I never knew it was possible to fall in love with a place and a group of people so quickly! This has practically been an overnight trip...not even a week, and Japan has found a very special corner of my heart, with so many beautiful names and faces there to stay! We are jokingly trying to find a way for me to remain here and sneak home in someone's suitcase in August, when the US students return! I don't think the airline's security will let that pass by...
Friendship is an exquisite gift. What is the magic ingredient that makes up true friendship? Is it commonality? Is it love? Is it laughter? Is it honesty? Is it compassion? Is it trust? I think there are so many ingredients that come together to make the most wonderful flavor of friendship...and I have had the honor of experiencing just that during my short stay here. I cried on the plane leaving the Philippines, as God spoke to my heart and allowed me to reflect on all the people and experiences I met there...I will not be surprised if tomorrow the tears come again as I fly home and think back upon what a gift Tokyo has been to me.
One of my heroes, C.S. Lewis, remarked on the mystery an miracle of friendship:
“But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends "You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing.”
Lord, thank you for my new friends...it is bitter to have to say goodbye so soon without having the chance to spend more time together, yet so sweet that You allowed me these three days here to meet these amazing, lovely people. To have spent time in Asia, in TWO countries in twenty days, with such amazing conversations even across language and cultural barriers...that is something I want to treasure up in my heart and never forget. Thank you for these gifts, Jesus!
I must say, the minute I arrived in the Tokyo airport, it hit me how fashionable the Japanese are! I felt like I had arrived at a costume party, but didn't get the memo to dress up! I absolutely love looking at the girls' dresses and shoes...they are like dolls, each one so unique :) These shoes are a snapshot of some the beautiful young women I've met...I wonder where these shoes will take them- what amazing destiny and design God has prepared for them to walk in?
This morning, Jason walked me to the train station where I met up with John and Tim, two of the Navigators student missionaries. They walked me to where the other students were waiting, and from there we made our way to Chuo University campus where we had a time of outreach-inviting the students walking to and from class to the BEST club. I had so much fun going up to the Japanese students, greeting them with "Ohaiyou Gozaimasu" and asking if they speak English...then inviting them to the English lunch table on Wednesdays and Fridays at hilltop cafeteria. Some of the responses were pure rejection...some were surprised looks...and some were delighted enthusiasm to learn English!
Then I got to experience English lunch table for the first time as the BEST club members- the Japanese and American students- eat together, laugh together, and talk together in English. It was a sweet time. My new friends, Sakae and Ryoji, helped me pick out curry noodles to eat. We had wonderful conversations. Hase joined us for a while, and I got to see my friends Momoko and Yukino, whom I got to know yesterday! There were three tables total, a mixture of Americans and Japanese, a blend of two cultures coming together in friendship and fellowship. We all sang happy birthday to Teru, and time passed too quickly as I soaked in the smiles and stories of these friends.
The Nav girls, Ana, Elizabeth, and Kelli, walked me back to the Capp's home...a hot, sticky day, laced with a cool breeze to give refreshment in the thick humidity. I got ready for the evening and met the sweet missionary kids, Abbie, Kayla & Josiah...Eight year old Kayla sewed me this gorgeous purse as a present for my coming to Tokyo!!
After a tasty dinner at the Capps', prepared by Rachael, we headed to Chuo University once more, to get ready for the concert at C-Square! Tokyo BEST has its very own band, which opened the night with great energy! It was such a joy for me to sing for this group, a gathering of all the friends I've made in the last 48+ hours! The concert was icing on the cake...if I had come here and had just gotten to know these people, to share a few meals, a few laughs, a few loving smiles and words with them, my trip would have been totally worth it. I see God at work in each life and His beauty shining forth in their hearts. This mixture of souls-some who know Jesus and some who are just searching and discovering who He is for the very first time in their life...what a picture of the glorious journey we are all on in searching for truth...the truth that sets our hearts, minds, and souls free.
We had a time of hanging out downstairs after the event, and then off to Burger
King, where everyone except John was shocked at my dipping french fries into a
chocolate sundae. I had most of them try it, and we had some good laughs at their expressive faces in response to the salty sweet flavor :)
Finally the goodbye hugs came and it was time to leave...let the packing begin!
Thank you Lord for the gift of laughter, for meal sharing, for the love of friendships old and new. I have experienced friendships across two countries in the past two and a half weeks in a fresh and marvelous way. Let not my heart grow stale to the gifts of relationship and bonding, across oceans, across cultures, across time and place. You are the Sovereign God who orchestrates the beauty of meeting new people, of remembering already rooted friendships, and of seeing the the gift in every face-even the face of a stranger.
Goodnight friends. Goodnight Tokyo. Tomorrow I fly backward in time toward home, gaining 13 sweet hours on my way...hopefully fast enough to catch some fireworks with my family!
My heart is exceedingly grateful and amazed...the Lord's wonders are beyond my expectations and even my current comprehension. Be glorified in my life, today, tomorrow, and evermore.
Soli Deo Gloria, for all that has been.
Jesus Juve, for all that is to come!
Shalom, my dear friends!