For those Americans who have had the experience of studying Japanese (or any foreign language), they can understand that is no easy task. Some would go so far to say that among the world’s most commonly spoken languages, there are no two tongues so different in grammar, form and use than English and Japanese.
With Japanese clocking in at an average of 2,200 class hours over 88 weeks (1.69 years) to gain basic proficiency (however researchers in this case define it) [reference], it’s easy to be tempted to look for any type of shortcut available.
Greetings! Emi writing from LA, wanting to update on our journey. I’m going to keep this short, like a one minute read.
Remember how I was talking about doing internship in LA? So that’s happening. I moved to LA (well, now more like OC). LA has been real good to me. My family is here, my old friends are here, I can drive and go anywhere I want to, and I can have awesome food anytime. My family’s been so gracious to me that they’ve provided me a place to live, food to eat, a even car to drive. Such grace! I’m loving my parents’ church (Gospel Siloam Church) too. The Bible study with Fuller Seminary students has been super. Oh, I saw Christ Maybury and the Holland bunch the other day. So thankful.
Internship has been great, too. Amazing supervisors and colleagues at a non-profit counseling center. I’m definitely challenged. Feeling inadequate at times, but I’m remembering that I need to go through challenges and mistakes to learn and grow as a counselor.
And Emi in LA means Erich is alone in Osaka. It has been only two weeks and we are dying. We video chat, send each other messages, play Catan online, wake each other up and say good night… but we can’t be with each other! :'( Me no likey!
Anyways, I miss you and I love you, readers.
God is kind and Jesus’ name is beautiful and the Holy Spirit is wise and cheeky.
Please pray for us, and let us know what we can pray for you, too.
Exactly three weeks ago, I was in a rush to change trains in the early morning hours when I lost my balance on a staircase. I was in quite the hurry to make the next train, so using my Flash-like supernatural speed, I attempted to use the last step of the staircase to change directions by 90° in order to position myself for the next flight of stairs. You see, I’m a millennial, and we believe that our bodies are simply invincible despite daily reminders otherwise, and I wasn’t going to be late to my event for the sake of “prudence.”
Anyways, the result of this maneuver was that where normally I would have used the bottom or “sole” of my shoe to push off the ground (instructions on walking properly), I instead used the top of my foot (please don’t overthink the physics on this; it is what it is). As you would expect, my ankle rejected this abnormal use, and punished me by severely damaging my tendon.
For a moment afterwards, I couldn’t see, which is not an exaggeration — such was the pain my ankle inflicted on me. After a few seconds, rational thought returned, and I sat down in the middle of the next staircase to consider my options.
Limp to the hospital.
Call an ambulance (as they’re free in Japan, people regularly call ambulances even for small injuries).
At that moment, I was on my way to a charity relay run for the YMCA (ironically to benefit the disabled), for which my team and I had spent some time (in Japanese fashion) enduring a number of preparatory meetings and awkward fundraising. I wasn’t about to throw all of that away, so I did what any of you would do (right?) and went with Option 4: Limp onward. Turns out that was a bad call, but we’ll get to that in a second.
I met up with friends, made my way to the event, made a couple of trips to the convenient store for coffee and spicy chicken, and even participated in the warm up exercises with the other hundreds of runners.
Please see the video below for a reference to the type of warm up we do in Japan. Please tell me how this in any way prepares you for a run? The front-most person in the video accurately demonstrates how I would be doing the exercise today.
However, by the time my race had finally arrived, at the strong urging of my wife and fellow participants, I decided not to run.
My decision was underscored by the searing pain each step brought me, and the fact that the swelling made it difficult for me to distinguish basic anatomical features such as “heel,” “ankle bone” or “foot.”
Nevertheless, I insisted that I stay and watch my friends complete the relay. One of them graciously offered to run my segment for me, and as it was a just “fun” relay (not competitive), they were permitted.
Pictures Emi Snapped at the Event
After the Event
At this point, I was in so much pain that I had to hop and/or be carried at the same time, so I didn’t stick around for the free barbecue (in truth, the idea of receiving free food had up to this point made the whole event seem worthwhile, so it’s a shame I didn’t get to partake).
YMCA staff members, Emi and Shalom helped me find a taxi, and I made it to the local Red Cross Hospital.
Japanese Healthcare & Insurance
Say what you want about the quality of a national healthcare insurance system, but in my (now growing) experience it seems to get the job done. I enrolled in national insurance immediately after arriving in Japan, and I’ve paid an average of $24/mo for my health coverage (includes dental and optics). Sure there are long waits even for simple procedures, but the doctors and nurses are top notch, and I don’t mind too much when I can get out of an emergency room visit, two visits to orthopedic specialists, crutches, casts, ankle brace and pain medicine administered over three weeks for under $100.
Life on Crutches
Life on crutches is tough. Once simple tasks take ages to perform. Unlike a wheelchair, with crutches, simply picking up a cup of coffee and moving it the four feet from the counter to the table is virtually impossible when you’re arms are tied up balancing you body. Ortho-glass can’t get wet, so taking a bath is impossible and taking a shower requires carefully wrapping your cast in a towel, tied plastic bag and sealed with cellophane wrap. Our shower is a raised step up from the regular floor, which means I had to use the crutches to swing myself into the room… wet… wearing nothing but my ridiculous 2′ radius towel-bag sphere boot.
When Emi was home, I could ask for help with things, but when she was at work or studying, I found it really easy to get frustrated and sometimes even a little depressed, as I was completely useless for helping out around the house or even cleaning up dishes after myself. We quickly purchased small rolling trolley to help me move things around, but pushing it feebly with my knees as I tried not to topple from my crutches also proved frustrating.
Probably the most difficult thing about my temporary disability was dealing with others in public. Most people just don’t know how to treat the disabled, and I often found myself receiving accommodations when I didn’t want them and not receiving accommodations when I did.
One particular incident stands out. I was running a bit later than usual (haha, running? get it?), but I had arrived at the school in ample time to make it to class. However, our school has six floors, and it’s always shocked my how able-bodied young adults cram into the tiny elevator to do something simple — say go from Floor 3 to Floor 4 for a soda. I’m aware of this fact, and while it bothered me (being the only one of several hundred people using the building who actually needs an elevator), I had come to grips with it.
But, when I trip-podded through the glass front doors, pouring with sweat from a lengthy trip, something I didn’t expect happened. A lone 18-year-oldish girl was in the elevator. We made eye contact. I huffed with all my might — man and metal operating as one in a silent symphony — to close that 9 meter distance between me and the elevator. Without breaking eye contact, she closed the doors, and I had to wait and watch as the elevator proceeded to stop at every floor on the way up, and again at every floor on the way down for five agonizing minutes.
Jesus forgives her.
Doctors said that my torn tendon, aggravated by 5 hours of walking the morning of the injury, would take a long time to heal. In fact, it might have been better off I had just broken the bone. I was informed that I would be in a ortho-glass splint, which I was not permitted to remove, for three weeks, and I would be on crutches for at least 5 – 6 weeks. But as all good charismatic Christians do, we prayed that by the time I went in for my follow up visit at the three-week mark, that I would be completely healed.
My follow up appointment was on Friday, and I’d be lying if I said it was completely healed, but we did hear excellent news from my doctor. Because most of the pain was gone, I was going to be moved to simple ankle brace, and I could walk without the assistance of crutches so long as it didn’t hurt. If it hurts, he said, don’t do it.
So by God’s faithfulness, here I am walking even longer distances without the aid of crutches. I still brought them along today when I went to church to help reduce the weight I put on that foot when I walk really far, but I can walk almost completely pain free, just two days out of my ortho-glass splint. Praise Him, I’ll take it!
On top of that, we had nearly perfect weather with no rain (except once briefly during the night) for the entire three weeks I was on crutches. This was a huge blessing as I walk every where I go in Japan (even on crutches), and severe heat, cold or rain would have been absolutely miserable.
Lastly, staff at my school are working on my behalf to use the automatic life-support insurance I get as a student to pay for an uncovered healthcare costs related to my injury, which even includes taxis to and from the hospital. Thank you Jesus.
Yesterday marked one year to the day since Emi and I moved to Japan. And as if He were honoring this anniversary, God has been providing us with more and more chances to serve in the community and local church. True to the maxim, “when it rains, it pours,” it has been and seems that it will continue to be a busy and stretching season in our lives. Praise God for having three weeks school vacation to let me catch up on work!
Although it’s been a bit overwhelming, we’re thrilled at the opportunities we’ve had recently to do what we came to Japan to do.
Probably the biggest development is the launch of a house-churchish fellowship aimed at serving the needs of students in our apartment. When we first came to Japan, we felt God speak to us clearly about getting an apartment with a large common space, and we’ve received a number of words from others about using that space for the Lord’s work. Now, after nearly 11 months in our current apartment, we’re starting to use that space for just that purpose.
I’ve had the great blessing to study beside a number of other missionaries at the YMCA, something I’m informed is actually quite rare. Among them is a really passionate pastor and minister named Shalom, who over the past six months Emi and I have come to count among our closest friends. Shalom came down to Kansai (Osaka region) from Tokyo about 9 months ago to pastor a couple of small Japanese-Filipino churches and started at the YMCA around the same time.
Not so long ago another Christian classmate of ours from Taiwan, On (pronounced ‘own’), Shalom and I were out at a café. On was trying to find a convenient time to visit New Hope Osaka with me for Sunday service, and we discovered that for students, weekend days are a precious commodity, and the invitation to spend 3+ hours of a Sunday afternoon was quite a big ask. Somehow it came up that we could just do our own kind of church, a small fellowship based out of my apartment, which is only a two-minute walk from the language school. Shalom and I had already discussed the possibility of him leading a Sunday fellowship at our place on the weekend, so we were both open the idea. However, having the activity on Tuesdays right after afternoon classes made it convenient for students, and it made it easy for us to invite our classmates. So we decided just to go for it.
Ironically (or perhaps according to plan), the coffee shop where we made our plans photographed us on Instagram during our meeting. Our table is on the back left, closest to the wall.
In our model, we try to keep the service short and allow for a lot of time for fellowship. For foreign exchange students, one of the biggest needs is true friendship. In Japan, it’s easy to make a lot of acquaintances, but true, deep and meaningful relationships are hard to come by. Hence, on Tuesday nights, whoever shares tries to keep the message really short to allow more time for interaction and group discussion. Our goal is foster a community where every member contributes as an owner and where everyone feels connected to one another.
It’s really thanks to Shalom that were able to get the fellowship off the ground and going in the first place. His big personality and evangelistic anointing draws people to him naturally. He preached and shared his testimony at our first meeting, and we had around ten people come out to hear it.
I had an opportunity to share this most recent Tuesday, and I’ve been really happy to see our little group starting to bond. Please pray that God leads Shalom, Eri (our worship leader), Emi and me as leaders and continues to encounter all of us on Tuesday nights.
New Hope Osaka Youth
On the New Hope side of things, the departure of Kenneth (another awesome YWAM missionary at our church) to return to Canada left some gaping holes in the ministry. Besides being the entire church’s go-to-guy for all things tech-related, Kenneth ran New Hope Osaka’s Youth Group program, helped with weekly bulletin publishing and often ran sound and ProPresenter for worship. A number of church members stepped up to fill these roles, and being among the few twenty-somethings in attendance, Emi and I were tapped for Youth.
I doubt I have more than two readers who will remember this, but my only real youth group leadership experience was as “Assistant Youth Pastor” at Rabat International Church in Morocco about four years ago. As “Assistant Youth Pastor” (a self-ascribed title), I assisted my friend, roommate and official “Youth Pastor” Dan in the myriad responsibilities of running a youth group that averaged five in attendance. Good times were had by all.
Now that I’m writing this, I also recall my summer as Christian camp counselor at SpringHilll back in ’06. While I’ll not downplay the significance that summer had on my growth as a Christian minister, my six to ten-year-old campers hardly match the current youth demographic at New Hope.
Working with the young adults so far has been truly rewarding. The New Hope youth group members are truly amazing! Some of them have already overcome so much in their lives, yet they seem eager to know Jesus more and get along with one another quite well. International churches by nature see a lot of people coming and going. Attendance, which can range from two to ten or more depending on the week, can be difficult to prepare for. Our young adults from all types of cultural backgrounds – Japan, Taiwan, Korea, America and even Argentina. Finding a message in English that relates to everyone can be a challenge; so when it comes to teaching, we try to stick to the Bible.
Before taking over, the youth group was able to meet once a month because of restricted schedules. However because we believe consistency is really important in these young adults’ lives, Emi and I talked with them and we’re going to do our best to meet at least twice a month—once for talking and teaching, and once to go on an outing (last time was bowling, today will be Karaoke).
Emi and I are thrilled to be stepping into what for us will be a challenging opportunity, and we ask for prayers that God would encounter all of these young believers during youth group.
This past weekend also saw our third time visiting Tokyo area where we were able to provide prayer ministry in support of my father-in-law Yuichi’s Christian group counseling ministry. Compared to previous sessions, this time was better than ever. We saw far fewer demonic manifestations and were able to pray and prophesy over nearly everyone. According to my father-in-law, three members of the group are now ready and have asked to be baptized! Please pray for us for wisdom as we look for a chance to help them receive baptism.
Language Study at the YMCA
Some days I feel confident in my Japanese, but most days I’m constantly reminded that I have a long way to go. Just a few days ago I concluded my first year of full-time language study. When I look back at where I was when I first came to Japan, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come, thanks to our amazing teachers and the heaps of homework they pile on us nightly. Sadly, the end of this terms marks the graduation of three more of our now tight-knit group of friends studying language together. It also means that as we move into more advanced levels, we have to say “mata ne (see you later)” to some of the teachers who have nurtured us for the past year through introductory and mid-level Japanese. But we look forward to what’s to come!
Please pray that I can continue to build my vocabulary and that as I approach fluency, my listening and speaking abilities would improve (they’re still the weakest).
At the same time as we’ve stepped into these two new roles as ministers, I’m looking forward to a few other activities:
October 4th: preaching at Osaka’s “One Grain” church on.
October 7th: volunteering to translate and offer guidance for new students at the YMCA’s fall orientation.
October 12th: a charity relay for the YMCA on (“Sports Day” in Japan). The majority of the runners from the school are comprised of my classmates.
November 1st: preaching at “City Blessings” church in Shiga prefecture (the church Shalom pastors).
Of course, even as all this progresses, Emi and I continue in the daily grind of work. Please pray that we’re able to balance all of our new responsibilities, volunteer opportunities, work and school in the coming season.
Emi here. I’m writing to you with such renewed spirit and heart. The Lord restored so much joy in me during this month through my trip to the States.
I. Regent University’s Residency Program in Virginia Beach
Just like last year, I once again visited Regent University in VA for a residency program. This year we did group counseling. I was spiritually rejuvenated and received so much healing during the program. Every morning begins with gathering and worship, and the program ended with a spiritual retreat. There’s definitely something about being in a room full of Christian counselors-in-training participating in group counseling together and they just want to love you and pray for you, right?
I forgot how much I missed interacting with people from the States, talking about the Lord. I forgot how much I missed worshiping in English. I forgot how it was like to be in an American Christian community. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it! I soaked up everything like a dry sponge. Even though I was physically exhausted during the program, I was so alive in the spirit! Maybe this is why furlough is important for missionaries? And I forgot how amazing the cohorts are (gif above). We really became a family over the program. I wish to keep in touch and pray for one another during the semesters, because I totally did not do much of that last academic year…
II. Visiting SoCal
After the residency program, I visited my family in LA for a couple days. My nephew Ace was so big already! He is a chunky cutie. My parents and my sister and her hubby Hajime recently purchased a home. It was such a beautiful house. Interestingly, I was prophesied over about a red door about a year ago, and during the residency one of the classmates was nudged by the Lord to ask me about a red door. And guess what I find on my family’s new house? A red door. I feel so confirmed on many levels that this is where I should be for internship, that their choice of home was the Lord’s will, and that the Lord is upon this place!
Guess what else? My friends just happen to be moving to LA when I will be there too. I met people in Japanese church who are going back to Kansai in the new future. I get goosebumps from everything lining up just so perfectly that I am witnessing the Lord’s delicate orchestra.
I was praying for rest for the past 11 months, and the Lord totally provided me complete rest. I slept a lot, ate a lot, and just hung out a lot. No work, no obligatory things, no nothing. Sipping boba tea, taking naps, having peaceful family dinner in the backyard. I am definitely ready to work again. I am so thankful for my family and old friends for loving me and taking care of me! And thank YOU for praying for me.
III. Praise Report
I passed the graduation exam for counseling program! Honestly, I should not be passing this exam because I studied literally three hours for it. But people prayed for me, and God answered them.
I got to stay with our friend Michelle while I was in Virginia Beach. Praise Him for her graciousness to open up her home to me! I felt so loved and taken care of!
Nikki (our friend from Holland, Holly Noble’s sister) visited Osaka again and we were so encouraged by her presence and her faith. Thank God for such a wonderful sister in Christ!
Erich got to visit Brent in Kumamoto.
We recently were able to connect with Karen and Dan, an awesome missionary couple in Osaka. They happened to live only a twenty-minute walk from our place. They graciously invited us for Mexican food (Dan is an excellent cook), and we played board game together. Erich and I are so happy to get to know a couple who are into board games!
The Lord has been speaking to us about our future ministry and family planning (both not happening anytime soon. prepping mode!)
I met with the director of my internship site, and I love her. I could tell that the Lord’s got Living Success Center‘s back even though it’s not a Christian foundation.
Let us know how you are doing, too. We want to pray for you!
It’s been a while since we updated you on our lives in Japan. So many things happened in the past months, like Erich going back to Holland for a few weeks, Emi surviving and thriving as a single during his travel, attending two Japanese weddings, and my parents visited Osaka.
God is and has been so good to us through these times. Praise Jesus for his unconditional love!
B – I – G, Big Developments
We have a news that brings change to our lives soon. (No, we are not pregnant!)
As a part of my Regent counseling Master’s program, I am required to do two semesters of internship under a licensed counselor. I originally had someone in Osaka, but in May he was hired in Bangkok and decided to move there. So for the past two months I tried everything to find a licensed counselor in Japan who would supervise me. LinkedIn proved itself useless, and no American-licensed counselors have a large-enough practice to provide experience for an intern. I contacted U.S. army bases, marine bases, and air force bases, but the only opportunity that turned up slowly, painfully fell through. International schools, TELL, and other counseling-related NPOs all did not need an intern.
I whined, begged, and bawled for an internship in Japan, but God had a different plan on his mind.
After I exhausted every network, I finally gave up. I was so frustrated with our Heavenly Father at this point.
A couple weeks after, I received an email from a director of a counseling center in Los Angeles that she wants to have me as an intern! Two days ago I had a phone-interview with the director and I was accepted as an intern at her site, starting from this January and running til August of 2016. Like a confirmation that this really is His will, I met bunch of people from LA at work the day after I got the internship (I never meet customers from LA, so it was special). And God even sent me a sample of orange-honey cake at Starbucks I ordered the day before to celebrate my internship, as if to celebrate with me again on the internship.
So I’m leaving to LA, next year January… for eight. long. months.
Here is the sad part. Erich and I have to be separated for most of that time! Wah! Sad face over 9000!
It’s detrimental to pause his language studies at YMCA so Erich’s gotta stay in Osaka, and we can’t leave our apartment empty for too long. I’m also sad because I’ve been developing more friendship with people in Osaka, and now I have to take a break from all the relationships. Most of all I won’t be able to see Erich. I’m sad. Really sad.
But the bright side is that God will use this opportunity to grow Erich and our marriage to another level. Yes, there will be challenges because being physically apart for a long period of time changes our marriage dynamics, but we believe that this experience will grow our marriage even stronger. God uses seemingly a negative situation for a greater good! I know we will like the outcome because the Lord’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. And I get to live with my family again in LA! They even have a room and a car ready for me. I can’t wait to get to know my recently-born nephew, too.
By the end of next year’s summer, Erich and I both finish our studies. When we are reunited, Erich will be fluent in Japanese and I will have a master’s in counseling. It will be amazing.
Hello family and friends! Grace and peace to you from God our father.
We’ve been posting other topics on the blog so I’m sure you’re curious to know what Erich and I have been up to. Thankfully, we have been doing way better compared to the last update in February.
I. YMCA and Regent
I’m so proud to report that Erich has been doing fantastic in the language study. Though he’s humble about it, I have to tell you that he’s earned all ‘A’s and mastered kanji (Chinese characters) as good as Chinese/Taiwanese students–sometimes Asian students even ask Erich for help with them. And teachers adore him for his hard work, and now he is successfully leveled up to J4 course out of 9, meaning he is almost halfway to language fluency.
Erich has been diligent about the language study that he spends about 7-8 hours studying the language on a week day. He can talk to my mom in Japanese–not just the simple phrases but actual conversations. Praise Jesus! Thank you so much for praying for Erich!
Praise report! I found a practicum site! I will be doing a 16-week practicum at my church under my pastor. How cool is that? I would’ve loved to serve the church anyways, so this is a great opportunity to do that. Thank you again for the prayer. As for my courses, I’m doing great. I’m visiting Regent University in August for a week or so for the mandatory residency course, which is very soon.
Our church has been encouraged by so many ministries recently, especially by Nobuko san with Faith Builders Japan. She visits the church once in a while to preach and does a Holy Spirit workshop. People are hearing the Lord’s voice. We recently had a team from Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (Erich’s old ministry school) come and pray and do a treasure hunt together with the church members. And we also had a guest speaker from Australia from other New Hope church. I have to say, God knows the best timings. Personally, when I feel like I need spiritual encouragement—bam! God provides through a perfect message through sermons, prayer, and prophecy by sisters and brothers in Christ.
I had the opportunities to translate the sermon twice in the past months. It’s a bit rough since I did English to Japanese, but God surely spoke through me, thank goodness. Though I get lost on words sometimes, people were so graceful.
By the way, God is teaching me to be bold about speaking about Him more. Originally, I was beating around the bushes talking about Jesus-y stuff to Japanese people because I thought it would be too much to talk about religion too soon in a relationship because of the nature of Japanese culture, but I recently realized it doesn’t work this way for me right now. I got laughed at and made many awkward moments, but God loves it when I’m really open about my faith. I really want the kingdom to come. I really want Jesus. I really want people to come home to God, to know Him.
III. Praise Report
We are slowly but surely making close friendship in Osaka 🙂
Krystal made it to Japan! Did we tell you that we visited her with Brent?
I found a practicum site
We got a nice ‘merican couch from a Christian couple for free
Erich’s been getting a lot of work
I’ve been working less at the hotel (I have a crazy story and testimony about this, ask me via email)
Not quite a praise report, but rather just a report – I don’t think I’ll be coming back to Holland in June for budgetary reasons.
Jesus is GOOD. All glory to God!
VI. Prayer Request
Because of stress, I have been eating sweets like crazy, and I’m addicted. I want to seek comfort in Him rather than in Meiji chocolate or fake Oreos. It sounds silly, but I’m having a real hard time quitting sugar! I need a prayer for self-control, please.
Even more language skill growth in Erich
Erich’s going to be preaching at our church in two weeks, so please pray that God speaks through him
That the Lord’s will be done in Japan as it is in heaven
Finally, a goofy home video I took with a selfie stick (Kyrstal’s not mine) when we visited Krystal’s new home.
It might surprise you to learn that in the late 16th century, Japan nearly became a Christian nation.
We don’t normally do this, but my friend Cody discovered an excellent article on the history of Christian persecution in Japan that I felt I just needed to re-post. The article is a short read, considering that it spans from the first arrival of Jesuit missionaries in Japan until the ultimate crackdown and martyrdom of thousands in the early 17th century. Check it:
In January 1597, a small group of people were led to a hill in Nagasaki. It had been a long journey for them, for they’d been paraded as prisoners all the way from Kyoto, and their ears and noses had been mutilated. Ethnically, they were an interesting mix: four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Indo-Portuguese, and twenty Japanese, including three boys, the youngest aged only twelve. What they had in common was their faith: they were all Christians, a crime for which they would die.
According to tradition, they had numerous chances to recant their faith, but they refused. What followed was bloody: they were crucified, their sides were pierced with spears, and they were left to die on the crosses, becoming the first, but not last Christian martyrs in Japan.
[button link=”http://enterjapan.me/26-martyrs/”]Read the Full Article on EnterJapan.me[/button]