Saturday, July 12, 2014

Freedom to Fail

We're now almost done with Week 3 of Epic Japan Summer Project 2014.

I can't believe Project is going by so quickly! It seems as if the days are long but the weeks are short. I get to the end of the week thinking "How did that happen?" I'm learning a lot about what it means to be a Project director and a leader. My focus and priority is so different as a director - everything I do, my students and staff team are my focus. Even in evangelism, my focus is to empower my students, not for me to have conversations with Japanese students necessarily.

I came into Project thinking that as a director, I had to have it all together. That as a leader, my students were looking to me for answers, for guidance, for encouragement. But I'm learning that part of being a leader is also allowing others to see your mistakes, your faults and your failures. I had a breakthrough moment when one of my students told me, "At first I was really intimidated by you because I thought you had it all together and I was afraid I was going to disappoint you. After seeing you make mistakes, I respect you so much more." It was so counter-intuitive, but it's a very much needed lesson for me.

And even as I make mistakes and fail, I am quickly learning that God is bigger than our mistakes, and uses even our failures for his glory. The first week, I led my team on a few wrong busses, and even a wrong campus. Our first day going to campus, we were supposed to go to Doshisha University. I accidentally led the students on to Doshisha Women's College. Because we had several guys on our team, we immediately were approached by guards and told to leave. We did eventually find the other university, but I felt so foolish and embarrassed. But right after we arrived at the right campus, two of our guys immediately met two Japanese students, Jo and Natsuki, in the cafeteria. Since Doshisha University was founded by a Christian, they began to talk about Christianity with them and shared how relationship with God has affected their lives. They asked Natsuki if a relationship with God was something he wanted, and he immediately said yes! Since then, Eric and Keith have been meeting up with Natsuki and teaching him more about God. Praise the Lord for our new brother, whom we never would have met except that we got to campus late because we first went to the wrong one. The Lord uses all things!

As I said before, I'm learning that being a director means I must focus more on empowering and caring for my team through training and discipleship; however, I've still been blessed with some opportunities for evangelism with my students. Our first week at Kyoto University, my student Aimee and I met two Japanese girls, Yuko and Sachiho. While their English was not great, they were very sweet and wanted to meet us again. We had lunch with them this past Wednesday, and were able to share the whole Gospel with them. They were both excited and intrigued about it, especially that a God exists who actively loves and cares for them. After we shared, Yuko said in an awed voice, “Before, I just thought of God as an idea, now I believe in God.” As they left, we told them "Anata wo Kamisama wa aishiteiru," or, "God loves you!" We plan to meet up with her and Sachiho again next week, and are so excited to share more with them!

Thank you so much for all your prayers for me and my team! Please continue to pray for spiritual protection, for energy, strength, love, patience and perseverance in our last few weeks in Kyoto!

Waiting for busses is a daily part of life in Kyoto

English Lunchtime games at Doshisha University

Adventure Day to Kiyomizu Temple

Team pic in front of Kiyomizu

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Birthday in Japan

Birthdays in Japan are always a bit strange, especially now that I'm 19 hours ahead of Hawaii, where a good portion of my friends are located. On the plus side, I get birthday wishes for 2 days straight, and I can kind of justify celebrating both days, on Japan time and one America time.

26 feels very similar to 25, just older. It honestly doesn't even quite feel real. Maybe it's because I'm in Japan. Maybe it's because this year, I'm directing a Summer Project, so I'm more focused on my students and making sure they don't get lost in Kyoto. Maybe I'm just getting old, so birthdays aren't as exciting? That's kind of a sad thought - I like birthdays, and I like celebrating. Maybe it just starts to look different now.

It was a good birthday, regardless. Skyped with my parents, then went to church with my Summer Project team, then got some lunch and took a much needed nap. Then I went to Starbucks for some journalling and quiet time (accompanied by some tiramisu cake and coffee). Then went over to the guys' house, where they had cooked dinner for us and had a cake and a handmade Happy Birthday banner for me. They also presented me with a book filled with birthday notes from each person on our team. My heart was so full, and I was so blessed to be able to share my birthday with my team.

I always set goals on my birthday, but I think this year is pretty open-ended.

I want to make every moment count.
I want to waste less time online or doing useless things, and spend more time on adventures and investing in people.
I want to learn something new.
I want to make more time for reading, drawing and dancing.
I want to stay in touch better with old friends, and make many new ones.
I want to stay more in touch with my family.
I want to eat healthy and exercise daily.
I want to delve more fully into what it looks like to truly find my identity in Christ and experience the love of God.

Here's to a year of love, laughter and adventure!
Here's to Year 26!

Surprise Starbucks latte and note from my girls 

Handmade Birthday sign at the guys' house

Handmade book of notes from all my teammates!


Such a blessed day with my teammates! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tadaima! (ただいま!)

I know it's been several months since I last updated this blog.

However, I will definitely be keeping a better record of this summer, because, for the first time in 2 years...I'M BACK IN JAPAN! Tadaima means "I'm home!"

In the summer of 2008, on a hot, humid day in June, I stepped off the plane and onto Japan soil for the first time. I had never flown internationally, never shared the Gospel, never spoken Japanese. Little did I know that my time in Japan on that Summer Project would change my life forever. Almost six years later, I have been to Japan five times, twice on Summer Projects and three times while STINTing with Cru. Now for the first time, I have been given the opportunity to co-direct Epic Movement's Japan Summer Project! I am extremely honored and humbled to see how the Lord has grown me these past several years, and to have the privilege of leading a group of 12 college students from all over the US to Kyoto, Japan this summer.

It's amazing to see how my experiences in Japan have come full circle, from my first reluctance to even apply for the project to now directing my own. The several months leading up to Project were an adventure in themselves, going through Summer Project Directors training, processing applications, forming our team, making phone calls, raising financial support (and helping our students), and of course, planning all the details of 6 weeks in Japan.

And now, after 6 months of planning, preparing and praying, we're finally in Japan! In fact, we've actually just finished out first week, complete with all the fun challenges of traveling with 16 Americans, in an unfamiliar city, with unreliable forms of communication. But God is sovereign, and even after sitting in the wrong train car on the way to Kyoto and having to migrate with all our luggage 5 cars up, being unable to find our Kyoto staff who was meeting us at the station, the taxis getting lost to our houses, having money complications with the banks, getting on wrong busses, and leading the team onto the wrong university and getting kicked off...we are all still alive, our team is wonderful and gracious and loving, and we've already seen one Japanese student accept Christ! I have much to tell, but for now, enjoy a few pictures of our past week...
All the International Epic Summer Projects at briefing in LA
Epic Japan Summer Project 2014 with our coaches
Adventure Day to Arashiyama!

Touring the universities in Kyoto! 
First Student Impact Kyoto meeting- so encouraged by how much it's grown!
Praying over Kyoto on top of Arashiyama
Making friends with macaque monkeys?
The monkey didn't really like me...oh well.

More adventures to come! Stay tuned....

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dreams for 2014

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that "A dream is more powerful than a thousand realities." Resolutions, commitments, goals...they fail me every year because as soon as I call it one of those titles, they become a responsibility. An obligation. Like a candle flame snuffed out, all imagination, anticipation, and excitement are suddenly vanquished from the idea because of the simple but not, by any rate, inconsequential act of bestowing upon it the title of "Resolution" or "Commitment."

Therefore, 2014 is instead not going to be a year of resolutions, commitments, or goals...but dreams. Dreams inspire. Dreams create. Dreams instill passion and desire and the pursuit of something beyond ourselves. So here's to 2014 and dreaming big!

14 Dreams for 2014:

1. Read one book a month..and finish it
2. Practice Japanese more
3. Learn something new
4. Do something creative at least once a month - painting, drawing, dancing, etc.
5. Waste less time online and spend more time with people, hobbies, etc.

6. Exercise: Run or bike at least 30 minutes 6 days a week
7. Diet: Eat more fruits and veggies and less sugar/processed foods, drink less coffee
8. Surf more
9. Go hiking at least once a month - hike Stairway, Koko Head and Makapuu

10. Maintain better relationships with friends and family
11. Read the Bible in a year and memorize one Scripture verse a week
12. Decide on a church
13. Spend at least 30 minutes a day with the Lord, journal every day, keep my Sabbath

14. Dream big, pray more and live life the way God intended- with an eternal perspective that this is not all there is, that we have been created for far bigger and better purposes, but even though we are not yet Home, we can live in the freedom that we have been given through Christ our Savior, who came to give us life, and life to the fullest not just in Heaven, but here on Earth.