2017 Japan VBS Trip: Final Reflections
This is our final blog post!
I feel like the whole trip in Japan has been kind of a blur – we’ve actually been back in the States now for about five days. (In fact, Megan, Jen, and Cindy served and participated in Lighthouse’s VBS too! True servants). So if Chris Wong doesn’t approve of the blog title, let it be known that I wanted to title this final blog, ‘We back here’, like in reference to ‘We out here’. Y’know? Nonsense.
We still feel a little disoriented and jetlagged, but as Daichi would say, “our hearts are full.” Indeed, they are, Daichi; indeed, they are. I wanted to close off with some final reflections and give you guys a chance to hear from the other members from the trip. I sensed that you guys had enough of me, so I wanted to hand it off to the other members 😉.
As mission trips normally do, we set out to bless others but we were blessed so much more. Our main objective was to help ANF church run a week-long VBS program. By God’s grace, we quickly built friendships with ANF members as well as nonbelievers there. We were able to put on a great week of fun and sharing the gospel. But along the way, our team participated in other events that blessed us in different ways. We went to a neighborhood cafe and put on an abbreviated two-hour program for 16 kids. We listened to a testimony of a young Nepalese woman who was trafficked, but now has been saved and wants to become the Prime Minister of Nepal to help other girls. We were able to grill burgers for Christ Bible Institute staff. Some of us led worship and performed at an open mic night. Just when I think that I’ve seen all that God can do, He does something else amazing. He allows us to participate in His mighty work. He seems to do something amazing when we step out in faith. It’s good to be reminded that our God is bigger than us.
I had the opportunity to play a part in organizing the snacks. The fruit snacks, Oreos, and Goldfish were favorites among the kids, but the nachos were surprisingly a bigger hit with the adults than the younger ones who thought it was too spicy.
Although doing snacks was my main role, I was really blessed by talking to some of the moms who helped with the snack rotation. It broke my heart to see how much they desire to know and want more of Christ but face the barriers of culture and lack of accountability and support from husbands who are unbelievers. Looking back makes me realize how blessed I am at Lighthouse. The trip truly revealed my own selfishness and idols of comfort and security living in the South Bay and being shepherded at Lighthouse. Other churches in America don’t have what we have here, but Japan doesn’t even have the Gospel to begin with. I am happy to be home away from the humidity and heat but come home with a heavy heart for those moms I left behind.
I had a part in translating the Kids Summer English songs into Japanese. We quickly learned that while translating text was one thing, translating text into the melody was a different beast, but by God’s grace Hide and I were able to wade through the challenge. Mark and I then hit the makeshift recording studio of the church’s cry room and came out with a fully Japanese VBS EP of sorts, which would then become the week’s lineup of songs.
What I saw every day was more than 60 unchurched kids and many of their unchurched volunteer moms sing these songs with enthusiasm and probably without a clue to whom they were singing. I would cry when I’d think about the potential of what could be. Every day bits and seeds of gospel truths were sown, and I pray what grows out of this one day is a sanctuary full of the same kids and their families, now just a little bit older, singing together on a Sunday morning—only this time with a saving knowledge of their Savior.
I’m Japanese, and have been to Japan multiple times, but this was my first time going to Japan on a STM trip. When people ask me, “What was a highlight of the trip?” it’s hard to answer because there’s too many. Was it the loving kindness and hospitality of the members of ANF Nagakute church, who made us home-cooked lunch meals almost daily, wrote us kind letters, served with super observant and humble hearts through our VBS rotations, and welcomed us as if we were family? Was it the 63 adorable children that had daily opportunities to hear gospel-centered teaching and worship? Was it worshipping with others and singing praises to God in JAPANESE!? (So cool!!!!!) Or was it getting to spend so much time with our wonderful friends, the Kawai’s, and seeing them work so selflessly to serve their church and our team while getting settled back in to life in Japan?
Well, if I had to narrow it down for the purposes of this blurb, I’d have to say it was fellowshipping with and seeing the missionaries and believers there, and the love that they have for Christ and the people of Japan. Hearing about their testimonies, struggles, joys and the efforts they are all putting to build relationships, learn the language, and faithfully obey and worship Christ really humbled me and reminded me of how important it is to steward this life for the glory of God. God is doing amazing things through his servants in Japan, of which I was so blessed to see a small glimpse of. I have come away from this trip with so much to be thankful for, and so much to think/ pray about! Thank you to everyone at Lighthouse for the support, prayers, and for reading our blog!!! Please continue to pray for ANF, CBI, the missionaries there, and for the people of Japan to come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior!
Jesus is truly better. Witnessing the worship of ANF Nagakute through Sunday service, through Kids Summer English, and through their lives and conversation was a testament to God’s goodness and undeserving grace in our lives. At the VBS I was tasked with the teaching, and at first it was really intimidating, but I was quickly reminded that it was not about me. It was about God’s gospel and sharing to those who were lost in hopes that one day, they would acknowledge their Savior. We went primarily to help put on a VBS for the church, but what we saw were faithful believers who truly weighed what it meant to lay down their WHOLE lives for Christ and through His strength they do it every single day. It was humbling to serve alongside believers who serve selflessly and tirelessly while actively pursuing those around them in sharing Christ with them. At the end of it, all that can be said is that our God is great and He is the only Savior.
Throughout our whole time in Japan, I was reminded every day of how good and faithful God is. I think it’s easy for me to get caught up in events, doing things, administration (haha!) and lose sight of people and the work He is doing in their lives! These last 10 days in Japan were filled with so many opportunities to meet people and to hear their stories. I am so thankful.
I was in charge of Kids Summer English’s preschool program with Daichi – it was so fun! I loved every second (well almost every second…) of the time we got to spend together singing, playing, doing crafts and reading Bible stories. What was especially sweet though was the time afterwards when we got to eat lunch with the volunteers and their families (and other families who stuck around to eat with us!), and the time we got to spend with those at All Nations Fellowship Church. There were so many days where the moms and church members brought us lunch, snacks, and drinks. We were able to spend time sharing testimonies and stories of God’s grace over lunch which was so, so special. I really do feel like God is doing something amazing in Japan right now. I realized how easy it is for me to get comfortable here at Lighthouse, where we have so many resources, and I’m so humbled when I see Japanese Christians ministering so tirelessly (some working through language barriers, some sacrificing much time and effort and so many resources to love those in their community, all trusting God despite the difficulties).
Thank you so much for all your support! We serve a great God, and I’m so thankful to be able to have had a front row seat to what He’s doing in Japan this past week! Please continue to pray that God would save those kids that came to Kids Summer English, and their families, and that they would come to know and love Jesus as their Savior! Please also pray for the missionaries and elders (including our buddy Hide Kawai!) at All Nations Fellowship-Nagakute as they minister to those in their community.
Coming back to the States and still processing through a lot of the emotions, conversations, and ideas, one thing that I think really stuck out for me upon reflection was this idea that despite the external circumstances, societal pressures, and cultural expectations of being a Japanese person, none of these had to be determinative with regard to how one can or should relate with God. As I was talking with the believers at ANF, I got the sense that their circumstances were hard. Conventional Japanese thought views Christian devotion more as a crutch than necessity; it views Christian devotion more as a betrayal of tradition and history than fealty to God. But when I talked with these believers, I realized that none of these were determinative factors. Just because someone had Buddhist or secular backgrounds stretching back generations doesn’t mean that God can’t disrupt that cycle and cause new birth. Loneliness, joylessness, hopelessness, or ‘how things have always been’ don’t have to be determinative. God can break through and disrupt all sorts of cycles of sin, secularism, oppression, fear, or shame. That God has given them and us new life in Christ demonstrates the reality that God has already broken in to make all things new again.
Thank you so much again for all your support, prayers, and for reading our blog! It’s amazing to know that it’s not just some rogue group doing their own thing—we feel incredibly blessed knowing that we’re connected to a body of people who have sent us and commissioned us for the service of Christ.
Japan VBS Crew 2017 (Mark, Megan, Joy, Daichi, Cindy, Jen, Eric)