Thursday, June 30, 2011


"well...i'm back."

that's the last line in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, after the hobbits have traveled all over Middle Earth, been chased by everything under the sun, survived numerous battles, and finally return home.

granted, that's a bit of an overdramatized comparison, but in some ways it does seem similar. they are so changed from who they were before they left home. they know they can never go back to who they were. they know things will never be exactly the same, even if it looks like it.

i arrived back in America around 11:00 am, Saturday, June 25th. the first thing that weirded me out was that people spoke english. even in a city like Tokyo, we're not used to hearing it. the second thing was the diversity of people- everyone wasn't asian! it was so weird! once again, even in a city like Tokyo, the foreigners still really stick out. other than that, the transition wasn't too difficult to be honest. this was possibly mostly due to the fact that i hadn't really slept in like 3 days. i stayed awake all friday and didn't go to bed friday night, was up all day saturday in japan, then awake all day AGAIN since we gained 17 hours coming back to was a very long day. and i was really out of it. my friend sammy picked me up from the airport and took me to Alpha Delta Chi (ADX), my old sorority house (where i was staying)- we then went to the grocery store where he literally had to tell me what to buy because i was so out of it and disoriented that i couldn't make decisions very well. i went to bed around 5 pm that day and slept until 3 am, then slept again until 7 am. woke up and went to church at my old church Reality LA. ran into a friend (and monthly supporter)- it was totally a divine meeting because she was leaving for South Africa the next day and so that was the only day i could see her. i had my first meal in the States, In'n'Out hamburger, fries and a milkshake (it was so weird ordering food in ENGLISH!) and we caught up on life and she committed to continue supporting me next year (PRAISE GOD!). that afternoon i went to the beach with my friend Tayler- i was going to sit and talk to God and process re-entering/ reverse culture shock, but then our friend Khalia met up with us and we all just talked for hours (which was great) and then went to dinner. afterward i hung out with a few old friends and watched a movie called Beware of Christians( 2 of my friends actually made it/are in it. it's pretty legit. Monday morning i was going to wake up early, get some support raising things done, then meet with a friend and her husband...definitely woke up around 3 pm. thanks, jetlag. that afternoon i got some Yogurtland with my friend jonathan, then that evening went to dinner over at my friend (and monthly supporter) Ben's house. got to see a lot of people for the first time, met some new people, had some great food. afterward we sang some worship was so sweet just to hang out with old friends and praise God. Tuesday my friend sean and i hung out. he wasn't able to come celebrate my birthday on Wednesday, so he made Tuesday a day of birthday celebration- i opened the door and there he was leaning against his car with a huge bouquet of flowers and a USC Hello Kitty tshirt (seriously), then he took me to lunch, we walked around campus then he treated me to Starbucks. it was awesome just to hang out with him again- he was one of my very first friends at USC freshman year and we're still close to this day. it's interesting- we were walking around campus like old times and it felt like nothing had changed, and yet at the same time there was a huge new building and other changes to campus and we had to realize that a year had gone by, we were graduated, and so much really had changed. sorry i just used "changes/changed" 3 times in one sentence... blame my poor writing on the jetlag. anyway, afterward i took a little nap because i was exhausted (speaking of jetlag...) then met up with 2 of my old friends/coworkers- eric and jon. it was fun just spending quality time with them and catching up. i love friendships where you can go to another country, not really keep in touch and then come back and resume the friendship where you left off....

there are definitely friendships that have died since i was in Japan though. and it's sad. i didn't make as much of an effort as i could have, but the same time, they made little or no effort. and i couldn't sustain it. it hurts, but i know that's life. i'm a very relational person though- quality time is one of my love languages, and i will do everything in my power to keep in touch with people. but at some point you've got to realize that some relationships just don't last. and i've got to be ok with it. because that's life. that's growing up. that's graduating college and moving to a foreign country that is 17 hours ahead of the rest of the i look back, i think perhaps one of the reasons God called me to Japan (other than the 99.3% of non-Christians...) is to pull me away from the comfort of college friends/relationships. to make me realize that i had put way to much priority on relationships with people, and it was overshadowing the importance i put on my relationship with God. at USC i could rely on my small group, i could rely on my sorority, i could rely on my church and Campus Crusade. in Japan i was stripped of all that, and forced to remember what relationship matters the most, and what relationship took top priority over all- my relationship with my Creator.

they gave us a book on ReEntry before we left Japan. i have yet to read it, as it's currently in my friend Tayler's car since i left it there on Sunday...i need to read it though. i feel like i adapt to things very easily, and i've kind of just coasted through this whole readjustment process. i'm worried it's going to hit me really hard soon. yeah things are weird, but they seem so similar to right after i graduated it almost feels like this past year didn't even happen. i miss my old team and my students so much, but it just hasn't quite registered yet. most of the students i'll see again, but i may not see the majority of my team again for a long, long time. it's a sobering thought. and that's when i remember this past year...and when my brain decides it doesn't want to process and why not focus on something else for now? think about that later. sigh.....maybe i haven't adjusted as quickly as i thought....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow...

the last week in Tokyo was, to say the least, crazy. the day after we arrived back from debriefing was my last Sunday, so a few of our students took the girl STINTers out to lunch. it was really fun to hang out with them one more time. after lunch we went to New Hope for church, and took lots of pictures since everyone besides me was leaving for good. it was sad but at the same time, i'm coming back so it was exciting to tell people that. after church myself, mike and a few students went to Burger King for a snack, then i went to my last Holy Spirit practice for 3 months.

Monday i started cleaning and packing a bit, then that evening 5 girl students from Waseda took me out for a farewell hangout- i have grown very close with these girls and unfortunately won't see them again until next June because they are all studying abroad in the fall, so it was sweet to be able to hang out with them one more time. we did karaoke for 3 hours (while eating dinner) and then took "perikura" (picture stickers). this is perikura
we're rather silly sometimes
all my girls- from left: miko, chibo, manami, yuuri and natalie (she's 1/2 Japanese)

Tuesday i had a pretty full day, most of which was spent at Waseda University. that morning i spent some time organizing and cleaning, then i went and played soccer one last time with my friends from Paddy (i scored 3 goals! though one was because my teammates basically kept the ball for me til i could run up and kick it lol... definitely need to practice this summer...) Paddy Football Club
after soccer i went to Paddy's English club meeting, then met up with my friend Saori for coffee. our mutual friend Jenna joined us and we got to have great discussion about love, guys, marriage and our future goals. i've shared the Gospel with both of them before so it was a good time of casual hangout in which i was able to incorporate my testimony and go deeper about God's love.

Wednesday morning i woke up early to finish cleaning- 2 of the JCCC staff came over to check out our rooms and make sure they were clean. thankfully i'm staying in my room next year (i had a choice to switch but it was so much easier just to stay in my apartment...and i'm lazy) so i didn't have too much to pack up. after our inspection, i went to Waseda University to have one last hang out time with my pseudo-disciple Claudine. she is studying abroad in the fall so i won't see her again until at least next July. after meeting with her, i went to my last Odori Samurai practice. we started learning a new dance which i have definitely already forgotten, but it was still fun. at the end of practice, we always get in a huge huddle and do this Samurai chant thing- we were all gathered together and my leader calls me into the center and tells everyone i'm leaving but coming back in September and everyone said "awww we'll miss you" (in Japanese) and then they all sang Happy Birthday to me since my birthday was the next week and it was really sweet and i felt very loved. then afterward when i got to the train station about 20 of the freshmen were gathered and had a birthday cake for me and sang again! i was so surprised! and it was really the confirmation i needed that i was actually an influential part of Samurai, that i could leave for 3 months and people wouldn't forget me and that i could come back and continue the relationships i had begun to establish these past 2 months.

Thursday morning we all went to Waseda University for one last Unity prayer time with KGK and YWAM- it was really sweet to be able to hear more about each others' ministries and pray for one another. i can't wait to continue Unity in the fall! after that i had lunch with my friend Suzuka from Samurai. i got to share a lot about Student Impact with her and talk about Christianity because she grew up in a Catholic school. she's interested in helping poor and homeless people so i invited her to homeless church on Saturday and she was really excited about it, which of course made me excited. after lunch my whole STINT team celebrated my unbirthday- since my birthday is June 29th i would be in the States by then and wouldn't be able to celebrate with the other STINTers so we designated June 23rd as my unbirthday celebration day (ironically i would be turning 23). we went to the Ghibli Museum (), then to Sweets Paradise, an all you can eat in 70 minutes sweets restaurant, then took team perikura (it was difficult with all 10 of us but finally worked!) then we went back to Mitaka and watched Star Wars and they all gave me presents. it was so sweet and such a great way to celebrate with some of my favorite people.

Friday i cleaned and packed a lot, then went to my last Paddy meeting. i was a discussion leader, and my topic was "Are you truly satisfied with your life? If so, why? If not, what would you need in your life to be satisfied?" i got some pretty awesome discussion out of it too. some people said they needed a job or a girlfriend to be satisfied, some said they had friends and school so they were satisfied, so i had them dig deeper and asked if they could still be satisfied if they didn't have money or friends or family. it led to me being able to share a lot about how God satisfies completely, which made me happy. afterward the leader announced that it was my last Paddy for awhile so we were all going to dinner in my honor which was really sweet and made me feel loved. it was awesome to hang out with everyone one last time. after dinner, i met up with the other STINTers at our favorite ramen shop, then went home to finish packing and write notes for everyone. stayed up all night, then at 5:45 am went to see Henry off- his bus to the airport was at 6:15 am so we all stayed awake to say goodbye. it felt surreal. my brain couldn't even process that we were leaving. after saying goodbye to Henry, Mike and i went to the homeless church in the park and met up with Yusuke and my friend Suzuka. it was great to go back- i haven't been able to go for 3 weeks so i was excited to go one more time before i left. afterward, said goodbye to Suzuka and Yusuke, went home, gathered up my things and was off! once again all the other STINTers and some of the staff came to say goodbye to Michelle and felt even more surreal that it was happening to me. the plane ride felt like a dream (possibly because i hadn't slept in so long) but anyway, i'll write more about that in my next post. for now, know that i am back safely in America!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


last week we had our debrief as Tokyo STINT Team 2010-2011. we went to Nikko, a little place in the mountains a couple hours away from Tokyo. we were there Wednesday - Saturday, and it was really just a time of relaxation, reflection and team meetings where we could come together one last time for things like celebrating what God's done this year, clear up anything still weighing on peoples' hearts, and encouraging each other in how we've blessed the team.

the first 2 days i was really sick so that was tough but we weren't too busy so i got some time to rest. it was really weird being there though. it was fun, but it was 3 days of wrapping up a crazy year. we all changed so much, grew so much, learned so much, experienced so much...this year has seriously been the most incredible, life-changing, challenging, heart-breaking, joyful year of my life. how do you wrap that up in 3 days? how do you say everything you want to say to your teammates in just one meeting? how do you process every blessing the Lord has provided us in just one night? impossible. or as the Japanese say, "muri muri muri."

we wrote a letter to our future selves with some things we want to remember. there's a lot i want to grow in next year, especially prayer, spending more time reading the Bible, being more intentional loving my teammates, and following up better with students. there are also specific things i want to do next year that i didn't get to do this year, such as prayer walking in Asakusa (famous for shrines and temples), visiting Hiroshima, and establishing a homeless ministry in a park near Waseda University. it was definitely weird to really start thinking about next year though. debriefing was a big transition period for me as i started to wrap up relationships with this team and starting thinking about next year's team. next year's team is going to be SO different. obviously there will be different people, but this year we had 5 guys and 5 girls, and 3 were from KCCC. next year we have no KCCC, and there are 7 girls and 2 guys. the dynamic will just be completely different. i'm really excited about my team next year though- there's 2 people who were on my summer project, another theatre major from Texas (crazy, yeah?) a girl who grew up in Tokyo, and almost all of them have been on summer projects in Japan so they are at least a bit familiar with things. but yeah. i feel like i'm in limbo right now as i try and cherish these last moments with my current team and begin to establish relationships with my new team over email and facebook. i'll introduce them later. for now, here are some pictures from debriefing:

sticky notes with all the things God's done this year (there were a lot more but wouldn't fit in the picture) all of us in front of the stickies -- we stayed at a traditional Japanese inn (called a ryokan) and got to wear yukatas all the time! it was awesome! Kegon no Taki Waterfall in Nikko with one of our debriefing coaches, Tommy in front of the Toshogu Shrine monkeys- they are the "Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil" monkeys all of us plus Cayla and Tommy, our debrief coaches, after our last dinner i love this team so much! one last team picture with our STINT tshirts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Sunday night i returned from 3 days of performing with my traditional Japanese dance team Odori Samurai at Sapporo's Annual Yosakoi Festival in Hokkaido. the word that best describes the weekend: whirlwind.

i was really nervous about the weekend, if you read my last blog post. like, really nervous. but God totally blessed the time and it's one of the best experiences i've had in Japan all year. even though i didn't really get to share the full Gospel, i built a ton of new friendships and i'm so excited for next year. God also made sure that in every formation we performed in, there was someone who spoke English right next to me. so crazy. Friday morning woke up late and made a mad dash for the airport, arriving just in time (praise God!) second praise- before we'd even gotten on the plane one of the leaders asked me what my John 3:16 bracelet meant- so i pulled out my Japanese Bible and showed him and got to explain it! SO AWESOME! the flight was about 1 1/2 hours to Hokkaido (by the way, Japanese domestic flight security takes literally 1 minute...i love Japan.) we quickly went to our hotel and changed into our costumes. my two roommates' nicknames were Chyoya and Pusapusa (i have no idea what these names mean in Japanese). i thought they couldn't really speak English but turned out that they spoke better than i expected so one night i ended up being able to share a good deal of my testimony with Chyoya and share about how God's love is the only thing that truly satisfies us. it was really sweet. back to Friday. after we changed we went to our first performance location. we performed at 3 different locations on Friday. i had no idea how big this festival was, mostly because i can't read or understand Japanese enough to ever understand any explanation. but yeah. it was huge. it was quite a sight seeing Yosakoi teams all decked out in their costumes walking around Sapporo or through train stations.

quick Friday night side note-- Friday night after we got back to the hotel i get a text from Mike saying "There's a party going on in heaven right now because YUSUKE ACCEPTED CHRIST TONIGHT!" then i get a call from Yusuke himself who explains it all to me and he was SO excited! ahhhhhh it was amazing! such an awesome way to end the day! thank you so much for all of you who have been praying for him! God answers prayers! ahhhh! yay! ok back to the festival. Saturday morning woke up about 6 am and got ready for a long day of performing. our first performance was the competition main stage- here is a video that a former Samurai took (6 Samurai alums came to support us and take photos- it was so cool!) this is probably the best video we have of the performance because you can see everyone and get the whole effect. i'm on the left but you can't really see me to the end when we're running off stage- i kind of jump up and down and wave. just know i'm there.

we ended up performing in 5 different locations on Saturday and one of the performances was a parade so we performed 5 times in a row- we'd perform, run to the next spot, perform, run, perform, run, perform, run, perform run. it was some crazy cardio. and in the rain so we were definitely dancing through some puddles. it was still pretty sweet though. my friend Kari from USC is currently teaching English in Hokkaido so she came down to Sapporo to watch me! she also took a video of one of our parades- it's not the greatest quality but you can see me for part of it because i'm on the side closest to her camera.

that night we were pretty beat- we stopped at a 7/11 for the next day's breakfast, then showered and went to bed. the next morning my roommates and i had to get ready super fast because we had to check out before we left for the festival. 7 of the Samurai had to leave Sunday night, the rest stayed til Monday to go sightseeing. hopefully next year i can stay for sightseeing because we really had no time during the festival. Sunday we performed in 3 different locations but the last one was a parade so once again we performed 5 times. it was such a weird feeling after it was over. it seemed like the weekend went by so quickly. the great thing was that i got to meet a ton of new people and really bond with them, share about Student Impact and my life as a Christian with several so when i come back to Japan in 3 months i will have already established these relationships and can pick up where i left off.

tomorrow all the STINTers go to debriefing in Nikoo, a few hours away from Tokyo. it's crazy to think our time is almost at an end. and that next Saturday i will be on a plane headed back to the States. i will be in LA until July 8, then Dallas til the end of September and would love to meet up with you during that time!

for now, here are some pictures from the weekend: enjoy!

my plane buddies- Michiyo (the guy) speaks English fairly well so praise God that he was next to me on the plane! Day 1 of performing! myself and Aibo (one of my best translators) in our costumes! eating miso ramen at a famous restaurant Friday night in between performances with some of my group (because there were 130 Samurai, they divided us into groups of 9-10 people) Odori Samurai's leader (or "sempai")- his nickname is Punk, which is very fitting. he's pretty crazy but awesome Odori Samurai's subleader Jun (nickname Mabo)- he was one of the first Samurai i met and speaks English really well so he's really helpful my hero of Samurai, Masami (nickname HighTech)- she is the best English speaker in Samurai and God placed her in my group which was AWESOME. she was beyond helpful during every practice and during Hokkaido my whole group (Group 9) on the last day of performing Samurai saying goodbye to those of us who had to leave early- i could only get about 1/2 of the Samurai in the picture (there were 130 of us after all) we had to ride the plane in our costumes because we didn't have time to change beforehand- i've never ridden a plane in such a crazy outfit before! it was pretty fun though

- Yusuke's growth as a Christian
- our debriefing time this week
- i have a sinus infection and i feel like i have a fever and i just feel pretty miserable right now- please pray God heals me as i really don't have time to be sick considering i leave in 11 days....

Thursday, June 9, 2011


this was our last week at Waseda University. official week, that is. i'm going to have to go back to Waseda a few times before i leave Tokyo to meet with students one last time, as well as for Paddy meetings and possibly a Samurai practice. man i can't believe i only have 2 more weeks in Japan! i'm coming back of course, but still, several students are going abroad so i won't see them again until next June, and so i want to meet with them one more time before i leave.

in other news, tomorrow morning i get on a plane to go to HOKKAIDO for 3 days of performing with Odori Samurai in Sapporo's June Yosakoi Festival. our dance is called Bankara ( i don't know why) and every email the past few days has ended with "Let's Bankara!" - it's like our battle cry now. i haven't started packing yet and i have to leave for the airport in like 6 hours. oh dear. of course that isn't stopping me from writing this blog post. sigh.

to be honest, i'm really excited, but i'm also really nervous. i'm nervous about performing, but mostly because my ankles and knees have been hurting A LOT. my ankles have been really swollen every day lately. i've been icing them every night but they're in a constant state of sore and swollen. not good considering we are performing like 6-7 times in the next 3 days...

i'm also really nervous about my lack of Japanese understanding. it could be really difficult. humbling of course, i don't really mind humbling, but i hate to be a burden to those who can speak English, and i'm just nervous....i can't really explain it. i'm praying one of my roommates can speak some English.

please be praying for me this weekend- my main goal of this trip is not to just have fun and perform in a festival, but to build stronger relationships within Samurai and share the Gospel at least a couple times. please pray for wisdom and discernment, for boldness, for opportunities to share the Gospel, that i would meet more people who speak English, that language would not be a barrier or a problem this weekend, and that God would heal my knees and ankles and help them to get through 3 days of performing.

ok i should really pack. hopefully i can get a video of this weekend and post it soon!