of a trip, and i wish we'd been able to spend more time sightseeing, but it was so wonderful to how the Lord is working in other cities, to be encouraged and to encourage the other STINTers and staff, and visit some beautiful places!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Kimi Brown Thanksgiving

so this year is my first year to not have Thanksgiving either with my family in Dallas or my surrogate family in Los Angeles. when i went to USC, i never went home for Thanksgiving, but have had Thanksgiving dinner and spend the night at my friend Sean's house for the past 4 years. it really became a tradition- his house truly became my home away from home while i was at SC, and his mom even introduced me as her surrogate daughter. it was always so wonderful to be surrounded by good home cooking and tons of family members (especially because my own family is pretty small). this year, as i am in Tokyo, i knew it would be different, and possibly very challenging.

but it was actually surprisingly wonderful. of course, Japan doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving so we still had a day of campus ministry before we could celebrate the holiday. and it was SUCH an encouraging day. i met up with a girl named Sehee, a first year Christian Korean student i had met at English Club a few weeks ago. we had only talked briefly -our conversation was literally
me: "i like your cross necklace"
Sehee: "thanks! i'm a Christian"
me: "really?? me too!!!"

and then we exchanged phone numbers and that was about it. so i knew very little about her and wanted to know more, so on a whim i texted her and asked if she wanted to meet for lunch and she immediately responded with Yes! it was such an amazing time, because i got to hear a lot of her life and share a good deal of my testimony with her, and encourage her to find a church and accountability. in many ways she's where i was until only a few years ago, feeling like if she doesn't read her Bible or go to church she is a "bad Christian" -- i told her that is not the way God intends for us to live our lives, He wants us to desire to know him so much that we eagerly seek his Word and church community, so that worship/learning more about God is an exciting opportunity, not a chore. i was able to explain what the body of Christ truly is, how we cannot grow unless we allow others to come into our lives and share our struggles and burdens, and how important community is to growth in our relationship with God. we were not created to be alone. then she told me, "i can see why God brought you to Japan, and i know God brought you here today to share this with me." it was possibly the most encouraging thing i've heard so far in Japan. the other encouraging thing- i'm basically going to start being her discipler; she wants to meet up every week and study the Bible and learn how to share the Gospel. i cannot express how excited i am to see how God uses her at Waseda University. after meeting with her, lyndsey and i met with Yumi, a girl i'd met a few weeks ago but hadn't seen in awhile. couldn't spend too much time with her, but it was wonderful to grow our friendship, introduce her to lydnsey and hopefully we'll be able to meet again soon.

after campus, we rushed home to begin preparations for our Thanksgiving dinner party. i wish i could have been with my friends and family back in the states (i did in fact have to change the music when Michael Buble's "Home" came on, but other than that i was fine), but it was really cool to celebrate Thanksgiving with good friends in a different country. we had a potluck dinner of chicken cor don bleu, chicken/stuffing/veggie casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, kabocha soup (Japanese pumpkin), minestrone soup, daikon (Japanese vegetable) and pumpkin pie. the pumpkin pie was an adventure. since Japan doesn't do Thanksgiving, finding pumpkin pie ingredients is rather difficult. i spent about 2 hours online looking up international food stores, then it took about 2 hours to go to 2 different stores, but in the end, the quest was successful and i felt very accomplished. pie tins in Japan are about 1/3 the size of American pie pans, so i ended up having to make 3 pies, and bake them in our microwave/oven thing, but in the end it all worked out and turned out nicely. we ate lots of food, had great fellowship with all the PSW STINTers, 2 of the JCCC staff, and 2 students from the States, and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. fun fellowshipping
my pride and joy

Friday felt like it should be a holiday, but we had another day of campus. it seemed like everyone had a really hard time getting there, to the point that it felt like spiritual attack. michelle had a migraine, esther took a day off, ariel got stopped by the police, mike was late, henry was late, david was on a trip with ICU high school ministry...needless to say, we were praying hard against spiritual attack and that the Lord would show us what he wanted us to do. lyndsey and i met with Kanae, who accept Christ a couple weeks ago, and Yui, who has not yet accepted but is interested in studying the Bible. we were really nervous about how the meeting would go because they had invited a friend, so we couldn't really talk much about the Gospel because the friend wasn't too interested. but we ended up spending the whole day with them (4 hours) and still got to talk about some deep things that related to our faith, but also just grow our relationships with them so that was cool. we're going to start Bible study with them next Friday, and they want to come to church with us! so that was exciting.

today was wonderful. got to sleep in for the first time in awhile, then went to Cam's house for Thanksgiving dinner #2. it was huge- Cam and Kristen (his wife) have 4 children, then there were 9 STINTers (ariel couldn't make it), 6 JCCC staff, 2 more kids, 1 baby and a Christian teacher of one of Cam's kids. it was so cool to be in a house that looked like an American house (not a Japanese apartment), surrounded by wonderful American people and American food. if i couldn't be with my family or Sean's, there's no one else i'd rather be with than the people i was with tonight. i felt like my heart was just full of warm fuzzies the whole night.

STINTers, minus Mike and Ariel, plus Baby Selah, one of the JCCC Staff's daughters

food, glorious food!

in other news, tomorrow morning (my time) USC plays Notre Dame. unfortunately i won't be watching it because i will be at a Japanese tea ceremony with my roommate from junior year, but i'm really stoked about the tea ceremony (and i can watch the game online later). after that, my life gets exponentially more busy. JCCC will be having 4 different Christmas Outreach parties this month, 2 of which i will be extremely involved in, the other 2 i really just need to go to and support if they need it.

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- for Kanae: her growth as a new believer
- for Yui: that the Lord would grow her desire to learn about Him and she would accept Christ
- for Sehee: that the Lord would show her how to really live her life for Him
- for me: for focus, discipline and time to get everything done this week i need to do
- most importantly, that i would rely on God's strength and not get too focused on details and the little things that i take my focus off God and his work

Sunday, November 14, 2010

YENNIES

i apologize.
i've been slacking on updates. i definitely need more discipline. but i work best under pressure i suppose. tomorrow we leave for a roadtrip to Kyoto and Osaka to visit other Student Impact ministries for a few days, so i figured i should probably finish this post before then. which means i probably won't sleep much tonight. not sure if i could anyway- it suddenly decided to become winter here, and i'm definitely not prepared for the cold. i still have yet to buy a thick comforter, thick curtains and gasoline for our space heater. as cold as it is, i know i need to stop being a wimp because it's only going to get worse from here. somehow i lost both a winter hat and 1 glove today though, which made for a very unfortunate, cold bike ride home. but enough weather woes. on to the update!

these past couple weeks have been pretty awesome in terms of ministry. every day at least 1-2 people are hearing the Gospel, and many of them have never met a Christian or heard of Jesus, so we're getting to sow a lot of seeds. i've gotten to really start establishing relationships/friendships with the people i met in October, and everyone on our team has already grown noticeably in terms of boldness and confidence in sharing the Gospel with students and jumping on every opportunity we can to share. a lot of us have been sick lately though. i was sick for about a week, which was a bit frustrating. but it's a chance to just rely on God even more for strength, energy and focus. and it made me realize that even if i'm not physically well, God can still use me. Thursday Lyndsey and i met with Yuki and Kaori again- we had been praying we'd be able to share the Gospel but we ended up not having much time with them, so that was a bit frustrating but the encouraging thing is that every time we meet with them, they are always the ones to ask to meet up again. so hopefully next week we can share the Gospel with them.

Friday. ohhh Friday was such a glorious day. Lyndsey and i met with Yui and Kanae, whom we'd met the very first day at Waseda. we had not been able to meet with them since, so it had been a month since we'd last seen them and we weren't really expecting much- we had prayed we'd be able to share the Gospel if it was God's will, but we weren't counting on it. but God had other ideas. we ended up being able to share a good deal of our testimonies, our vision of God, and the full Gospel with both girls. they were both really interested and it was the smoothest, easiest Gospel presentation we've ever done. in our Japanese booklets there is a drawing of 2 circles- the left circle shows you as the center and Christ outside the circle, and the right circle shows Christ as the center of your life and you underneath. both girls said their lives looked like the left circle but they wanted to be in the right one. then Yui had to go to work, but we kept talking to Kanae. we made sure to go over everything really carefully and told her if she wanted, she could receive Christ right then and asked if that was what she wanted-- and she said yes! she prayed to receive Christ! i cannot even express how wonderful it was. statistically it takes a Japanese person about 5-7 years to accept the Gospel from the first time they've heard it, so this is SUCH a miracle! second, she's the first student to accept Christ in the 6 weeks i've been here (even though God's blessed us with many opportunities to share the Gospel so far, it's mostly been planting seeds) and thirdly, she's the first student i've ever personally seen accept the Gospel- that is, whom i've shared with and they've accepted it! please pray for Kanae- for protection from the enemy and that God would reveal himself to her in very real ways this week. also please pray for Yui- she is very interested in learning more about the Bible (once again, a huge rarity in Japan) so please pray for the Bible study Lyndsey and i are starting with the 2 girls and that Yui would also accept Christ into her life soon.

Saturday was also pretty legit. i woke up at 5 am to go to a huge park called Yoyogi Park with Mike and AJ. you might be asking yourself, what on earth is worth waking up that early? i shall tell you. a homeless church. every Saturday at 7 am a pastor from Tokyo Baptist Church preaches a sermon in the park for the homeless who live around there. we heard about it from some YWAM people who help out, and we decided to check it out. it was so wonderful. we stuff about 120 food bags for the homeless and distributed them. we sang hymns with them and prayed with them, and 7 people raised their hands to say they wanted to receive Christ. and we broke into small groups and i had the opportunity of meeting 3 of the most lovely, gentle women i've ever met. i was able to speak with the oldest for awhile (through a translator). she was so sweet and adorable- i just wanted to give her a hug. one of the most heart-wrenching moments had to do with yennies. let me explain yennies. yennies are 1 yen coins (yen + penny = yenny). Japanese coins have different weights- the heaviest are the most valuable. yennies weigh almost nothing, and they feel and look like fake money. they're rather worthless. but after all the rest of the homeless had left, this tiny, adorable old Japanese woman slipped a yennie into the pastor's hand and quietly went her own way. it pierced my heart that i thought of these things as so worthless, and yet to this woman, it was everything she had, and she gave it to the church. let's just say it was really convicting.

the gorgeous trees in Yoyogi Park- you can see a couple of the homeless in the background

Sunday morning i went to Roppongi and watched the USC vs. Arizona game at Legends Sports Bar with the Tokyo USC Alumni Club- it was amazing to be able to watch a game with USC fans/alums on a real tv for the first time since i've been here. it's been so lame to have to watch the games on my computer attempting in vain to hold in my squeals and cheers so as not to wake up my roommates. i got totally lost trying to find the bar though- thankfully a nice American guy saw me struggling to understand the directions of a Japanese police officer, came up and said "sweetie are you looking for Legends?" (i guess my ridiculous USC attire gave it away) and pointed me in the right direction. ironically he turned out to be a Bruin. guess they aren't so bad sometimes. finally made it and had a blast- USC won, so that helped make the experience enjoyable.

Tuesday was our first day at Hitotsubashi University, having finally been given the green light to do ministry there with one of the JCCC staff. it was so wonderful to be back on that campus. we had English lunch, met some new students, and prayer walked for awhile. i'm so excited to see what God does at that university. today Lyndsey and i were able to give Kanae a Japanese Bible and Yui a "Manga Messiah" - the life of Jesus told in the style of a Japanese comic book. we were also able to share the Gospel with 2 girls we met randomly, which was encouraging. now i really should try and sleep a couple hours before we leave for Kyoto!

Prayer walking at Hitotsubashi University...

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- energy/strength
- full health recovery
- for Kanae, Yui, Yuki, Kaori and all the other students we've met so far
- safety as we travel to and from Kyoto and Osaka this weekend

"All things are possible for those who believe." ~ Mark 9:23

Thursday, October 28, 2010

ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY

Today is my One Month Anniversary, though for some reason, Blogger seems to think it's October 28th when it's November 1st...so confused. anyway, one month ago today, i left behind my friends, my family, and life as i knew it to serve the Lord for one year in Tokyo, Japan. i celebrated by going to Hitotsubashi (my favorite campus from Summer Project) with Mike, meeting up with Yasutomo, a student i met during Summer Project 2 summers ago, then prayer walking around the campus, mostly praying that God would open the way for us to do ministry there. it was awesome, but apparently it wore me out because i fell asleep on the train ride home and missed Mitaka, woke up 3 stops later and had to take another train home. lesson for the day: never fall asleep on a train by yourself. to be honest, i still can't believe i'm living here. i adapt to things so quickly, sometimes they don't quite sink in. while it hasn't happened yet, i have warned my roommates that there may yet still come a day where i wake up and scream "OH MY GOSH I'M IN JAPAN AHHHHHHHH!" for now, i'm content to wake up and simply sit in awe of the fact that i seriously have the best job in the world. i realize i have a bit of catching up to do- i haven't blogged in almost 2 weeks! which doesn't sound like much i suppose, but if i wait too long my brain starts forgetting things. to all of you who actually read this, thanks for bearing with me.

last Tuesday morning (what is it with Tuesdays?) we were all pretty slow to start the day. i'd somehow fallen asleep on the train even while listening to my "pump up" playlist on my ipod, and it seemed like all our feet were dragging/reluctant to do anything on campus. but thankfully we had an hour of communal prayer. and God totally fired us up. perhaps we wake up so exhausted so we rely on Him more and He can show us how refreshing He is. the Thursday prior, Lyndsey and i randomly met a girl named Aya- we talked with her and 2 of her friends for a really long time, and ended up exchanging contact info with Aya. Monday night i realized i still hadn't contacted her so i sent her a text that just said we'd be on campus during the week if she was free to meet up at all. she texted me back immediately, saying "how about lunch tomorrow?" so Tuesday after prayer Lyndsey and i met Aya for lunch. she introduced us to 3 more of her friends (Reina, Hikari and Nana) and we all ate together- they all spoke english extremely well and were really fun to talk to. then her friends had to leave and it was me, Lyndsey and Aya again. we started talking about different hobbies and activities we'd done growing up and in college, and from there we were able to explain about Campus Crusade/ Student Impact. then Aya asked if everyone in America is Christian (a common idea in Japan). it naturally coalesced into a full fledged spiritual conversation, and Aya said she believed in God but hadn't ever really thought about it, so we were then able to share the entire gospel with her and a good deal of our testimonies. she seemed interested in talking more which was exciting. after lunch we ran into Yuki and Kaori, 2 girls Michelle and i had met our 2nd day of campus. Kaori had to go to class but we ended up spending the rest of the day with Yuki, learning more about each other and sharing some about Student Impact with her. Tuesday night Waseda's English Club hosted a Halloween party, so Mike, AJ, Kat, Esther and i all went. the party was a ton of fun, with delicious food and really entertaining performances, and we were able to meet lots of new students and build relationships. Mike was Bruce Lee (though everyone thought he was Jackie Chan), AJ was Harry Potter and Kat, Esther and i were all nerds (b/c it was easy and we are cheap).


Wednesday was our "Day with the Lord," or as i call it, my All-day Date with Jesus. i slept in and then took the train to Koenji, where we stayed on Summer Project 2 summers ago. it was like coming home again. the day before it had been freezing and rainy, but the day dawned bright and clear, which was such a blessing, because i was able to go to my favorite park and enjoy the day, and then spend the rest of my day at an adorable coffee shop called Precious Coffee Moments-
not to sound like a dork but this area of trees really reminded me of Lothlorien from Lord of the Rings...
caramel coffee, pastry and a Shane Claiborne book on prayer- a perfect combination.

while at the park, i sat on a rock by the water under the Japanese maples and listened to worship music, prayed, read some Psalms and journaled. this was my vantage point from the rock:

2 songs that really spoke to me while looking out over the water were "Mystery" by Phil Wickham (to hear it, go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_hu6avqwvw&feature=related) and "Savior, Please" by Josh Wilson (to hear it, go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=002Q4gBUsy8

these songs really express where my heart has been many times. i have a tendency to focus on DOING things, that maybe if i read my Bible more, or more books about God (like Hearing God, by Dallas Willard- great book by the way) then maybe i will grow closer to God. but God reminded me during this time that it's NOT about what i do, it's about what Jesus has already DONE for me. it's not about knowing more ABOUT God, it's about learning how to KNOW God. i left everything i knew to follow God and serve Him in Japan. but in reality, the more i learn about God, the more i learn how little i really know Him. i realized so much of my prayer life is simply talking to God and not enough listening. i realized that seeing God as Father is pretty easy for me, but i so often forget the crazy awesomeness that He is the Creator of the entire Universe, a thousand lifetimes are a day to Him, and in the heavens thousands upon thousands of angels sing "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty" without ceasing. i have come to realize that my view of God is way too small. we must never allow ourselves to become comfortable with our view of God. He's too big for that. He's too... there isn't even an adjective to properly describe Him. S.M. Lockridge delivered a 6 1/2 minute oration about God in 1976- it's still the best description i've ever seen: http://across2u.com/ThatsMyKing.html

while watching the ducks swim around in the pond, i started wondering why i was so fascinated with them. i mean, they're ducks. they aren't that exciting. they're kinda funny looking. and Oregon's mascot is the Ducks, and i despise them with a passion. but regardless, i was sitting there mesmerized by the ducks, and i was said,"um God? are You trying to tell me something through the ducks?" and He said, "kimi, why aren't you more like a duck? ducklings simply follow their mothers to the water. they don't complain their feet are dirty, or the path to the pond is too long. they don't test the temperature of the water first before they get in, they just dive in without a second thought. they simply follow." ...do i really need to explain the metaphor? how many times do i do things like that when God tells me something? i say i trust Him, but then i question, i test, i get bogged down by little details, when all He wants is for me to simply follow, because His way is infinitely (and eternally) better than i could ever imagine. may we all be more like ducks (the animal, not the Oregon mascot).

i've already written a ton, so i'll try and wrap it up. Thursday i ran into Iphie, a girl i'd met at the Halloween party and ended up being able to share the gospel with her, then Friday she met with Ariel and Mike and they got to share a ton with her as well which was pretty sweet to see her interest not only in meeting with STINTers but also hearing about Christianity. Friday Michelle and i met with Kaori for lunch and got to talk a lot about love and her own religious background- we're praying that this week we'll be able to share the gospel with her and Yuki. Friday night i met with my friend Manami who i met on my first summer project 3 summers ago- she agreed to be my language partner to help me with Japanese so i will be meeting with her every week. she's been very exposed to Christianity but is not a Christian.

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- for God to open the hearts of Kaori, Yuki, Iphie, Aya, Nana, Hikari, Reina, and Manami
- for the boldness and leadership of the Christian students at Waseda and in Student Impact
- that the Lord would open opportunities for us to go to Hitotsubashi University to also do ministry
- for energy and strength
- for patience, wisdom and discernment in ministry
- that the Lord would show us how to know him more every day, and show us how to love others with His love

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God of This City

i woke up Tuesday morning feeling like there was a gigantic boulder sitting on me (ironic, as i was sitting on a gigantic boulder last week...) i lay in bed and said "God you have to get me up i can't get out of bed..." and He did. He had to shove a bit b/c i was pretty snuggled in my bed. eventually i got up though. Tuesday mornings our team starts the day about 1 1/2 hours of prayer and worship at the Student Center. all of us looked pretty tired and out of it at first, but after some quiet time, some awesome prayer time and even more awesome worship, we were so pumped up to go to campus and share the Gospel. the power of prayer and worship never fails to amaze me- in just a short time i went from braindead zombie to energized warrior. i can always count on Ephesians 3: 14-20 (Paul's Prayer for Spiritual Strength) and these two songs to get me pumped up:

OUR GOD IS GREATER (CHRIS TOMLIN):

Water You turned into wine
Open the eyes of the blind
There’s no one like You, None like You
Into the darkness You shine
Out of the ashes we rise
There’s no one like You, None like You
Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome in power
Our God, Our God…
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?

YOUR LOVE NEVER FAILS (JESUS CULTURE):

Nothing can separate, Even if I ran away
Your love never fails
I know I still make mistakes, But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails
You stay the same through the ages, Your love never changes
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage, I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails
The wind is strong and the water's deep, But I'm not alone in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails
The chasm is far too wide, I never thought I'd reach the other side
But Your love never fails
You make all things work together for my good
You make all things work together for my good...

i've come to discover that 3 of the main ways Satan attacks us in this country are discouragement/timidity, exhaustion, and disunity. but these songs always chase away those feelings. so Tuesday we walked onto campus confident and filled with God's strength; lyndsey and i paired up and went to the cafeteria. we sat down with 2 girls who were nice but didn't speak a ton of english, and they left for class after about 20 minutes or so. still, perhaps we'll see them again. after they left, 2 other girls sat down next to us, and we asked if they spoke english. they said yes- turns out they were exchange students from the Philippines- oh, and they're Christian. and one of them actually was at the church service i went to last Sunday. small world, huh? needless to say, it was really encouraging, and i'm hoping they'll want to become involved in Student Impact this year. after that we went to the international lounge and asked 3 girls if we could talk with them. we sat down and ended up having a really long conversation- 2 of them didn't speak english too well but one did and wants to meet up with us again. she even works at Starbucks and is friends with a few Shockers, aka, my new best friend. one sobering point- they told us we were the first Christians they'd ever met. it was kind of heartbreaking, but at the same time, i suppose it's good they don't already have horrible preconceived notions of Christians. but it was a good reminder of why we're in this country. Tuesday night Kat, Mike, Ariel and i all went to the English club, which was a lot of fun. met a girl named Claudine who is also from the Philippines and actually knows the two girls we met earlier that day, Grace and Dann. she was so fun and i can't wait to hang out with her more. needless to say, it was a good day.

Wednesday we began the day with about 45 minutes of prayer as a team, then we split up and Ariel and i met up with Yumi, a girl we'd met at English club last week and wanted to meet up with us. she brought her friend Risa to meet us, and we all had lunch. then Risa went to class, but we ended up talking with Yumi for almost 3 1/2 hours, and were able to share some of our testimonies and how God called us to Japan. i'm really excited to meet up with her again. Thursday we had a break from campus- classes had been cancelled so we had some evangelism training time with Cam and a couple of the other staff, and then went Shinjuku to the tallest building and prayed over Tokyo.


looking out over the city, my heart hurt knowing that while 12,000,000 people live here, less than 1% know who Jesus is.

i saw the money-driven businessmen, the depression-filled students, the homeless, the prostitutes, the broken-hearted. and i realized- i could look out onto the city and be discouraged by the lack of hope and faith, or i could see it as my motivation to change that 1% to 100%. and i saw that, while most of the view was dominated by buildings and concrete, there were sections of green, of trees and beauty.

and i realized that even though so often i feel that this city is just a dark stronghold, the trees reminded me that God's beauty still exists here and shine's His glory, and He is, above all, the God of this city, and greater things are yet to come. and it instilled within me the passion to destroy Satan's power here. i know i can't do it alone, but i can pray for revival, i can pray for more workers to come to this country, and i can pray for the Christians already here, for boldness in sharing the Gospel with every person they meet. i find it a bit ironic that i had to come halfway around the world to realize that this is simply every Christian's calling, to share the Gospel and God's love...

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- please pray for Sakiko, Aya and Misa, the 3 girls who had never met a Christian before
- for Claudine, Grace and Dann, that they will grow in their faith here and have boldness to share it with their peers
- for Yumi and Risa, that God will open their hearts to the Gospel and they would be receptive
- for energy, grace, love and unity among our team and the JCCC staff
- please pray against the spirits of apathy, discouragement and depression that cover this city

May you be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." ~Ephesians 3:16-20

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God of Wonders

ATTENTION, ALL: I OFFICIALLY HAVE WORKING INTERNET!!!! yesterday henry came over and spent way too much time speaking in japanese to the phone company and reconfiguring our router, but his hard work paid off and i am now writing this from the comfort of my own wonderful computer. i cannot even express what a wonderful feeling it is to no longer have to ask to borrow computers....ahhh praise God for internet, and teammates who are engineers and amazing at Japanese.

first things first: here are a few pictures from the past couple weeks i've been wanting to put up but hadn't had the ability to do so:

saw this immediately after landing in Tokyo and figured it was a good sign- i felt very loved at least.



this is a sunset from outside our apartment- who says God's presence is weak in Japan?



after an intense game of Ultimate Football with some Japanese high school students at ICU High School:



FROM OKUTAMA WITH LOVE:

last thursday and friday we took a team training/bonding retreat with a few of the JCCC to Okutama, a place near the mountains about 1 1/2 hours from Tokyo by train. it was so nice to just get away from the city and be with the whole team- the 7 of us from the Pacific Southwest region (PSW) plus the 3 STINTers from KCCC New York and the 2 from Korea (Yuni and Uma- they aren't technically a part of our team but they came with us). once we'd all arrived, the first thing we did was walk down to the river and have a little praise and worship time- here's a picture of the combined teams plus 3 of the Staff:

(from left to right) back row: david, mike, aj, henry, cam (staff), ariel, simon (staff)
middle row: me, kat, yuni, uma,
front row: lyndsey, esther, man wai (staff), michelle



we then had some "getting to know you" time and some training, dinner, more bonding time and then worship around a campfire.

the next morning i woke up at 6 am to have quiet time by the river. i had seen a huge rock the day before i really wanted to try climbing. after forging a path to it, and some very ungracefully scrambling ( as i was carrying my Bible, journal and cell phone and could only climb with one hand) i finally made it to the top. i felt very proud that i hadn't fallen into the river in the attempt. here is a picture lyndsey took from the riverbank- can you find me?



here is an excerpt from my journal i wrote during my quiet time on the rock:

"sitting by a beautiful rushing river, surrounded by gigantic trees and misty mountains, i can't help but be in awe of the Lord's majesty. as soon as i looked around, the words of the song "God of Wonders" sprang from my lips- "God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy/ the Universe declares your majesty, You are holy, holy..." even as i sit atop this ridiculously huge boulder, a small mountain itself to my eyes, i cannot also help marveling at how tiny i really am. i could climb the highest mountain and still never reach the Lord by my own power. "for You, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods..." (Psalm 97:9). surveying the boulder at first, i was unsure of my abilities to climb it. how many times do i shy away from attempting things because i do not have the confidence in my own strength and power? praise the Lord that all things are possible with Him! even the things man sees as impossible, for all things are possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23). i'm currently listening to "Blessed Be Your Name" and it's unreal how true those words are. He has brought me out of darkness, sin and despair, and given me abundant and eternal life. He has blessed me with things i don't deserve and could never earn on my own. i am serving Him in a beautiful beautiful country- a broken country, but still beautiful- and i have the best job in the world. when the road becomes rocky, and darkness seems to take hold, may i always remember how awesome is the Lord, how great is His power, and how wonderful is His love. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall i fear? the Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall i be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1). the Lord promises Christ the nations- "ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession," (Psalm 2:8). and He promises us: "it is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob...I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6). light will always penetrate darkness, no matter how small. sitting here surrounded by the Lord's majesty, He reminds me that He made this country, and while we may not see it all the time, He still reigns sovereign, not matter how many times Satan tries to tell us otherwise. and every time i feel like ministry here is impossible, i just need to remember that "with man, things are impossible, but with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

may the Lord remind you daily of his awesome power, and that He truly is a God of Wonders. may we always remember to turn to Him in times of trouble and rely on Him for everything, and may we never stop praising His Name.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Getting Down to Business....

let me preface by saying i'm still jet lagged and it's been almost 2 weeks....i can't believe it's still affecting me. anyway, it's about 1 am here and i'm on the verge of passing out, so forgive any lack of eloquence in this post. also, i'm really sorry i haven't been able to post any photos yet- right now we're "borrowing" internet because for some crazy reason our own router/internet connection STILL won't work, but for some other crazy reason my computer's the only computer in our apt. that can't connect to the borrowed internet. so i have to borrow my apartment mates' computers every time i want to do anything. this is why i've been writing blog posts at 1-2 am, because i wait for them to finish w/their computers and go to sleep.

Friday was our first "meeting people" day at Waseda. because ministry in Japan is such a slow process, our goal is normally not to immediately share the gospel w/ students unless we feel specifically called by the Spirit. our first goal is to get to know them and hang out with them on a regular basis. we do tell them right away that we work for Student Impact and we are Christian, and are free to talk about spiritual things if the conversation develops, but we don't want to try and force a conversation- it becomes awkward and they get the feeling that we're only talking to them b/c we have an ulterior motive. friday lyndsey and i went to the cafeteria and asked 2 girls first if them spoke english (they said yes) and second if we could talk with them- they said yes and we ended up having a 2 hour conversation with them. their names are Yui and Kanae- they were so nice and fun, and want to meet us again next week! friday night myself, michelle, lyndsey, ariel, david and esther (Korean Campus Crusade STINTers) went to a performance of The Shockers- Waseda's All Male Cheerleading Team. now, michelle and esther had met some cheerleaders who told them about this performance- we were curious but assumed it would be maybe a 5 minute show. but then we saw a crowd of people (mostly girls) standing by a huge building. the show started at 6:30, this was at 5 pm. turns out they were waiting in line to see The Shockers. so we got in line too. we waited over an hour to see the show, but it turned out to be worth it- it was a 2 hour performance, mostly by the Shockers, but also with a few guest dance and cheerleading groups. i am now unashamedly a Shockers groupie for life. here's a video that lyndsey took- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjEI7j9CoWs

Saturday we had a free day, so we went shopping for some apartment things and had a fun day exploring. Sunday we went to church at New Hope- the message was all about living sacrificially and learning to break away from a self-centered life and centering your life on Christ. the pastor talked about how we have the CHOICE to influence people or not, and the choice as to HOW we influence people- we are called to be the "aroma of Christ" (2 Cor. 2:15-16). he ended reminding us that we are not here for our own glory but for God's. Sunday night was my first time going to JCCC's dance ministry called Holy Spirit. first they do a Bible study, then learn dances, then all have a meal together and fellowship. it was SO MUCH FUN. i've officially joined, and they're letting me be in one of the dances they are performing at our Halloween party since i learn so fast (and begged them to let me perform). it was so glorious just to dance again, and since they dance to worship music, it's so much more meaningful and i feel like King David dancing for God. Monday was a national holiday- Health and Fitness/Sports Day. seriously. it was awesome. we spent the day geocashing at a huge park, then we got korean food and did karaoke.

Tuesday we had a team meeting, then went to Waseda again. michelle and i teamed up and ended up talking to several girls, but the 2 that really excited me were Yuki and Kaori. we originally approached them because Yuki had a dance team bag, but turned out that they were both amazing at English and super friendly and fun. we had lunch with them and talked for awhile, and we're meeting them again next week. they were even interested in trying out Holy Spirit (the dance ministry) sometime! i'm hoping i'll even be able to go to Yuki's dance team sometime. every Tuesday evening Waseda's English Club meets for a couple hours, so ariel, mike and i went to a coffee shop and relaxed until it was time to go back to campus. originally i wasn't that excited about it, and i was really exhausted/jetlagged- i even dozed off in the coffee shop AFTER having coffee, but it was so amazing! it was 2 hours of students wanting to talk to me and being excited, and they were so welcoming and fun- one girl, Yumi, even asked if she could take me shopping sometime, even though i'd only been talking to her for a few minutes! one of the guys i met, Eric, told me he was really interested in learning more about Christianity after i told him that i wor,ked for Student Impact. there were 2 girls from China, Jane and Ellen, who were in my discussion group i was interested in meeting but didn't get a chance- one of the girls, Jane, had expressed her love of hiking during discussion group. Mike's church is going hiking next weekend and my mind immediately thought "YOU SHOULD INVITE HER" but then they disappeared. but God gave me a 2nd opportunity on the way out the door of the university- i turned around and saw them right behind me and introduced myself, Ariel and Mike and we talked all the way to the train station, during which i invited them to go hiking and they seemed really excited about it! God totally refreshed me with their enthusiasm, and i made a lot of new contacts, and am definitely going back next week. it was a really encouraging day- i never expected to meet so many people/make so many new friends in one day. Today our team split and henry, michelle and lyndsey went to Waseda while the rest of us went to ICU High School. we had a picnic outside again and 3 new girls from last week came and talked with us for awhile. after classes were over we played ultimate frisbee and football in a big grassy area, and met 2 new girls and 3 new boys, so that was really encouraging as well. tonight Kat, the 3rd member of the KCCC (Korea Campus Crusade for Christ) STINT team arrived- we all went to the JCCC center to meet her and eat a late dinner. it was really exciting to finally be a full team. tomorrow and Friday we will be going on a training retreat as a whole STINT team (PSW + KCCC) and a few of the JCCC Staff to learn more about effective evangelism and working with our team. even though i've only been in Tokyo about 1 1/2 weeks, it will be nice to go to the country and refresh a bit.

PRAYER REQUESTS:
- please be praying for Yui, Kanae, Yuki, Kaori, Yumi, Ellen, Jane and Eric- that the Lord would provide more opportunities to meet and smooth ways to share the Gospel with them
- for energy
- for team unity, wisdom and discernment in ministry

SPECIAL PRAYER: PLEASE PRAY FOR THE EXCHANGE RATE- SERIOUSLY. it's been fluctuating between 78-82 yen to the dollar right now. that is really not good. if it stays this low there is a very good chance we'll have to raise more support just to stay in Tokyo since we're losing so much money because of the rates.

may the Lord bless you and keep you, and may every day you make the choice to serve your Creator, and to be a positive influence in the lives of others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Few Firsts...

so far this week has been full of "first's" - here are a few of them:

First Alien Registration Card:

monday we went and got our Alien Registration cards for Mitaka (our city within Tokyo Prefecture). this actually was kind of stressful because either we'd been sent the wrong address from our director or i'd written it down wrong- either way, when i tried to apply the lady said my building didn't exist, and it took a really long time to figure out that the address was wrong. i'd written down 9-17-18 when our address is really 9-18-17. needless to say, i'll never be forgetting those numbers now.

First Time Eating Natto:

if you don't know what natto is, it's extremely popular in Japan. i have no idea why, as it not only looks gross, it smells gross and tastes even grosser. it's fermented soybean paste. why anyone ever thought that was a good idea to market as edible is beyond my comprehension. but i told myself that i needed to try it at least once. once was enough. beyond enough. we all went for our first team dinner to a rotating sushi bar, and as it went past some of the boys on our team told me to grab it and told me it was natto. so i sucked up my courage and downed the whole slimy mass, and almost threw up in the process. i could barely keep myself from gagging- i was seriously one fermented soybean shy of spitting it all over the restaurant. but i finally got it down. and then was nauseous the rest of the night. but hey, now i can say i did it. was definitely filled with a distinct feeling of accomplishment afterward....or maybe it was just the unsettled natto.

First 6 Hour Prayer Marathon:

Tuesday was a Worldwide All-Campus Crusade Day of Prayer. so for 6 hours, we joined with the rest of the JCCC staff and prayed for different areas of the world and countries where staff of Campus Crusade are currently serving. it was really cool, but really draining, and at 3:30 pm it felt like 9 pm. that may have been jetlag though. after we finished praying all the STINTers went to a restaurant and got some good grub, and then to Mr. Donut for dessert. oh Mr. Donut, how i've missed you.

First Gospel Choir Experience:

gospel music is becoming a huge fad in Japan- which is really awesome. JCCC has a Gospel choir ministry, a fabulous way to share the gospel because students love the music but a lot of times don't even understand what they are singing, so then we can explain it. the choir meets on Tuesday nights from about 7-9:30 pm. lyndsey goes every week, so myself, michelle, and the two KCCC (Korean Campus Crusade for Christ) STINTers all joined her to try it out. it was SO COOL. i haven't done any choir since high school, and it was so awesome to hear all our voices join together praising God in a beautiful harmony. there were about 13 students that came, and they were all amazing singers and super nice. unfortunately i don't think i'll have time to do it, because i really really want to do the dance ministry and i won't have time for both :( it was a really fun experience though.

First Day on Campus:

yesterday was our first official day on campus. we went to International Christian University (ICU) High School. we used to go to ICU, but CCC keeps getting kicked off of that campus. which is ironic really, but the "Christian" in the name is really that- in name only. however, at the high school, all students are required to take a Christianity class which is really awesome and is a huge open door for us to do ministry through lunch time hangouts and after school activities. we had a picnic outside for lunch and got to meet about 8-9 students. after school a few more students stopped by as well to hang out for a bit. it was really awesome just to be on campus and getting to hang out and meet students.

First Time Playing Halo/Halo 2:

last night AJ and Henry taught me to play Halo. and by Halo, i mean Halo 2. and by "taught," i mean AJ taught me and Henry killed me. a lot. i did manage to kill both of them twice. it was probably b/c they were too busy killing each other that i was able to sneak up on them. oh well. it was a good first attempt, right?

First Day at Waseda University:

this morning we set out for our first excursion to Waseda University. the campus is about 30-40 minutes away from Mitaka. its a really pretty campus with a ton of trees and rocks with Japanese writing (i have no idea what the significance of these rocks is, but they are pretty). this university has a huge international student population, so it's a really good place for us to do ministry, partially because most students are good at english, partially because we are less conspicuous being on campus, and partially because most students are fairly interested in talking with Americans. we prayer walked all over the campus, then spent some time hanging out in a big grassy area w/ Cam and Ayumi, one of the JCCC staff who will be with us almost every week at Waseda. met one of the Christian students which was really encouraging. tomorrow we will be our first day of evangelism/meeting students- please pray that God leads us to the students He wants us to meet!

First Takoyaki:

takoyaki= fried octopus. basically its a ball of octopus w/ fried stuff around it. and it was actually really good. much better than natto. in fact, i highly recommend it. seriously.


PRAYER REQUESTS:
- wisdom and discernment in ministry
- open hearts of the students we meet
- spiritual protection from discouragement, weariness and division
- that the Lord would start revival at Waseda University


may your week also be full of firsts!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Touchdown in Tokyo!

well, we finally made it.

flew from Dallas to San Francisco at about 6:30 am, arrived in San Fran about 8:30 am PT, then had about a 3 1/2 hour layover. michelle was supposed to meet me but missed her flight out of San Diego- thankfully she was able to catch one out of LA that would arrive in Tokyo only about an hour after mine. henry's flight would arrive first. i slept for a good deal of the 12 hour flight, watched 2 movies, wrote in my journal, worked on some Japanese, and stared out the window for the remainder of the time.

when i made it out of customs, henry was waiting for me- it was really exciting to see him and be reunited, especially since thoughts of "what if i can't find henry and he can't find me and i'm lost in the Narita Airport???!" kept going through my head. while we waited for michelle to arrive, we exchanged our money for Japanese yen. the exchange rate between the yen and the dollar is about the worst it's ever been- about 82 yen to the dollar. we're going to have to be really careful with our money right now.

Cam, our JCCC director, met us at the airport and drove us all to the JCCC Student Center in Mitaka, where we were finally reunited with the other STINTers- it was SO GOOD to see them again. they had food waiting for us, and we got our new cell phones and bicycles, then we headed to our new homes for the next year. lyndsey, michelle and i all live in this cute little apartment about 20 minutes away (biking) from the JCCC center and 7 minutes from the guys. the living room is actually fairly spacious, and while my room is rather small, i've organized it pretty well and i think i'm really going to enjoy it.

this morning we made pancakes for breakfast, then went to the 2 pm service at New Hope Church in Ochanomizu- not gonna lie, i kind of love that they have afternoon church services. it was so good- i was just so filled with joy at the first notes of the worship music, and could just feel the Holy Spirit permeating the entire place. the message was exactly what i needed to hear, and even their the title of their bulletin said "NEVER, EVER FORGET YOUR MISSION IN LIFE." i thought it was rather appropriate. because even while i am an official Missionary in a foreign land, there are still so many distractions the devil has waiting, and it's easy to get caught up in things that may look good (and might even BE good) but they may not necessarily be what God wants me to be focusing on at that moment.

after church we met some students Lyndsey had made friends with the week before, and we all went to a Hawaiian hamburger place for a late lunch/early dinner. then we went to the 100 yen store and got some necessities for our rooms/ the apartment. then we went to the grocery store- rode my new bike for the first time, which was interesting since i've never used handbrakes. but finally got it figured out and i didn't even run into anything. my bicycle's name is Silver Bullet. i'll put up a picture soon.

spent the rest of the evening organizing my room. tomorrow we're going to get our Alien Registration cards.

in case anyone feels compelled to send me wonderful things from America, here's my new address:

Kimiyo Brown
Kamirenjaku 9-18-17, Gakutou Mitaka Apt. 401
Mitaka-shi, Tokyo-to 181-0012
Japan

sorry for the abrupt ending, but it's really late here and i'm sleepy. and i have to wake up before 8 am to take the trash out. apparently you can't take trash out the night before here...silly Japan.