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


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.

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 -
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!

- 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.

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:

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


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.

- 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

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).

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.

- 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