[If you follow this blog with any regularity, you know by now that most posts are written by Julie... but this is a story from Brian!!!! Please send him lots of encouraging messages so he'll continue to post. ;)]
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the Osaka area teens camp. I was really excited about this for many reasons. First, I don’t get many opportunities to meet and build relationships with people from mainland Japan. Second, this would be a great opportunity for me to thoroughly embarrass myself by being immersed in Japanese. When I found out that a new Japan budget airline was practically giving seats away it was set, I would spend three days at camp!
Our church secretary, Mutsuki, has been more than an answer to prayer for so many reasons. When I looked at the camp registration and information form, I was only able to read “…… in the….. from…. so (or maybe that’s because)…. Camp.” Mutsuki was there to help out. Then I began to send emails to Shinozawa-san, my pastor-friend from Kyoto who offered to pick me up from the airport. Other than perhaps calling myself a goat in my Japanese emails, we worked out the arrangements and I couldn’t wait to go!
During our time in the States for home assignment we felt strongly that God was saying it was time to hunker down (again) with Japanese. We live in Japan not merely to pastor an English-speaking church, but to support the Japanese church, and seek to reach the millions of Japanese who have never understood the good news of what Jesus can do with their lives. We were blessed with some additional financial resources to help in language study, so Julie and the boys let me go for three days to jump into whatever God has in store.
When I got to the camp I was surprised about a number of things. First there were only 4 campers. Second, there were 16 adult sponsors. Third, it still all worked! In Japan the reality is that youth (even the 40 and below age of the sponsors) have largely disappeared from Japanese Christianity. But here I was singing songs I didn’t quite understand around the campfire with middle schoolers, high schoolers, and young adults who did want to be like Jesus.
My Japanese has (by God’s great help) come a long way in the years we’ve lived here. I can maintain simple but lengthy conversations. But here I was linguistically out of my league. But it’s amazing how much people can still communicate without words; with a smile, a pat on the back (perhaps culturally inappropriate, but I did it anyway), or in laughing together as I blundered through many things.