Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Japanese government still has given us no information about the status of my team's Certificates of Eligibility. Unfortunately in Japan, the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease- if you pester them about something, they will most likely decide not to deal with you at all. So not only do we not have any information, but we are unable to do much about it. Also, right now the Japanese government is not too happy with Japan Campus Crusade for Christ- after the Korea CCC team's paperwork was denied, they came to Japan on tourist visas, but they were stopped at Immigration and interrogated as to why they still came to Japan after their paperwork was denied. It is not a good situation.

Unfortunately, that is not the worst of it. I just received an email from our director in America, saying that if my team's paperwork is not accounted for by NEXT TUESDAY, December 6th, they will be sending my team to a different location! This also means that I too would probably be sent to whichever country they send my team. This would break my heart- there is no place I would rather be in the world than Japan and working with the amazing students I have grown to know and love. Even though this year has been really difficult without a team, it has also been incredibly rewarding and God is doing amazing things in this country. I submit to His authority and will go wherever He sends me, but my heart will always be in Japan.


I will keep you all as updated as I can about the situation.

I cannot thank you enough for all of your love, prayers and support, and for joining me on this crazy adventure of STINT. i'm learning every day that I cannot plan anything, and that nothing is certain, but in spite of it all, God is sovereign and His plans are perfect.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Being Samurai

i first saw Waseda's yosakoi soran ( team, Odori Samurai ("Dancing Samurai," or 踊り侍 in Japanese), during Waseda's Welcome Week in May. not gonna lie, i thought they were really cool. and i really wanted to join their group. but i had no idea how. and i couldn't find their booth to ask them. then all the sudden, i saw a girl walk right by me in her Samurai costume. i asked her if she spoke engish and she said "yes!" (that never happens in Japan- they always say "no" or "a little bit" even if they are fluent...) i told her i was interested in Samurai. she took me to the booth and introduced me to one of the leaders and gave me information. the next day they had a party for interested freshman, so myself and Ariel (one of my teammates from last year) went to the party. we met the 2 subleaders (Anzu and Jun) and they spoke some english as well! as they walked us to the party location, Anzu and i talked a lot and i shared with her i was a theatre major, and i did a few student films for my friends. she asked about them, so i told her my last one i played a ninja and someone called the cops on us because i had a katana and was dressed as a ninja. she thought it was really funny and decided then and there to nickname me "Ninja." and from that moment, i was hooked. if i had wanted to join the group before, i REALLY wanted to join then! at the party, they showed past Odori Samurai performances and i was even more hooked. it looked so cool and so much fun! there were about 150 students in the group, mostly from Waseda but from other universities as well, and they were the loudest, most outgoing Japanese students i had ever met. it seemed an ideal place to use dance to meet students and be a light in one of the biggest clubs at Waseda. so i joined.

but ever since i joined, it's been a continual battle with Satan. i'm the only foreigner in the group, and because all the practices are in Japanese, and all the emails are in Japanese, i always need translation and always feel a bit behind and lost. i must completely rely on the english-speaking Samurai to help me out. this is a huge challenge for me, because i have a natural tendency to feel that whenever i have to ask someone for something, it's a huge burden on them and i'm being annoying. which is totally untrue, but it's something i've always struggled with and here i am, placing myself in a group where i must ALWAYS ask for help. therefore, it's a daily battle with Satan, who tells me constantly that i'm a failure for not knowing Japanese well enough, that i don't really belong, that the Samurai think i'm annoying, that i'm "the foreigner," that i'm stupid because i never understand anything...of course, all of these thoughts are untrue, and i know that, but it's a major challenge to fight it all the time. but it's been such a blessing too. the Samurai are so sweet and kind and helpful, and really do make me feel loved. many of them have come up to me and want to practice English. many of them, even though they don't speak english that well, have offered to translate for me. before i left for America, they surprised me with a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to me. when i came back to Japan, they were so excited. and they really do make an effort to make me feel included.

one day i was talking with one of the girls, debating whether or not to join in a certain festival because only a few people could go. i said maybe i wouldn't go because i wanted to let other students go. she said, "why do you feel like that? you're a Samurai!"

it was a good feeling. yeah- i AM Samurai! but it's something i have to remind myself. sometimes i really do feel on the outside. on Sunday there was a huge party, mostly a goodbye for the 3rd years who are now having to end their Samurai career and begin their job-hunting. it was fun, but i couldn't understand any of the skits, and i couldn't understand our leaders' final speeches, and it was frustrating. after the party, everyone spent a long time hanging out and talking with the 3rd years, and i couldn't even really do that because there's only so much Japanese i can say/understand...also frustrating. i very much felt like an outsider looking into a special emotional moment that i couldn't really join. on the whole it was a fun night, and it was good to see the 3rd years one more time, but it was also draining and difficult.

today's Samurai practice was near a train station i'd never been to before, Senkawa. let me explain what i go through just to get to Samurai practice. they send an email with the time and place the night before. it's in Japanese, so i have to Google Translate it. 3/4 of the time, Google is unable to translate the train station. so i have to find a Japanese friend who is online who can translate it for me. then i double check it with at least 2 people just to make sure (i've had friends be wrong before). then i look up the train route online, allowing myself at least 15-20 minutes extra so i can get their early and make sure i can meet Samurai at the station. why? because they send directions from the station in Japanese, and i can't read it. a month or so ago, i accidentally took the wrong train and ended up being really late to the station. i asked one of the train workers if they could tell me how to get to the gymnasium. he couldn't speak English or explain the directions, so the guy actually walked with me 15 minutes to the gym. it was beyond kind of him, but i was super embarrassed and really late to practice, so since then i've done my best to allow myself extra time to make sure i don't get left behind again. so once i've figured out the train route (usually the practice locations are random and far away and i have to take at least 3 different trains...) i write it down and the next day i pray like crazy i don't get lost and i would find Samurai at the station.

so today...oh today. today i got to the station, and there were several different exits. i didn't know which one to go to so i sent messages to a few of the Samurai. no one was getting back to me, and i started getting nervous. finally got a response with some landmarks of where i should be, but i didn't see any of them, and started thinking i was at the wrong station. my friend told me to ask someone where the Keio train line was and then go there. i asked. they said there was no Keio line station.....uh oh, i thought. i emailed the new Samurai leader and said i wasn't sure where i was and i'd probably be late. he actually called me to try and help me out, and he said he would send someone to come get me at the Keio line station. i went back to the station and asked one of the train workers how to get to Senkawa station's Keio line. he pulled out a map and pointed to a totally different part of Tokyo! apparently, there are TWO Senkawa stations...and they're about an hour apart from each other. and i'd gone to the wrong one. i had to call my leader and tell him it would take me almost an hour to get to the right station. he was willing to still send someone to get me, but it was a 20 minute walk from the station to the gymnasium, and i didn't want to make someone miss almost an hour of practice just to come get me...i felt like such a pain and a burden. and i felt so stupid for going to the wrong station. and guilty b/c my leader texted me and actually apologized to ME for not being able to help me better, and that made me feel bad. i came home feeling stupid and defeated. i ended up calling my friend brandon and venting, and broke down crying in the middle (this seems to be becoming a habit...need to work on that). he was very sweet but also told me i need to stop over-thinking Samurai so much, that everything they do for me proves how much they care about me, and i can't allow myself to believe the lies. he also said "i don't understand why you have such a difficult time accepting kindness from people and believing that people actually want to help you. you give so much, and yet whenever anyone helps you or is kind to you, you think it's such a burden for them. your friends want to help you. let them. also i don't understand why you don't feel like you're a part of Samurai. they think you are."

so what does it mean for me to be a member of Odori Samurai? well, it means a lot of practices, a lot of brain power, a lot of attempting to speak and listen to Japanese. it means i have a lot of chants and dance moves to memorize. it means going to a lot of places in Tokyo i've never been and sometimes getting lost. it means sometimes feeling out of the loop. but it also means i can wear my Samurai sweatpants and hoodie proudly. it means i introduce myself as Ninja. it means getting the chance to perform at huge festivals all over Japan with tons of other yosakoi teams. (this is a video of my first ever Odori Samurai yosakoi festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido- it means when i talk with students, and mention i'm a member of Odori Samurai, their immediate reaction is "WOW!!! that is so cool!" i means i wear crazy awesome costumes and face paint and dye my hair to show "guts and enthusiasm." it means having a camaraderie and community of almost 150 crazy, lovable, wonderful people. here are a few memories of Samurai so far: our 2010-11 leader, nickname:Punk. his hair was really that green Jun, one of the subleaders Anzu, the sub-leader who named me Ninja
Paragon- a 3rd year who worked super hard to improve his english after meeting me Galileo, possibly the best english speaker of the 1st years- SUCH a blessing and help for me my Waseda-sai group- love these people!

we have a chant that roughly translates to "now, together with one heart, Odori Samurai is here" and our theme this year "Samurai for all, all for Samurai." it's so true. we're more than just a university club. we're a family. sometimes i just need a bit of reminding that i too am a part of it.


every Thanksgiving, one of the staff, Cam, has the STINTers and sometimes a few of the staff over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. last year it was a grand affair with tons of home-cooked food and family time, and a chance for us to hang out with Cam's family and the staff in a real house with real chairs and a couch...(couches are a big deal here...definitely wish we had one). it was awesome and chill, and a great memory. this year they waited to have their Thanksgiving celebration until Saturday, November 26th, just in case the rest of my STINT team arrived in time. they didn't, and it was a huge blow to all of our hearts to finally give up and accept the reality that the rest of the STINTers would not be joining us this year, but they kept the date for Saturday.

so, because i had no Thursday Thanksgiving plans, i decided to attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner for some of my student friends who maybe never experienced Thanksgiving. i spent all day Wednesday searching for turkey, cranberry sauce and other Thanksgiving staples not native to Japan, and Wednesday night made 2 pumpkin pies and mashed potatoes. Thursday i made the rest- cranberry sauce, creamed corn, glazed carrots, rolls, gravy, and of course the turkey. it was my first time to ever make a turkey, and my wonderful mother (through Skype) talked me through the process (cleaning turkeys is gross, for the record...) and also helped me with the other recipes. i also prepared apples and a cheese/cracker plate for my guests to munch while heating up everything. i actually had no idea how many students would come until right before dinner, but i was praying for 10 and that's how many we had! such a blessing! they were mostly from random encounters on campus so most of them did not know each other (actually 2 girls brought friends so i got to meet 2 new girls as well!), but they all got along so well and had a really great time! i didn't burn down the apartment (or even burn the turkey!) even though i had to use my microwave oven (it has an oven setting but it's rather temperamental), we watched Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving, laughed a lot, ate a lot, it was awesome. and the best part- later that night i received a text from my friend Rebekka who had brought a friend Yuting- on her way home she was able to share her testimony with Yuting agreed to go to church with her! so awesome! it was a ton of work to cook for 10 people but so worth it!

Friday i had a much needed break from all things ministry/Cru. my friend brandon from USC lives in Aichi (a couple hours away) and was in Tokyo for Thanksgiving, so we spent all of Friday hanging out in Tokyo. we wandered around Harajuku and Shibuya, ate lunch at Wolfgang Puck (which he paid for-so sweet) spend the afternoon hanging out in Starbucks, then he cooked dinner for me (steak, veggies and oyakudon) and we watched a Ghibli movie (i highly recommend The Borrower Arietty- super cute). it was just what i needed- a chill, relaxing day with a friend who had no connection to ministry.

Saturday was Thanksgiving with Cam's family- since the other STINTers couldn't come, they invited a lot of the JCCC staff and some other friends. it was awesome hanging out with everyone, relaxing and eating great food. i was supposed to go to Odori Samurai practice that night but decided to skip it and fellowship, which is what i needed most- my balance of ministry responsibilities to fellowship was severely off, so it was good to just spend time with Christians who could pour into me. here are some pictures of both Thanksgivings: enjoy!

Thanksgiving decorations:
pumpkin patch:

Thanksgiving at our apartment! so thankful for these girls and that the turkey didn't burn! the remains of the turkey...for the record, carving a turkey is really hard!
Dinner at the Caughlan's - a bit bigger spread than mine...but they had twice as many people
with Cam's family! love them so much!

i hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving holiday and God reminds you every day of His amazing blessings! i'm so thankful for you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breaking Point

well it finally happened. after 2 months of attempting to do solo campus ministry, 2 months of no direction and very little contact from any of my directors or staff from PSW, Japan Campus Crusade for Christ (JCCC) or even my team leaders, i broke down.

i think the for the past two months i've just been dealing with being alone, i've been holding on to the idea of "maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow" - in fact, i think everyone's been thinking that. my team, my leaders, all of us have just been waiting and hoping that my team would receive their CoEs in a day or two and then they'd be on a plane here. but it kept not happening. every day i was thinking "ok if we receive their CoEs today then they can get them this day and get their visas this day and fly out this day" and every day, it didn't happen. and it got draining. fridays became my most dreaded day, because it was the end of another week that my team's paperwork still had not arrived. i realized that while maybe my leaders had not been giving me direction because they thought since i was a 2nd year STINTer i'd be ok on my own, i really wasn't ok. i was not only alone, but i was starting to become lonely. my roommate Christina has been a huge blessing, but she is on Staff and therefore currently doing Japanese language school, so her focus and responsibilities are completely different. every day she is in language school, and in the evenings she is either spending time with her classmates or studying. the JCCC staff have their own campuses and focuses, and therefore i do not do campus ministry with them. i asked Cam, the staff who is kind of in charge of the STINTers, to let the staff know that i'd be interested in working with them since i'm the only STINTer, but no one really got back to me. so i've just been going to Waseda University by myself every day, with one day week working at ICU High School with 1 or 2 of the staff. and meeting with students solo for 2 months, and also being a member of 3 different clubs and pretty much having every night filled with club activities, you get pretty drained. i've been trying to plan things but i can't because i never know when the team's coming, so i have to always make last minute plans with students, which is a bit stressful. i also realized i'd been subconsciously overcompensating for the fact that i'm the only STINTer and i've been trying to do more and work harder to overcompensate for my team- not good or healthy. and i realized that basically everything i do is ministry- even church is ministry because there are non-christian students who come, so i have no place or people to just hang out and relax and take a break from ministry.

all of that, on top of feeling, to be honest, pretty abandoned by all of Cru, was just too much to handle. as i was writing an email to 2 of my directors in the States expressing my need for some sort of direction or contact, i just broke down sobbing for almost an hour. i finally composed myself enough to finish the email, but as i was talking to a friend from USC, i lost it again and cried to him for almost another hour. i felt pretty bad because the reason i'd called him was to ask about his birthday and i just broke down crying to him...after that i emailed my team and stressed the need for all of us to be in constant communication with each other- even if we're separated by distance, we're still a team, and they're still on STINT even if they're not in Japan. the next day we were able to have a team skype, which was helpful, but hopefully we'll be able to talk much more frequently, not just for me, but for all of us to have that fellowship and community of our team.

please continue to pray for my team, not only for their CoEs to come quickly, but that they would have discipline in the States, that God would show them His plans, and that we'd be able to have many times to talk with each other despite all the time differences.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Your Love Never Fails...

yesterday i went to an all-day sports festival with about 150 students, mostly from Waseda University but also a few random ones as well. i was invited by my friend Yuki, who's club WHabitat (Waseda Habitat for Humanity) had parterned with 2 other clubs to put on the sports festival. i had hoped my team would be in Japan by then because it would have been a fantastic place for them to connect with students. but there's still no word on their Certificates of Eligibility, nor why it's taking so long...anyway. since my team couldn't go, i invited some of the people i know working for YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Tokyo. one of the guys, ryan, replied and said he wanted to join. i couldn't have been more encouraged and thankful. at least, that's what i thought. God knew exactly what i needed yesterday. had a great time at the festival and met a ton of new students, but the best part of the day was after the festival. because ryan and i actually hadn't even seen each other since like february, we decided to go to Starbucks and catch up. during that time, God just totally spoke through him and pretty much said everything i needed to hear. for the past two months i've just been dealing with the fact that my team isn't here and i've had to do ministry by myself. i've done my best not to complain or whine too much, but i think maybe in downplaying it i've tricked myself into thinking i'm ok, because it's the only way i've been able to get through it. but God, speaking through ryan, told me it's ok to recognize that it's not ok. man, seriously, he said everything i needed to hear. that i've been faithful. that i've done the best that i can. that yes, maybe i've made a few mistakes, but God's bigger than them and He still used them for His glory. that He loves me and is with me. but also, ryan acknowledged that my being alone is not ok. he apologized on behalf of YWAM for not recognizing my need for fellowship, community and ministry partners earlier and helping me. he affirmed me in what i'd been doing and rebuked the idea that i'd not been doing enough. i wish i could explain everything. even little things like him buying me a water bottle, giving me a hug and telling me i'm pretty- those little things meant the world to me at that time. after Starbucks he invited me over to the YWAM house where most of the YWAM people were hanging out, just so i could experience some fellowship. i wish i could describe the feeling. sitting on a couch surrounded by people my's the first time in 2 months that i've been around more than 2 people and it hasn't been ministry related. it was amazing.

on the way home i listened to Your Love Never Fails by 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 may be 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...

the bridge repeats "You make all things work together for my good" over and over. that song was pretty much my STINT anthem last year, and it seems that this year it's even more applicable. i listened to the song on repeat all the way home, because each time the words struck me again and again how true they were. God reminded me that "i'm not alone in these open seas" and that He makes "all things work together for my good."

then this morning at church we sang the songs "Still I Will Praise You," "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and "Lord, I Give You My Heart." such perfect songs for my heart right now. reminders that i can still praise God even during difficult times, that His faithfulness is always great and He always provides. as the song goes, "morning by morning new mercies I see/ all i have needed Thy hand hath provided, great is They faithfulness Lord unto thee."

today's sermon was about what it means to follow Christ, and focused on taking up your cross daily and following Jesus. once again, such a perfectly timed reminder for me. God is so gracious with His reminders.

in other news, the USC Trojans beat Oregon today. IN Oregon. after a ridiculously long streak of never winning a game in Oregon, it seems as if USC football is back! this really doesn't have much to do with this blogpost other than it was a really wonderful way to begin my Sunday. so yeah this whole weekend has pretty much been a huge blessing from God. His love never fails.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


It has been almost two months since I first arrived in Japan, and we still have no news about the rest of my team's paperwork needed to receive their Japan visas. In order to get their visas, they must submit paperwork to the Japanese government. It is processed and they are sent a Certificate of Eligibility (CoEs), which they then take to the Japanese consulate and receive their visa. This paperwork is essential for their visas, and usually takes no more than 3-4 weeks to be processed in Japan; however, due to the aftermath of the earthquake, new codes and new immigration laws (the Japanese government won't really explain more than this), this process is taking a much longer time than usual. They submitted their paperwork in August, so they should have been able to arrive in September. But it's the middle of November, and still nothing. That being said, we just received news that the Certificates of Eligibility for the Korea Campus Crusade STINTers were just denied. My team filled out their paperwork at the same time and in the same way, so there is a definite possibility that their paperwork could also be denied.

That does not mean they cannot come to Japan, but it would delay their arrival even more. We will hopefully find out by Tuesday about their CoEs. PLEASE take a little time to pray today that God would grant them their CoEs and visas this week, and that they would be able to come to Japan as soon as possible! Also please pray for all of us to grow in our faith and trust in God during this time, and we would not become discouraged. Also please pray that the Korea CCC STINTers would be able to arrive soon as well!

Thank you for all of you who have been riding this crazy roller coaster with me- your faith and prayers mean more to me and my team than I could ever express. While I definitely feel alone here in Japan without my team, I know that I have a powerful team of prayer warriors all over the world, lifting me up and supporting me, so thank you so so much!

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Give Thanks in All Circumstances..."

so two weeks ago/last week, i did not have the best outlook on things.

i was annoyed and frustrated with God. i kept thinking, "come ON, God! it's the end of October! how is my team STILL not here? how do we STILL have no word about their CoEs? how? WHY???" i was feeling sorry for myself and my team. i was definitely focusing on my team and myself, not God.

then on November 1st, i helped out with ICU High School ministry. at ICU High School, we have a lunch gathering called Let's Talk once a week where we have snacks with students and talk about a certain topic that relates to their lives as well as God. this whole month we're focusing on Thanksgiving, and giving thanks for certain things in our lives. we talked about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.", was i convicted. here was a lesson that i was supposed to be teaching to high school students, and yet i had not been doing it at all. and why not? because i had been so focused on what i DIDN'T have, instead of what i did. because i had been more focused on what i wanted, what i thought was right. i was indignant that i didn't understand my circumstances, and of course since i didn't understand them, i thought they were not right. so not true! an ant doesn't understand a human because an ant's perception of a human is the centimeter he sees of our feet. so it is with our perspective of God and His plans. we can't understand them. they are too big. He is too big. it's a choice to trust even when we don't understand. that's why it's called faith. God has blessed me in so many amazing ways since i've been in Japan, and yet i have not been thanking him, i've just been complaining that my team isn't here with me.

for two days, i listened to the song Blessed Be Your Name on repeat. as i biked home, i looked up at the clear night sky and thanked God that even though i'm 1/2 way around the world, the stars are the same as home, that wherever i am in the world, i am home, because God is with me. i have been trying to look at the good in my life, and remember all the blessings God gives me even though i totally don't deserve it. yes i totally still miss my team, but i am going to choose to trust God in this.

God has also been blessing me like crazy through my yosakoi team, Odori Samurai. we've been having a ton of practices to get ready for Waseda University's huge festival, Waseda-sai, but it's been such a blessing to grow relationships with the Samurai and God's been allowing me to meet new people every practice who speak at least a bit of English! sometimes it's easy to feel insecure with the Samurai, mostly b/c of the language barrier, but even little things like one girl telling me that all the Samurai think i'm so kind, or people trying to speak English for me even though they are not confident, make me feel so good and blessed. i was talking to one girl about not doing a performance because i felt like other Samurai should do it instead, and she said "what are you talking about? you are Samurai. you're a part of us." even just that simple statement was so encouraging.

this month of November, i'm going to give thanks to God in all circumstances, i am going to trust Him even when i don't understand, and rely not on myself, but on Him and His goodness.

but please keep praying for my team and that they will get here in the next couple weeks!!!!