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!