I know I'm realllllly behind on my blog, but I want to write about today right now, so I will. I'll catch up on everything else soon, I hope!
Today was the seikai, which is a conference for all the Japan Baptist Conference (JBC) churches. Most of the people who came (pastors, but also lay people from the churches) were in the main room listening to the keynote speaker and such, but I went with Becky to help Kensaku and his wife Hiroko from the Chita church, who were leading the event for the youth. I helped lead a couple of games, and Kensaku gave his testimony, and also spoke about the Bible story of the woman who loses one of her ten coins and searches until she finds it (Luke 15:8-10). He explained how that's like God searching for us, and how much He celebrates when He finds even just one lost person, but extended it to talk about how each of us, like coins, have value, no matter where we are or what we're doing. But just like money can't do anything by itself if it's just laying around, we have to be in God's hands to be used by Him. This was all in Japanese, but Kensaku is easy to understand when he speaks, so that even I can understand. It was also nice to be able to see the missionary family today, even if I was only able to see some of them briefly. We have our annual conference next week (during Golden Week, so it's not really a vacation for me haha), so I'll be able to spend time with everyone then. :D
After the seikai ended, the Osaka missionaries (Shan, Yuri, and the Ewings), our friend Haruna (who helped out with childcare at the seikai), and a bunch of our friends from Chita came over and hung out in Becky's and my apartment for a while. I discovered that Kensaku shares my love of Mountain Dew (probably the first Japanese person I've met who does!), and people told funny stories about mistakes people make when learning a language (like, you know how Japanese people have trouble with L's and R's? Imagine what it sounds like to say "It's all my fault" if you mix up the L and the R...). So yeah, that was a pretty hilarious conversation.
But what our friend Naho (from the Chita church) didn't know was that this impromptu gathering was really stalling until her surprise birthday dinner at Casa Mia. I guess the other Chita people (Kensaku and Hiroko, and Naho's boyfriend Iori) acted like they casually decided to go out to eat, and Becky and I happened to join, but when we got to the restaurant, Carol had decorated and had everything ready. The surprise definitely worked; Naho had no idea! So we ate lots of really delicious Italian food and chatted for about two and a half hours.
Group shot! From the left: me, Iori, Naho, Becky, Hiroko, Kensaku, Carol.
Apparently this is the only food picture I took haha. Everything was amazing!
Naho, Iori and I ended up talking amongst ourselves most of the time, and that was probably the highlight of my day. I've gotten to know the two of them a little bit recently, and I haven't written about any of it here in my blog yet, but Naho got baptized a few months ago, and more recently, Iori accepted Christ, and I was able to go to his baptism at the Chita church a few weeks ago. I also got to hear his testimony at that time, and it's a really powerful story of how God pulled him out of depression and totally changed his life.
Iori's baptism. (They're standing in a pool thing, if you can't tell...) I'll blog about this day later, I promise...
Last Sunday he gave his testimony at our biweekly CrossRoad event, so I talked to him a little bit then, which was probably the most we'd talked up until that time. All of this to say, I've talked to Naho here and there at different events (she speaks pretty good English), and I've really only talked to Iori a little bit, but the three of us talked for a long time over dinner today. Some of it was small talk, of course, but at one point we somehow got on the topic of why I came to Japan, which led to a pretty deep discussion about the way God works in our lives. He uses everything, good and bad, for His purpose, even if, at the time you're going through something, you might not understand the reason for it. We also talked about how there's so much pain and suffering in the world, and people fail each other even when they try not to, but how God's love is the only perfect love, and Jesus is really the only answer. Even when we talked about music, Iori talked about how, once he became a Christian, he got rid of tons of his cd's (he used to have hundreds), because he doesn't need that music anymore, and he doesn't like to own so much material stuff. Talking to a baby Christian like him is so inspiring. He has so much passion for God, and it's so clear that he really gets it. He definitely talked the most of the three of us, I think, but he had a lot of great stuff to say. (I was really working hard though; most of this conversation was in Japanese. I'm actually kind of proud of myself, to be able to more or less follow along with everything. We did have English Time for a while though, because Iori, who doesn't speak much English yet, wanted to practice haha.)
Anyway, everyone gave Naho gifts and cards and such, and we had dessert, and after a while we finally wrapped up and headed out.
Naho with her dessert~
Before the Chita crew hit the road home though (it's more than an hour's drive), we prayed together, and I really felt the unity we have as believers, and as friends. My friendship with these people is just beginning, and I'm really excited to see where it leads. The longer I'm here in Japan, the more I realize how many amazing people God has put in my life. I can't really express my feelings well, but I feel incredibly blessed to know these people, and to be here, doing what I'm doing. There's no place I'd rather be.