Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Message for All My Valentines

Today is Valentine’s Day. Most people do not know how the holiday was started, or why, but it has become a day to celebrate love. Today I want to share some things I have learned about love in my life- I will be giving this talk later today at a Valentine's party we are hosting for all our girl students (which is why it's in pretty simple language- it's all still true though!) I figured I might as well share it with anyone who wants to read it. This is mostly for women though- sorry guys. You can still read it though :)

I started wanting a boyfriend when I was very young. I always had very pretty friends growing up and they always had boyfriends. One friend got a boyfriend when she was 11 years old. I always felt like I was not pretty enough for a boy to like me. The world tells women that they are not pretty enough. Magazines tell us that we need certain clothes or makeup or hairstyles to be pretty. But this is wrong.

God, the Creator of the Universe and the world, created you to be beautiful. He thinks you are the most beautiful person in the world, and He loves you more than you could ever imagine. God does not make mistakes, and He created you to be exact the way you are. He created women to show His beauty to the world. The world has taught us to think we are not beautiful, and that if we think we are beautiful, that is a bad thing.

I have been reading a book called Captivating. It explains that when God created the first woman, Eve, she was incredibly beautiful. Satan was very jealous of Eve’s beauty, and so he made her think she was not good enough as she was. Satan told her to eat the apple so she could have more knowledge. This was when doubt entered the world. Since then, Satan has been telling women they are not good enough because he knows that women are beautiful and powerful. Satan uses doubt to make us not as powerful. But God has made us beautiful and powerful, and through God, we can do anything. (Mark 9:23)

Valentine’s Day can be a sad holiday for girls who do not have a boyfriend. But a boyfriend does not always make you happy. Until 2 years ago, I thought I needed a boyfriend to be happy. I was insecure of my looks and thought a boyfriend would help me know I was attractive. So I looked for boyfriends. I tried to make boys like me. I had 4 boyfriends, and any time I did not have a boyfriend, I would go to parties and flirt with boys so they would like me. But none of these guys satisfied me. I realized that it is because none of these guys were the one God wants me to be with. But, even if you have a husband, that love will not be perfect. Only God’s love is perfect. God’s love is better than any love a person can give. God loves us all the time, even when we make mistakes. Even when we turn away from God, He loves us. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you more. He does not just dai suki ("really like" in Japanese- they use this phrase instead of "love") you, He aishiteru ("love") you, He loves you, and wants you to love him too. God wants us to be with Him.

So why do we not feel this love? It is because we have sin. Sin separates us from God so we cannot experience God’s love fully. But because God love us so much, He showed us the perfect example of love. The Bible tells us, “For God so LOVED the world He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.

Are you experiencing true love in your life right now? Are you satisfied? If you do not know God’s love, or feel that you are not experiencing God’s love, I encourage you to talk with someone who knows more, or read through the books of John and 1 John in the Bible.

For now, I love all of you, and more importantly, God loves you! Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TWO WEEKS IN THAILAND: Bangkok Dangerous

first of all, if anyone gets the Nicholas Cage reference of Bangkok Dangerous, good for you.

second, i'm sitting in my bed with a cup of tea. it's about 3 pm Tokyo time, Wednesday February 9, 2011. i only know this because my computer clock told me. my concept of time and place is still rather skewed at the moment. traveling in another country does that to a person i suppose.

disclaimer: this post may be very rambling and all over the place- i cannot guarantee that any of it will actually make much chronological (or grammatical) sense, but i promise to do my best.

as you can tell, i'm back from Thailand. it was a whirlwind of a trip. it was only two weeks, but returning to Tokyo felt like i was coming back from the Crusades or something. it's good though. i've very glad to be home. well, where do i start? our main purpose in going to Thailand was for our All Asia STINT Midyear Conference. the conference was held in Cha'am, Thailand, about 2 hours away from Bangkok, and our hotel was right on the beach. one of the coolest things about conference was simply the fact that we got to worship, pray and fellowship with about 150 other STINTers serving God in East Asia. we got to see a lot of people we'd met at briefing back in August, as well as meet a ton of new people and hear their stories of how God's working in East Asia. i think something that's been challenging this past semester has been not comparing myself or ministry in Japan to ministry in East Asia. hearing tons of stories of how hundreds of people are coming to Christ over there is exciting, but at the same time it's easy to look at Japan and think, "what are we doing wrong? why isn't Japan like East Asia?" during conference, God really fixed my perspective. He showed me that yes, Japan's soil is much harder than East Asia, but looking at the fruit East Asia is producing should give me hope that someday Japan too can be like that. and until then, we need to just keep sending more and more workers to Japan to till the soil so that it's just as soft as East Asia's.

during the day we actually had a good amount of free time- in the mornings we had some worship time, a speaker and quiet time (which i always did in the garden facing the beach), then another speaker, then free time in the afternoons (most of which was either spent having team meetings debriefing our past semester, or getting Thai massages, or hanging out on the beach), then dinner, then more worship and another speaker after dinner.


- the awesome speakers we had to challenge us, encourage us, and help us focus more on God
- the second night we went to a night market w/ our 2 coaches, John and Kristen Whitmore, and the East Asia team from ASU. it was pretty cool to walk around and take in the sights, smells and souvenirs. i got some pad thai, and a few souvenirs for friends and family
- worship time on the beach the last night of conference with several other STINT teams
- swimming in the water at midnight with glow-in-the-dark algae (not even kidding-
- really cheap Thai massages on the beach (actually, really cheap everything)
- hanging out with all the East Asia STINTers, hearing their stories and making new friends
Team Japan with some of our favorite East Asia STINTers
Tokyo team with our coaches, John and Kristen Whitmore

so most of the reason we have CCC Staff coaches is to encourage us, to grow us, to help us through ministry frustrations, to guide us, etc. our sending region, PSW (pacific southwest) sent John and Kristen Whitmore to the conference to lead our team times and meet with us one-on-one so we can really process this past semester of ministry. i was having my one-on-one with Kristen, and she asked me a pretty generic question like "how has ministry been for you?" or something, and i went into this whole long thing that started out talking about what was frustrating about ministry, then what i loved about ministry, then suddenly it turned into me spewing out all this stuff about what i love about Japan and how there's still so much work to be done and every time i go back to the States i feel like there's more to do, and how i've made so many awesome relationships here that i don't want to lose, and how there are so many people interested in learning about God i don't want to give up on, and how God's doing awesome things here and i want to be a part of it, and all the sudden my words faltered and i realized- I WANT TO RE STINT NEXT YEAR. and as soon as the words escaped my lips, my heart leaped in a very similar fashion to when God first called me to STINT and my discipler Trina said "do you want to go Japan?" it freaked me out a bit, to be honest. i got all like bubbly and giggly and my arms felt lighter than they should be, and i was just like "ahhhh oh goodness i want to re-STINT!" and i put my head on the table. Kristen was cracking up- she could see what i couldn't during my whole Japan spiel: she saw that i wanted to re-STINT, i just hadn't realized it yet.

so yeah. as of now, i am officially applying to re-STINT and come back to Tokyo in the fall for another year. please be praying that if this is God's will, He will open doors and provide all my needs, as i will have to come home in the summer and re-raise all my support. please also be praying that if this is NOT God's will, that He would close the doors immediately and grant me vision for what He wants me to do next year.

the morning of the 27th, we said our goodbyes to all our old and new friends, and took vans back to Bangkok. there we spent the day exploring with the East Asia STINTers from San Luis Obispo (SLO) which was really fun. the next day was our first on our own as a Tokyo Team- it was a little weird not to be surrounded by tons of other STINTers and staff. my team and i took a riverboat to the Grand Palace- it was quite grand indeed. really big, really shiny. i have to hand it to the Thai- they're incredibly dedicated to detail.

we spent most of the afternoon wandering around and taking pictures, then headed back to the hotel to shower and change before going to the train station to take a night train to Chiang Mai. unfortunately, we didn't realize that we needed to make reservations for the night train ahead of time...thankfully God provided a night bus for us, and everything was taken care of, but it was a bit scary at first not knowing if we would be able to get to Chiang Mai and if not, where we were going to stay in Bangkok. while the boys were figuring all this out though, i was able to have an awesome 30 minute conversation with one of the ladies working at the train station, share some of why i'm a Christian and even give her a Thai Bible! then she showed it to a coworker, and he looked through it and said to me, "but i'm Thai. i'm Buddhist." and i said "that's ok you can still read it- it's just something that has completely changed my life and given me hope and purpose; would you like one?" and he said yes so i gave him one. please be praying for Jake (left) and P'ko (right), that they would read their Bibles and find truth and God's love. took a 9 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai, where we were hoping to do some sort of volunteer work of some sort at an orphanage. however, by that point, about half of our team was sick with what we called the Tokyo Team Plague, but was some sort of crazy stomach virus/fever/thing that struck suddenly and ended up lasting anywhere between 2 and 10 days (2 for Michelle and AJ, 10 for Henry and Ariel- actually i'm not even sure if they're fully recovered yet). anyway, we figured playing with children or manual labor would probably not be the best thing for the sickies, so we used our days at Chiang Mai as a rest and recovery period. we were able to share the gospel with some Buddhist monks/ex-monks at a temple we visited, and give them Bibles, so God was still working in Chiang Mai even though it wasn't quite the way we had planned (like we can really plan anything...) the next day was chill, i got a Thai massage and hung out at Starbucks for awhile catching up on my journal and things, then that night we all (well, those not sick) went to Chiang Mai's Sunday Night Market with our new friend Pare, whom some of the other guys met at a museum earlier that day. we were all hoping to be able to share the Gospel with her- turned out she's a Christian and involved with CCC at her university in Thailand! it was so encouraging to meet another sister in Thailand! the next day we had lunch with her, then she came with me, AJ, Kat and Esther to Tiger Kingdom, a tiger reservation where you can pet full grown tigers and play with baby ones! it was SO COOL!

that night we packed up and once again headed to the night bus for a 9 hour return trip to Bangkok. we arrived about 6 am- unfortunately we were unable to check into our rooms; we WERE able to get 2 rooms for the sickies, and the rest of us took a taxi to a floating market, one of the top things to do in Bangkok. took about an hour and a half to get to, but it was pretty sweet. we took a boat on the canals, stopped at a coconut sugar farm, floated around and looked at souvenirs. very touristy, but still fun. that afternoon we got some lunch, laid out by the pool, i got a pedicure (and got to give my pedicurist a Thai Bible!), then that night Henry, AJ and i went and saw Tron in 3D IMAX- it was pretty cool, not gonna lie. the next morning we got up early and took a taxi south to Pattaya, our last big stop in Thailand. our hotel was once again, right next to the beach, which was lovely. Mike, AJ, Michelle, Dave and i took a ferry to a small island called Koh Larn, where we hung out on the beach and played on the rocks for awhile. that night we dressed up and had dinner at the hotel, then called an early night because the next morning we had to wake up about 5:30 am to pack and check out before going to Flight of the Gibbon: ziplining in the rainforest! it was amazing! we spent about 3 hours ziplining 23 platforms, then they provided us with lunch. after that we got to explore a huge zoo, and i got to ride an elephant!
all of us on the last platform
me + elephant

we got back to the hotel about 2:30 pm, where the hotel was nice enough to let us shower and change, then since people were still sick, we decided it would just be better to go ahead and head back to Bangkok and hang out at the airport. unfortunately we then spent 12 hours in Bangkok International Airport, but it was alright. then, a 7 hour flight later, and we were back home in lovely, clean, safe, but cold, Tokyo. Thailand was amazing, and adventurous, and eye-opening, but as i sit here typing, snuggled under my blankets in my bed with a cup of hot tea next to me, i can't help but feel that it IS nice to be home.

sorry this post was so ridiculously long. if you made it to the end, well done. sadly enough, i didn't write nearly as much as i could have. but if you want more details, just email or skype me!

something to consider: i always ask you to pray for Japan. but after spending 2 weeks in Thailand, i've seen some of the suffering of the Thai people. it is a sad and broken nation. it has the highest rate of sex trafficking in the world. young girls are literally stolen off the streets every day and sold into a life of slavery. poverty, disease and depression run rampant. please continue to pray for Japan, but also pray for other Asian countries like Thailand- they need God's love too!