Yesterday we took our time getting started with the day. We did some light shopping late morning and then had a picnic in the local park. The men and I then got on a train and rode in to Chiba City. There we met back up with our old friend, John Evans. We’ve spent time with him on our two previous trips to Japan. He is an MTW missionary currently in language school. We got to spend a few minutes with his beautiful family. He then took us to the top of Chiba Port Tower. We then took him out for a great dinner. We got on a train and took the long trek (about 1 1/2 hours) back to our apartment. We were quite exhausted, but it was a fun day. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with our favorite Aussie and laugh with him. He also brought us a package of Tim-Tams, our favorite Australian treat.
Today we head back into the city. We’ll do some souvenir shopping and sightseeing. We’ll stay in a hotel tonight. Tomorrow, we begin the long flight back to the states. I may or may not post tomorrow. This has been a fantastic trip. However, I’m tired. I’m ready to see my family.
Today we took the train into Shibuya to meet with an SBC missionary named Mark Busby. We enjoyed hearing his experiences in Japan, as well as his vision for the future over, yes, a Krispy Kreme donut. Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations, but the intersection outside of the station is also one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. Apparently at night it is swarming with people. While there, a man tapped on Tony Hodgson’s shoulder and talked to him about appearing in a fashion magazine. There may be a surge in mullets and mustaches in the next year or so in Tokyo if that does indeed go down.
We then made an attempt to visit the Emperor’s palace in Tokyo, but it was closed. We turned to wander around Akihabara, a popular electronics, “nerd paradise” in the city. There are scores of shops down the streets of this area in Tokyo. Many of them are harmless. However, some aren’t. They’re pornographic. We had to keep our eyes straight ahead for some of the walk, for sure.
Believe it or not, those visits involved some pretty long train rides, so that made for a great, but tiring day. Tomorrow we are going to catch up with John Evans, a church planter we have visited the past two years in Japan. I look forward to catching up with him.
I decided to throw this post up tonight, as tomorrow we’ll have a bit earlier of a morning. Today we spent the bulk of the day with Yoshito and Steve and their missional community. Their congregation is following the model of the Soma Communities, a group of Acts 29 churches that emphasize smaller gospel communities on mission more than the Sunday Gathering. Although we haven’t been formally trained by Soma, their method has influenced the culture of Karis Church somewhat. We have a great deal of respect for them. We also were really impressed with what God is doing in Yoshi’s young plant. We gathered in his home for lunch. We then spent some time fellowshipping together before we jumped into a great discussion of Luke 15′s “prodigal son” story. That small group included both baby Christians and non-Christians. The community was very loving and open to us. It was an encouraging time.
We then returned to Higashi Tokorozawa where we are staying during our time. We went out to what Drew calls a “family restaurant.” It reminds me of an old Country Kitchen in the states. They are one of the few places that has a “drink bar,” meaning you get unlimited refills of soda, coffee, and tea. Drew and I had a great conversation with Yoshi and Steve about possible future partnerships. They expressed an ethusiasm about that possibility. We shared our excitement, as well. I can’t express to you just how encouraged we are. God has really answered our prayers for the trip already. We feel like Yoshi’s team is the perfect place for Karis Church to jump into service in Japan.
Tomorrow we will meet with an SBC planter in Shabuya in Tokyo. We’re not sure what the rest of our trip will look like, but we’re really encouraged by what God has done thus far.
Today we went back into Fuchu to join in a picnic with Pastor Yoshito and his missional community. They brought some not-yet-Christian friends. Drew and Meg were able to bring some buddies, both Christian and non-Christian, to this get-together, as well. It was held in a really beautiful park in this calm, family-friendly part of Tokyo. Yoshi’s vision is to build a people who live lives in community with gospel intentionality. A picnic like this fits with that vision. It was a privilege to spend the day there, chatting with new Japanese friends and reacquainting ourselves with old ones. A young lady named Maki visited Karis Church numerous times this past year and always seemed to enjoy interacting with my daughter, Melia. She now lives in Osaka after one year at Mizzou. We also met her friend Ivy who is a four-year Mizzou student and plans to worship with us when she returns in the fall. It was a relaxing day. It was a reminder of how intentional faithful missionaries live their lives and even experience leisure, and how we need to recapture that vision for our lives back in the states.
Yesterday was full of fun touring Japan. We got up early and headed out for Enoshima Island, a beautiful place south of Tokyo. We had the opportunity to go on the main mountain on the island and then go up on top of what is called the Sky Candle. Talk about beautiful views!
We then stopped by nearby Kamakura, one of the original capitals of Japan. We got to stand on the beach. We also visited this famous statue of Buddha. It’s massive. You can go inside its belly, but you’ll find upon entering, that it’s empty, much like the religion based on the teaching of the statue’s image. This is why we want to serve in Japan.
Next we visited Yokohama, Tokyo’s sister city to her south. This is perhaps the most international of Japan’s cities. It had the first port in the nation. We road a boat to a great waterfront shopping district. We got to go up in a extremely tall Ferris Wheel. The views were gorgeous. We then headed home tired but thankful.
Why all the fun, you might ask? Is this a vacation or what? Well, first of all, mission trips in Japan, a first world country, aren’t like they are in Brazil or Haiti. Second, this is a vision trip. We are here with the Glossons, trying to help them discern where to put down roots in the future. We’re trying to assist them in determining partnerships. The Groves are along for the ride (with Tony and me), asking God if He might be calling them here, as well. Therefore, one of our main objectives is to get a feel for the city and culture. Where might God be drawing us? Can we see (particularly the Groves) ourselves serving here? That’s the point of this trip. We’re having some fun along the way.
Keep praying for the Groves. Evy got some good rest last night. They did have to leave halfway during yesterday’s activities, as she was having difficulty napping (ANY kid her age would have). We want Jeremy and Leanna’s trip to be productive as they seek out the Lord’s will for their lives.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet up with Yoshito Noguchi and his family. He is a church planter in Fuchu, a beautiful part of Tokyo Metro. He is a native Japanese man. However, he spent time in the U.S. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also has been trained by the Soma guys up in Tacoma. For that reason, I think there is some great overlap in terms of philosophy and methodology with Karis Church. They are planting utilizing a missional community model. The Lord is already blessing them with baptisms already. However, he reemphasized to us just how slow things go in Japan. The Lord has really been teaching him patience lately. I really enjoyed my time with Yoshi.
He gave us a tour of Fuchu. It is beautiful. It’s a part of the city where many young families try to live, making it far easier to build relationships. The “broadway” of Fuchu is stunning, with massive trees and modern, clean shops and restaurants. If I were ever going to live in Japan, that’s where I would want to live. We visited the temple there, as well. It’s huge. It is a reminder of the spiritual desolation of the city. People actually pay money to buy a ticket to get a number that may result in getting a prayer answered. So tragic.
That evening we had some sushi. Everything I had was cooked, although I did try it in years past. I ate plenty of fried shrimp. I even had some french fries. These restaurants are a blast, though. Trays of sushi on conveyor belts cycle past your table. When you see something you want, you grab it. You then pay by the number of small plates in your stack, which is often quite tall.
After sushi, Yoshi took us home. Evy didn’t sleep well last night, so the Groves are dragging a bit today. Please pray for them. We are headed out to the beach and then to see the city of Kamakura, one of the earlier capitals of Japan. I’m blogging from the train. Did I mention I LOVE the trains? Night, night, y’all.