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Japan Update - End of Week Three

Ohayou gozaimas!

I know I'm overdue for an update, which means there is plenty to report on.


Reading Sessions.
Overall, things are going well with the reading sessions. We have continued to maintain a full slate of readers and, with some of them, we are reaching the point in the project where they are opening up more and talking more personally about themselves and their thoughts. We have a handful who have participated in some of the church activities such as the Share Group on Wednesday nights, and a handful who have come to the weekly parties so far. Compared to many other places, reader participation outside of the reading sessions is fairly low though, which seems to be a persistent challenge here. This weekend we will have a family camp with church members and readers in the countryside outside of Tokyo. This will be a good time of relationship building and spiritual focus.

(View from above and the sunrise from our vantage point)

Mt. Fuji.
On Sunday night through Monday afternoon, Heather, Megan, and I, along with one of Megan's readers, climbed Mt. Fuji, which is the tallest mountain in Japan. This was extremely challenging but was a spectacular experience. We tested the limits of physical exhaustion and mental will power, but managed to climb all the way to the summit, witnessing the 4:30am Japanese sunrise near the top.

(The group of us with the sunrise and the crater at the summit)

Mt. Fuji is an old, inactive volcano that stands out on the Japanese skyline, and on a clear day can be seen from Tokyo. The summit is at 12,388 ft. We were driven to the mountain (about a 2 hour drive) on Sunday night, and began climbing at around 11:00pm. There are a series of mountain stations (huts) all the way up, and it is most common to start at the 5th station, at about halfway up. After about 8 hours of intense climbing, we made it to the summit, where we enjoyed the views, got about 30 minutes of sleep, and began the descent.

(Love the panorama feature on my camera)

It was an extremely exhausting climb, but proved what is possible through sheer willpower. Climbing Mt. Fuji is an extraordinary experience.

Other Miscellany. Our 11 hour reading days plus Sunday activities keep us occupied and closed in most of the time, so we actually get out only two days per week. But we have managed to have some great experiences - a cruise on Tokyo Bay, the Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace, local sushi restaurants, a interesting section of Tokyo called Harajuku, and many others. This Friday we will be having lunch with a group of readers who are all friends with each other. One of them asked Rod if he liked bean paste, so we'll see how that goes! The best part of doing a project like this is that you get to have a much richer experience than just being a tourist. Being involved with local people on the level that we are as LST workers means that we get to see many sides of things that we would have never known had we come here just to do the touristy stuff.

(A famous Beatles album cover - a digital scavenger hunt clue)

The parties have been fun. So far we have done a K-State themed party, a digital scavenger hunt, and a Wacky Olympics. Next weekend we will be at camp, and after that we will have a talent show and farewell party for our last day here.

Experiencing Japanese culture, especially as more than just a tourist, is extremely interesting. Like most cultures that are very different than our own, it is fascinating, educational, and sometimes frustrating. Being a complete foreigner is an experience that everyone should have at some point in their life. Especially being a foreigner in a place where you are completely illiterate. Simple shopping at a grocery store becomes a gamble because sometimes you are simply not sure if what you are getting is actually what you want. All of it adds up to having to depend on God all the more. Being in situations like intense reading sessions one after another with all kinds of people all day long, having to climb another mile up rocks in the midst of complete exhaustion, and not being able to understand anyone around you are all things that strip away your independence and leave God there saying "rely on me."

There are many other experiences, stories, and whatnot that I could talk about... our own 4th of July celebration with fireworks provided by a reader, buying yukatas (summer kimonos) at a thrift store, navigating the immense public train and subway system, parties... but please know that everything is going very well and we appreciate your continued prayers. Only two weeks left!

In case you haven't seen them yet, here are quite a few photos:

Japan 2008 - part 1
Japan 2008 - part 2
Japan 2008 - part 3
Japan 2008 - part 4
Japan 2008 - part 5
Japan 2008 - part 6

Thank you for all of your support!

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