Kogushi!

So, I’m on the train I usually take to Ayaragi but this time, I’m staying on it all the way to Kogushi.  I’m glad for this kind of adventure.  It is 10 stops from Shimonoseki.  An elderly couple sat down with me in my little box seating area.  The lady is watching me write in my journal…but I know she doesn’t understand any of it…that’s nice.  The train has just taken off and the couple begin speaking loudly to each other in surprise…it’s going in the wrong direction…uh oh.  I tell them the next few stops and they realize they got on the wrong train.  Now that we’re at Hatabu-eki, they are getting off to catch the train in the other direction. 🙂

  They were sweet.  I think I might be on the wrong side of the train for the great scenery, but hopefully someone will get up on the other side and I can steal their seat before someone else does.  The next station is Ayaragi, then Yasuoka, then 4 stations I don’t know, then Kogushi.  I have no idea what I’ll do when I get there, but it will be a fun adventure.  Last night was the Kameyama Festival.  It was fun, lots of fireworks again…an hour’s worth of them.  I met up with Mika, Ruthia, Ami, and a few others.  Now the train is going beyond Ayaragi, uncharted territory for me.  🙂  Somebody put doll heads on sticks in that farm to serve as scarecrows.  I wish I had a picture of that.  Ok, I think I got the better end of the scenery after all…all the rice fields, farmland, and mountains are on my side…and the other side is, what, ocean!

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I just stepped off the train and managed to ask someone for a good restaurant.  I’m comfortable with udon, so that’s what I’m eating.  🙂  It’s really quaint here.  My udon has raw egg in it…but it’s tasty.  There was a lady who sat with me on the train after the elderly couple got off and was telling me how little there was in Kogushi.  She kept telling me that I should stay at the Kawatana-onsen station, or go on to Takibe so that I could take a bus to Tsunoshima.  It was so pretty on the way here, the mountains and rice fields and then suddenly there was the ocean on the left. So beautiful.  The lady I sat with has a friend in Seattle so we discussed how far things are in the US. 🙂  She was super-nice and said my Japanese was great for just being here since April.  Well, I’m done eating, so I’m off to check out that beautiful beach I saw just over yonder.

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I’m super-hot and super-sweaty!!  I’m really glad I did this.  I wanted some time out and doing stuff, but by myself.  I walked all along the shoreline for maybe a half a mile.  I tried to catch some crabs, to no avail, and went inside of a temple.  I have some great pictures of the scenery.  I love going to random places that no one else really sees much beauty or purpose in.  Maybe I have a feeling of ownership with it, because not too many other people can claim an affection for it.  I walked the shoreline one way and only saw a handful of people, and then walked back through the town to the station.  The fact that it is a stifling heat might have something to do with it, and my resulting sunburn is a testimony to that truth.  But it’s such a small and quiet country/sea side town.  I love it!

About halfway between Kogushi and Shimo is another bay/beach.  It looks lovely…I’m going to go there too.  And someday…soooooooooomeday, I will climb one of those mountains! 🙂

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There’s a Whisper on the Wind…

On Saturday, God decided to bring a very special sister through Shimonoseki.  She came without any warning to me, but eased right into my life for the few short days we would be in the same place.  Her name is Hitomi, and she is a co-pastor of a church in Osaka.  She has studied seminary at Liberty in Virginia, and she is amazing.  She was saved through the ministry of this church, Shimonoseki Christ Bible Church, and was invited to visit by Nakayama-san.  Immediately, we struck a cord with each other.  While our stories are different in detail and our locations dramatically different, we have similar backgrounds.

I didn’t get to spend much time with her on Saturday, but Sunday evening, I went down to play the piano as a sort of therapy.  It’s special too, because I don’t turn on the AC for that big room while I’m playing, so after a good 15 mins, I’m sweating up a storm…but it adds to the feeling of necessity in worshipping God that way.  I just love the piano and I love having a grand piano at my disposal right downstairs.  While I was playing, Hitomi snuck in and I shared with her some of my favorite songs.  She’s much more of a charismatic worshipper than I am.  I don’t know if her manifestations of the Spirit are true or not…but I don’t get the sense that she is faking it at all.  She is one of the most honest persons I have met in a while.  At some point you have to just get over the differences in pratice (so long as actions are not going directly against Scripture) and depend and rest on the knowledge that you are both part of the Family of God.

After that, she asked if I wanted to take a walk with her.  So we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and ended up by Kanmon Strait…a full 45 mins walk from the Center.  We shared our testimonies with each other the whole way to the water’s edge and then talked a little more.  Then we prayed together for encouragement and for resolution in relationships where pain and selfishness have gotten in the way.  Then we walked back.  My feet were dead.  I slept hard.  I didn’t wake up until 12ish.  It was nice.

Monday afternoon, our newly formed Bible Study group planned to meet at Johnna’s apartment.  Hitomi wanted to go check out the college she had graduated from, which just happens to be the college Mark goes to.  So, I went with her and we met up with Mark and he showed us around and we met some people and it was very nice.  I wish more students had been around, though…but it’s exam time and they are all off studying in their little nooks and crannies.

Then we took a bus over to Karato to meet Johnna.  We grabbed some delicious Indian food, and I was able to gab with one of the workers, in Hindi even!  One of the workers is Nepali and I’m dying for a chance to go back and meet him and talk with him about his country.  That little rectangular spot of mountains will always have a special place in my heart.  When we got to Johnna’s apartment, we ate our “gorgeous” Indian food (as Mark calls it) and decided just to share our lives with each other.  It’s a Bible Study, but we spend so much time on testimonies and getting to know each other…we haven’t cracked the Bible open yet.  But I think it’s good all the same.  We all shared our testimonies with Hitomi and she asked us varying parts of our testimonies and then we prayed for each other.  It was amazing.  I haven’t had a prayer session like that since I was in CN.  It was such a beautiful time of fellowship and worshipping God through prayer.  Mark was supposed to leave at 8pm to go tutor some kids…but he got a phone call that they had to cancel.  What a Godcidence!  Mark was able to spend the whole evening with us.  We spent probably a good 45 minutes in prayer with each other and then we took off.  It was so late that we had missed every bus that might have gone out…so we had to take a taxi.

I am so blessed already with the fellowship God has given me here, but what a refreshment to have Hitomi sweep in like a cool northern breeze and deliver messages from God for each of our lives.  She has invited all of us to come out to Osaka…so we’re going to try to make it out there at some point.  I am so in love with my Maker and how much He cares for me and all His children.  I hope that you know and can know His love for you.  It is amazing, breathtaking, deep, personal, and all-encompassing.  Praise God.

How’s YOUR Acidity Level?

Right now, I’m sitting at my laptop eating Ritz crackers (courtesy of Daiei grocery store) and Jif peanut butter (courtesy of my mom’s first care package) and enjoying every minute of it.  Today has been a day of stress and contemplation.  I have recently realized that my body’s acidity level is out of whack…partly because of some headaches, trouble sleeping, but mostly because of these two little friends in my mouth…canker sores.  They hurt, really hurt.  They are contributing to my headaches…so whenever I get a canker sore, I like to analyze why I have one.  Sometimes it’s just from biting my cheek…but the worst one is way down between my cheek and my gum…not a fun location…you can’t even look at it from there.  So, this could be the result of two things, probably both being connected:  my diet has become too acidic and I’m stressed out. 

So the remedy, for the first, is to eat more “basic” foods and drink.  My last beverage adventure was an orange fruit/vegetable drink which, much to my chagrin, included bell pepper…BINGO – acid.  hah, yeah…that was no fun.  So today, I drank some Coke, hoping the carbonation will help out.  I will research some more basic foods…I think broccoli might be among that, but I’m not certain.

The remedy for the first is…well…more difficult.  There are things in my life that I cannot control right now, so I will have to do my best.  But, it got me to thinking about some “grander schemes”.  In my Wednesday night class, only one of my students showed up…one out of four…Maki, who is 19 years old.  She’s pretty fun.  She has her own band, and she plays the drums.  She was teaching me some good Japanese slang…and then the Japanese English teacher I work with afterwards quickly told me not to use any of them.  Heh…the joy of slang.  🙂

  I decided to be bold and ask a daring question…daring both in content, but also daring because it might force a Japanese person to say something bad about me.  I asked Maki if there was still any anger in Japan over what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki about 60 years ago.   Maki, in true overly-polite Japanese form, said that the young people don’t really think about it and so are not angry, and older people might have been angry still several years ago, but they are not angry with America anymore.

  It got me thinking though…thinking about America and the country holding grudges.  I can understand some things and I probably embrace some prejudices against certain nations…but America tends to harbor hatred for other countries who have, in the past, wronged us.  Take France for instance…I’m not altogether sure what France did in the first place, but Americans have not always liked France.  When 9/11 happened and we wanted to go into Iraq, France would not back us up.  Thus the birth of “Freedom Fries.”  C’mon…seriously?  Freedom fries?  What comes next?  Freedom braid, and Freedom kissing?  geez.  But despite that…how many of you still harbor ill-will to the country of love and honey dijon?

  Prior to deciding to come to Japan, whenever I heard about Japan, it was always with reference to four things: cars, nintendo, Karate Kid, and Pearl Harbor.  What a legacy to give our children in America…all you need to know about Japan is that they make great cars, Mario, wax-on wax-off, and suicide bombers.  What about Germany?  They have such a vibrant and beautiful culture as well!  We have a ton of amazing classical composers that have come out of Germany.  Yes, we have a tumultuous past, but get over yourselves…how many terrible things have we done in the past?  I think the only country we’ve ever remotely resolved issues with is England…and even then, when they do something that gets our tails tied in a knot, we call them redcoats.

  Now I will close and prepare myself to be branded a hippy, calling for “free love”.  or better yet, “freedom love.”  That has a great ring to it.

I can see so many people soooooo close to the Gospel.  I know that if they just reached their hands out, they would know what we are talking about and know the joy of Jesus in their lives.  I really want to ask for specific prayer from you for a couple of people.  Of course, pray for all my students, but these in particular right now:

Tuesday 4:30pm – Super Kids 1

   Brian just gave the Gospel presentation, and asked the children to pray the salvation prayer with him.  He has been going over the Gospel for the past several weeks and we’ve felt many of the hearts become soft for the Gospel.  I have four children in class: Rinka, Mizaho, Ayumi, and Masaru.  Masaru is the only boy, and he’s the newest to the class, also the quietest kid, but one of the sweetest.  This is probably my best class for the children, they are just amazing.  As they began praying, Rinka was the loudest of them all, repeating right along with Brian.  I could hear Ayumi mumbling along, and Mizaho moved her mouth the whole time (what can I say, I’m nosey), but didn’t really speak the words.  Masaru wasn’t really paying attention, so pray for him that God would build an awareness of spiritual things in his life. 

   The one I really want to ask for prayer for is Rinka.  She has a minor case of Down Syndrome.  Her grandmother attends class with her to help keep her in line.  Rinka has always been the most vocal and enthusiastic about the Gospel.  Brian has done some back work, talking with her grandmother, and recently with her mother too.  He showed her the book they have been going through and asked her to read and consider encouraging Rinka in wanting to believe, because Rinka is already there.  She already believes, no question…but she does not have any encouragement at home.  Her mother said she’d read through, but that Rinka probably didn’t understand anything (she’s 6, or 7).  After this week’s prayer, Brian spoke with her mother again and she said that she didn’t want to encourage Rinka in Christianity.  She said that with her sickness, it would be “too heavy” for her to deal with.  In Japan, they have a mentality that if there is something mentally wrong with a person, you should take away any other requirement from them other than just living…and religion would be putting a requirement on them, a strain.  It’s a hard wall to break through. 

  Mom had sent a bunch of children’s toys from Berean Christian Bookstore, so I’ve been letting the kids pick out one toy.  Rinka chose a bracelet (I think it’s glow-in-the-dark) that has a cross hanging off of it.  After Brian was shot down by Rinka’s mother, Rinka ran out of the Center holding her arm high shouting in Japanese, “Look!  I have the cross that takes away my sins!”  I have a feeling that not even her mother will be able to stop this.  Please pray that her family would soften to the Gospel and come to accept it themselves.  If they can see the goodness that Christ will do in Rinka’s life, they will have to know that it is not a burden, but a freedom.  Pray for that family. 

Update 06/16/08

  On Saturday, it was my birthday, and I turned 24.  I am so excited that God gave me the opportunity to have my birthday outside of the States!  It has provided a really neat way to learn more about the culture.  Also, I’ve been able to find out who has become the most sensitive to the Gospel because of their response to my birthday.  I would never have thought of my birthday as being a tool, but it’s surprising what God can use.  Now, I feel like I can focus more energy on a few people rather than spreading myself out so thin. 

  I also share my birthday with the pastor’s son, Titus, who turned 16 this year.  So, the whole family invited me and Samantha out to celebrate in Fukuoka.  We got to the Haug’s house at 8am to start it off, and then we all drove down to Fukuoka (it’s on the other island, Kyushu, and is the city I flew in to when I arrived).  The first event was to go see Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull.  After that, we took off for a reservation at Hard Rock Cafe!  Yes, I bought a t-shirt with the logo and Fukuoka underneath! 🙂  They really made a big deal out of Titus and my birthday, even took our pictures and put them on keychains for us.  Oh, and when you go through my pictures, you will see a picture of me and a really, really tall guy (well, of course he’s tall, b/c I’m so short), but I’m pretty jazzed about the picture, so check it out! 🙂  After lunch, we went to the all-exciting COSTCO!  Yes, we have a Costco within an hour and a half of where I live.  We stocked up on some things until someone has a chance to go back.  I guess, too, that you can order off a website and have things delivered to your house, so that’s nice to know.  I just browsed around until I saw it: a whole 24 pack of Dr. Pepper.  Naturally, I bought it…my birthday present to myself…the gift that keeps on giving.  🙂  I’ve only had one so far…I’m savoring them.  After that we checked out a couple music stores…both Titus and I are music geeks (he plays guitar and me, well, y’all know what I do, so I won’t mention it). 

  Yesterday (Sunday), was the Shimonoseki Wind Ensemble Pick-Up concert!  Nakayama-san and Samantha went with me, and I’m so glad that we went.  Not only was it great music, but Mitsui-san, Satsuki-san, and Shirayama-san were so happy that we went.  There were two flute soloists and two clarinet soloists (one being Shirayama-san).  Then, the last bit was a quartet of saxophones: tenor, baritone, alto, and Shirayama-san’s sister switched between the alto and soprano saxophone.  It was really great.  I can’t wait for the next concert, which will have all instruments present, in August! 

  These are great people and I’m so excited to get to know them.  Frequently, our conversations turn to God and such related things.  I had told them previously that my uncle was suffering with cancer, and when he passed away on Monday, I told them about it.  I was able to share the joy and hope I have at being able to see him again soon someday in heaven.  Mitsui-san was particularly vocal on his hope that I would see Uncle Tom again.  He said to me, “Ganbate!  Ganbate!”, which I didn’t know the meaning until I got back to the Center.  Taka says that it means, “Keep going”  or “keep trying” or “work hard for it”.  I wish I had a better understanding of Japanese that I could have used that opportunity to tell them the Truth, that heaven is not something we earn as humans because of our actions, but that it is only the work of Jesus, who lived the perfect life and died in our place.  I want them so much to know Jesus as their Lord, keep them in your prayers.  They are open and so enthusiastic about meeting with me and the others from the Center.  Satsuki-san said repeatedly to me, “Anatao dai suki” which means, “I really, really like you.”  And Mitsui-san said something to me about Taka, and when he put it into broken English for me, he said, “I want to eat Asada-san.”  Prepositions are not very easy to translate from Japanese-English.  Hehe.  I told Taka and he was a little wary, but I think he will still go visit the restaurant.  🙂

  Thank you for all the birthday wishes!  I had kind of a rough week last week, with Uncle Tom going to be with Jesus, and then also celebrating my birthday so far from all the people I love so much.  But God is good, and He gives grace where and when it is needed, and your messages were just that.  Keep me posted on happenings back home.  I want to pray for you as much as you are praying for me.

Woohoo!

Big plans today!  You see, today’s my birthday and I get to celebrate it in Japan!  🙂  Since the pastor’s son, Titus, has his birthday today as well, we (Samantha and I) were invited to join the family in an excursion to Fukuoka.  I’m pretty jazzed.  So, we have an early start, seeing as we need to be at the Haug’s house by 8am, we are taking the 7:29a train, which means I had to get up at 5:45a!  Ah…on my birthday too…oh well. 

  The schedule for today, which I will share in detail later, is to go see a movie (Indiana Jones), eat lunch at Hard Rock Café (oh yeah), go shop at Costco (oh the day when Costco is a birthda treat…I’m in the twilight zone), and then go shop and peruse around RiverWalk in Kokura (shopping mall). 

  Having your birthday in another country really exposes you to the different cultures.  Like yesterday, my kids drew me birthday cakes on the board and told me congratulations.  I am now subject to the “you must return giving a gift of 60%(or some such percentage) the value of the gift you received” maxim, so I’ll have my work cut out for me.  Tonight, when I get home I will elaborate on the various gifts I’ve received. 

  Yesterday, I went to Quixote and ate the lunch special.  No, ika (squid), but I did have “konnyaku”…not to be confused with “konyaku”.  The first is a jelly-type food that I think is made from beans and has no calorie…very healthy.  The second is engagment.  The difference is just one extra character of “ni” before the “ya” to signify that it’s the food.  I came in to Taka’s office to ask him about it and he about fell off his chair when he thought I said “engagement.”  No worries though, the cheesecake here isn’t nearly as good as the cheesecake back home, so you all are safe from having to worry that I’d get engaged over here.  🙂  Later!! 🙂

Tsu Yu

Aaaaaaaaaaaand, the rainy season (tsu yu) started today!  Yippee!  🙂  Aren’t you excited?  I’m sooooooo not excited!  I had to travel to Kawanaka for my classes today, and so being in the train was alright, but walking to and from the train stations were no fun.  The rainy season will continue from now until the end of July, so this will be wonderful.  There are a lot of great books here and I have things to paint (legitimate things to paint) and a craft store somewhat close-by, so I can get some more cross-stitching.

  Other than that, this week has been pretty eventful.  My uncle Tom finally went home to be with Jesus on Monday (4:30a EST).  I don’t know all the circumstances, but I am much relieved that he is no longer suffering.  I hurt for his absence from our family, but he’s in a much better place.  It was nice the way someone put it on the blogsite they had set up for him, “In 56 short years, Tom finished everything that God had set before him.”  He really ran his race, and he ran it well.  I can only hope that just a portion of that could be said of me too when my time comes.  Every now and then I get an image in my mind of uncle Tom sitting at Jesus’ feet with his big smile on his face, just listening to Him.  It’s comforting.  Pray for the family as the arrangements are made, and through the ceremony, and then the weeks/months to come without him there.  It’s almost surreal, considering I’m so far away, but I also think I’ve been going through my grief for him throughout the last two months, and so I’m at a different stage at this moment. 

  Besides this, the week has and will be, pretty much, all in preparation for my birthday on Saturday.  Last night, Tues, Mika gave me a yellow rose (sooooo wonderful.  I don’t care for roses a ton, but yellow ones make up for it!), a fan, and a cheesecake! 🙂  Also, her mom sent some photo albums, they are step-by-step photos of how to put on a yukata, just in case I forget…now I have a flip-book, almost.  🙂  It is sweet.  I can’t wait to finish this cross-stitch for her.  I want her to know how much I appreciate everything that she has done for me.  Tonight, my students brought a ton of treats…too many, I had to leave some in the church frig because we couldn’t eat them all…and Miwa (the woman I painted the shelf for) gave me a Japanese handbag.  Ok, it’s actually a piece of finished fabric that you fold certain ways and then tie the corners together to make a carrier for whatever kind of item you want.  You can tie books, small boxes, a watermelon, and even two wine bottles inside of it.  She was so excited about it, and wanted me to know that she can’t make anything with her hands, but this was almost as good.  Hah.  There’s something about receiving gifts and then being obligated to give back something about 60% the value of the first gift.  I’m not completely sure on the percentage, but that obligation is real, and I’ll have to keep that in mind with the birthday gifts I give.  Misa, my 8pm student, gave me a small pot with three different kinds of cacti…I’m going to call them Larry, Bob, and Alfred…because they look a lot like the Veggietales characters. 🙂 

I think that’s about it.  On another note (literally), I found this CD that is probably the epitome of amazing.  One, it is the Cincy Symphony.  Two, it is conducted by Paavo Jarvi.  And three, it is all PROKOFIEV!  My fave composer.  And not JUST Prokofiev, but Symphony No.5 AND the Lieutenant Kije Suite, with the wonderful “Romance” and “Troika”.  I want it, I want it badly.  I’m waiting to decide if I reeeeeally need it.  It is great.  Here’s a link to it.  Enjoy. 🙂  Goodnight.

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