Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Yesterday I was walking on the campus across the street from my house. It wasn't very busy and in fact there were very few students there at the time because this is the start of "Golden Week", a Japanese holiday week where many offices and some teachers take off. It's a big shopping week too, so all of the stores in Tenjin, the main shopping district, were full of people.
There were a few students there on campus. Some were dressed up in business suits because they were there taking special exams. Others were there just to hang out because school has only been in session for three weeks and I guess they just don't know where else to go to meet up with people yet. (Though I suspect they know pretty well where the bars and drinking joints are because I've already been invited to go a couple of times.)
I was looking for a way to naturally start a conversation with some students. I really want my conversations to be REAL. I try to be as real as possible in that I don't have any ulterior motive for merely talking to someone. Of course I want to share Christ's love, but If I do that without actually showing love first then I would feel no better than some Mormon who is sharing out of some selfish desire. Christ shared his living water out of love. OF course this doesn't mean I am not here to tell about Christ! Usually one of the first things I tell people when I meet them is that I am here as a missionary and as a language student. Both of those are true.
SO back to yesterday. I was walking around praying for the campus and for the students. When I turned around a corner I saw this awesome cat laying in front of a doorway, simply basking in the sunlight. It was obvious that he was loving the sun. I really love cats and miss ours from back home so whenever I see one here, no matter how mangy and stray it may look I have the urge to go up and pet it. Usually they always run away from me in fear, probably because I look like a freaky foreigner. I cautiously walked up to this cat and it just lay there and squinted at me from the ground. It didn't move a centimeter. (Heh heh they use the metric system here.)
This may seem really crazy, but I've kind of gone crazy being here for three weeks, but I prayed "Dear God help this cat to stay still so that I can pet it." Ha ha! I really did pray that. So I leaned down and the cat still didn't move. So I started petting it, and the cat loved it, of course. It even started to play with me and wrestle with my hand, which is something that I love doing with cats. So I was pretty much on the ground playing with some stray cat in front of, what I later found out was, the law school.
A girl stepped outside to speak on the phone and saw me there. She and I started talking and I found out that she knows German and a little English. She got excited when she found out I was learning Japanese and called some more of her friends to come out and talk to me. A dude came outside and we introduced ourselves to each other. Then some other guys came walking up to go inside and we started talking. There was very little English spoken. It was really hard to carry a conversation on with them.
Then some Japanese dude who had just spent most of his life living in London came outside. He was excited to see a westerner and I was excited to see someone who spoke fluent English. I was kind of surprised to see that despite being Japanese he was going through some of the same cultural shock experiences I was. The law school had a shorter holiday than the rest of the campus for Golden Week, that is why all of these law students were still on campus. Altogether I had a good conversation with all of them, and look forward to maybe getting to know them and some more of their friends a bit better.
And I think back now and realize that if God hadn't of answered that simple prayer about letting me pet that cat then I probably wouldn't have met all of these people. Also the cat disappeared mysteriously and we all couldn't find it after we realized it was gone.

By the way, ねこis the hiragana for neko, which is Japanese for cat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Jesus Comic Book

Most of the Japanese students are very eager to help me learn Japanese which has been cool. Yesterday for example I sitting in a coffee shop and two girls a couple of tables away started to help me with my Hiragana, which is one of the writing forms of Japanese. I had made some flash cards to help me remember the sounds made by the symbols. There are forty-six in Hiragana alone. Tomorrow I start learning the next form, Katakana. ....and then the Kanji, which are the thousands and thousands of Chinese characters that the Japanese have made their own.
IN ANY CASE- back to my story. So these two young ladies, whom I will call Sally and Cindy, started helping me with my flash cards. That led to questions of why I was in the country. Since I am over here on a "Religious Activities" visa there is no point in my hiding what I am mainly doing. I told them I was there for gospel spreading, which, of course, they didn't really understand at first. But once I gave them Jesus' name in Japanese something clicked and they understood. After we talked for a bit longer in both broken English (and even broken Japanese in my case, which was cool) I found out that Sally and Cindy were both students in one of the many local Universities. I gave them my name and told them they could contact me through Facebook, which many Japanese university students also use. Then I pulled out a Japanese comic book about the life of Jesus.
Now I have found that Japanese people of all ages love comic books. There are many stores around here that are totally devoted to them. They call them "manga". Most of them are pretty trashy and pretty violent, but there are some that aren't so bad too. When I pulled out the story of Jesus manga Sally and Cindy became interested. The comic book is a form that many people in Japan would probably actually look at and be interested as opposed to tracts, which may seem too preachy or wordy. (Not that those aren't good witnessing tools either.) Almost every time I am on a train or bus here I see teenagers, university students, some women, and mostly grown men reading comic books.
I gave the book to Sally to look at because I only had one copy, but I am praying that she reads it and then passes it on to Cindy.

I know that I may never see these girls again, but it was encouraging to talk to them. So say a prayer for these girls. It's not impossible for you to intercede even on the other side of the world or wherever you are. Pray that by reading this seemingly simple manga that they learn more about Jesus and that if they do have questions they will seriosuly seek answers in the right places.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My visit to the local worshipping joints.

On Monday I went into Hakata, which is one of the main districts in Fukuoka city. I went with my language tutor, Ieshi Bashi Sensei. She was going to show me the Shinto shrine and the Buddhist temple. The Buddhist temple was impressive I have to say. There was a 23 meter tall wooden statue of the Buddha. And then there were hundred of little wooden Buddha statues on the wall behind the larger one. My eyes teared up from the burning incense as we walked in. They asked us to wash our hands before we entered; a Japanese tradition. In other countries that practice Buddhism we wouldn’t have to do this. But Japan took Buddhism centuries ago and really made it their own.
There were a few people in the temple who were praying. They burned incense and lit candles (kinda like a catholic) and then prayed. They bowed their heads and closed their eyes.
The Shinto shrine was not much different. People bought prayers and then tied them to strings for the spirits to hear them. There was a woman in the garden who was reverently praying to some spirit. It was pretty tragic to me.
“This is the first time that I have ever seen some people actually worshipping other false gods and doing it so passionately.” I thought to myself. Then God spoke to me right there. And it was such a clear message that I had to stop and think about it for a few moments.
I looked into a koi pond. There were big golden fish swimming around in it, used for decoration in Japanese gardens. They have whiskers like a catfish but I was told they didn’t taste good. (Cause I asked.) It was after a moment of meditation in that Shinto garden that I was able to continue on following Ieshi Bashi sensei with our tour.
You see it seemed to me at the time so sad and so sinful that these people were worshipping spirits and the Buddha. I felt sorry for the futility of their religion. But God changed my heart right there as he convicted me of my own false idol worship. There have been times, and probably will be even more times in the future, where I have begun to worship things other than God and I never thought of it as worship. Relationships with friends or family, a motorcycle, money, myself even—personal skills, or things that I have done “on my own”. If I’ve idolized anything or made anything in my life as important as God is to me, then I have worshipped these things in vain. I have done no better than the people who were worshipping the Buddha and the animistic spirits of Shinto.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Entry

This is my first blog entry while I am in Japan. I don't know where to start, but....
First of all-
There are crazy things here. Very different from the US, but what was I expecting? OF course I was expecting things to be different here! So after arriving and getting settled into the apartment (which is really cool by the way) I started exploring this city.
To me Fukuoka is huge. By far the largest city I have ever set foot in. There are several sub-way lines and train lines, and bus routes. And mopeds and motorcycles and tiny tiny cars. And building after building after building.
I live on the eleventh floor of my building. I can look out at the train yard next to the complex and every ten minutes a huge honking jet flies over the apartment. We're (us in the apartment building) right in line for the airport landing strip. The jets fly really low too. It's like that scene from Wayne's World where they are sitting on the hood of their car and watching the planes fly right over there heads. ...and it's about that loud too.

Next: Serious Part
Lost people. I don't mean lost as in "they can't find their way around." I mean lost as in they don't know Christ. Very simple, yet very sad. God has been breaking my heart for the people of Japan and never more so than when I am on the trains here.
Let me describe this to you-
I am putting yen into a machine to get a ticket so that I can go down to Tenjin, which is one of the shopping districts. I have been doing a lot of exploring lately and going to these districts has been good. I don't like staying in the apartment alone.
After I get my ticket from the machine I walk through the gate with about thirty other people then wait to get on the train. The trains are always prompt. If the sign says that it will arrive at 3:42 then it will arrive at that time are a few minutes earlier. We step onto the train and if I am fortunate then i will get a seat. I hate having women or older people stand when I am sitting down, so I always make sure that everyone has a seat before I sit down.
There is a young boy in his school uniform sitting across from me. He is dozing to sleep, probably because he only got four hours of sleep after school, studying, extra curricular activities, and time with his friends. He has his baseball bag in his lap. He obviously plays for his school team.
There is a young attractive lady sitting a few feet away. She is on her cell phone texting or playing tetris, or looking at photos. (Or even e-mailing. In Japan all cell phones can send e-mails, not just iPhones.) She looks up and stares out of the window. Probably hoping that she doesn't marry a salary man who will work himself to death before he is forty.
Standing next to the exit door, holding onto a pole, is a salary man. He is probably hoping that he doesn't work himself to death before he can pay off his car, or house, or his kids schooling. (Which is a normal, yet devistating cost.) He wears a weary expression.
Sitting a few feet away from me is a cute older couple. The man wears a jacket much like my grandaddy would wear and like much of the young people he is wearing a fedora on his head. (Though this is probably more for practical reasons than a fashion statement.) His wife sitting next to him is wearing a traditional Kimono. No one notices this as being different or out of place.
At the next station a group of about five girls not over the age of ten gets on the train. They don't have any adult supervision because Japan is a very safe country, and it is probably their quickest and only way to get to their home from school. They talk quietly amongst themselves and occasionally they will laugh with each aloud. They are all carrying bags that say "Kashii Handball club." Some of them have scraped knees from their practice.

Based on the percentage of Christians in Japan it is very likely that everyone i just mentioned is not a born again believer in Christ. This is what I see everyday now. A bunch of sweet, sweet lost people. God continue to break my heart for these people!
But as I lay in bed thinking last night, it dawned on me that it isn't much different for those of us in the states. As we get on a bus to school or walk around our campus, or malls, we probably are looking at a bunch of lost people. We need to be burdened for the lost more. I know I do. Sometimes I push away this thought because it's hard to think about.
But in everything give praise.
Next: Learning to communicate.