But with all this going on, I almost feel like I'm not in Tokyo anymore. Don't ask me where I feel like I am. Maybe Limbo, or the State of Transition, or the Land of Too Much Thinking. I wonder if it's a little how to feels to know you are dying...all around you plans are being made, new ministries born, friends are changing and growing, churches are changing and growing...I watch it all with a kind of wary distance, knowing that I will leave it all very, very soon...but wanting to cherish everyone and everything that surrounds me.
I think as a result of this cherishing, it was the first Christmas that I didn't miss America. We had a handbell choir at church this year...a group of high school girls, some of whom were the tiny and yet able to throw around the huge bucket bells. I watched some men from the congregation go up and try to play those same bells after church and fail.
A special joy for me this Christmas was Etsuko. I've watched her get bolder and bolder about sharing her faith, and this year she took it to a new level. We were setting up candles to get ready for the service, and as soon as it was just the two of us, she told me, "Pamela, a miracle happened!!!" Apparently she prayed up the courage to give Christmas cards to all her neighbors in her apartment building. She told all of them that she was a Christian, that she prayed God would bless them that Christmas. One woman came up and met Etsuko for the first time, deeply moved. She told Etsuko that she had attended a Christian school and so she had studied the Bible as a teenager, but she hadn't thought about it for years until she got the card. Etsuko took her boldness to a new level and asked the woman if she would like to read the Bible or some Christian books together sometime, and the woman agreed.
Part of real life being on pause has been a lot of time with my missionary community these past few weeks. We're all pretty scattered when breaks aren't happening, but when they do happen it seems like lots of time gets made up for. And bottled up loving and arguing all seems to come out at once. So, basically, God has given lots of time with my Japan family. Life is never, ever boring in this group of people. :-) This break included:
- getting news of a really good friend's engagement
- getting news of another friend's engagement not a week later (something is in the air in Tokyo!)
- setting up a lot of futon pads as a giant maze and then failing miserably in attempting to convince the missionaries to come upstairs and rescue a kidnapped companion (my friends have no compassion, I tell you! ;-) )
- worshiping and leading prayer without a voice--but yay for good prayer and worship time in English!
- the creation of a major earthquake contingency plan including the need for boats and Morse Code transmission devices...which most of the other missionaries somehow don't seem to want to go along with. ;-)
- After all the talk about major earthquakes, a minor earthquake the day AFTER all my friends left my apartment...I was shaking harder than the ground. I'm not afraid of being in Tokyo during a major earthquake, but the thought of being trapped alone is really not appealing.
- Broke the silence barrier...at least once more.
- Going out to a shrine on New Years to shiver with my two friends and be available in case Jesus had anyone for us to talk to. Got videotaped by three drunk Japanese girls who now think they've met three missionaries from Nebraska. Stood watching crowd after crowd of people throw 5 yen coins into the shrine, bow to a false god and wish for a good New Year until our feet and hearts were numb. Reflecting on this, I am thankful that I am in a group of people where such "adventures" can take place.
- Slept in the latest I ever have in my un-sick life (1:40pm...hehe)
- Cheese fondue. Need more be said? :-D
- Interrogated my sister's new boyfriend over the webcam while he was on the other side of her cellphone.
- Managed to come up with words for my Hongo report. Sent my report to a church member to translate. Decided that I really need lessons on how to speak / write so a translator can do something with it. :-/
- Discovered that my friend Jenae is as competitive and into games as I am. Felt silly about how long it took us to figure that out (2 years). Had an awesome time trying to cream each other at a bunch of games.