Well, a lot can happen to a girl from HSV, AL in 2 months!!!! Since the last time I posted something here, I made it through Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day. My Christmas box did not arrive until January 4th! So it was different to wake up Christmas morning with no presents to open. Gave me time to think deeply about what celebrating Christmas really is. I spent the afternoon at my mentor's house with her family. It was a lot of fun and her husband is an excellent cook! New Year's Eve I joined two of my team mates for dinner at Outback! The steak was delicious!!!! After dinner I was off to ring in the new year with two other missionary families. It was a fun night of playing games and watching interesting Japanese TV. Not quite the same as watching the ball drop in Times Square (which I did watch by the way, but it was New Year's morning for me!) Then at 1AM on January 2nd, I watched my Auburn Tigers win the first bowl game of the year, the Outback Bowl. WAR EAGLE!!!!!!!! 2010 is the year of the TIGER!!!!!
The Tokyo mission team went a couple of hours north to Kairuzawa for our AGM (annual general mtg). This is the city that hosted the curling events during the Nagano Olympics. So, there was plenty of snow on the ground while we were there. It was a good time of fellowship, meetings, and worship. We do not attend American style churches here in Tokyo. We have church in places like peoples' homes/apartments, restaurants, or karaoke rooms, so to worship in a large group, and in English was quite a blessing for us.
At the end of January I flew to Hong Kong for a week of R&R. I met up with Malorie Smith (missionary in HK) and she took care of me for the week!!! Thanks again Mal!!! It was a lot of fun. I have posted some pics from the trip. The Jade Market was quite the experience!!! BUT, HK Disney was one of the highlights of the trip. I have now been to 3 of the 5 Disney parks (WDW, Tokyo Disney, HK Disney). Only two to go - DisneyLand CA & Paris!!!! "You gotta have a goal? Do you have a goal?"
As much fun as my trip was, I really did miss Japan. Actually on the bus ride to the airport in Tokyo, my heart hurt to think I was leaving this country. As difficult as the past few months have been for me, God has called me here, turned my heart to the people and their culture, and I realized this is becoming "home" for me! The day I left HK is was hot and humid, even at 6AM. BUT, when I arrived in Tokyo it was freezing and raining!!! It actually snowed 2-3 inches that night. It was the most snow Tokyo has had in a long time!
While on my trip I received an email from our "big" boss here in Tokyo informing our team of an IMB change that was being put into action immediately. My supervisor changed over night. So, the stretching (now do you get the rubber band reference in the title?) continued!!! It seems that just the time you begin to think things are settling down, someone yells, "fruit basket turnover!" So for the next couple of weeks my team went through changes in leadership, which in turn created some changes in strategy and vision!
Now, all during this time I had been praying about what I needed to be doing to put myself in the best position to eventually turn around and come back as a career missionary because the possibility of this is not looking as promising as it did this time last year. Those of you who are Southern Baptist know the situation with the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Although the amount of offering given was incredible for the economy to be as bad as it was, it fell short of the amount needed for the 2010 projections. Therefore, the IMB has made major cuts in order to live within the "means" we have been blessed with.
What does this mean? Well one of the cuts made was the number of missionaries to be sent overseas. So, now there are not as many open slots, which means that fewer people will be appointed for full time mission service. I found out in January at our AGM that there will be very few added to Japan over the next few years. When I heard this news I really struggled to not get discouraged. God and I spoke many times about how I stepped away from a ministry I loved, a city I loved, and friends and family I love and who love me, to follow Him here, for what I believed was career. Each time I "reminded" Him of these facts, He lovingly REMINDED me that what He has called me to, HE and HE alone will make happen. I began to have a peace about what I knew needed to happen to help me be in the best position to possibly transition to career in a couple of years, but I also knew I could not let my hand orchestrate the details. It had to be God at work, or it would not work at all!
Each time God has moved me in ministry He has first prepared my heart for the change/move, then the "call" to the new position literally came out of the blue. Not one of my ministry/missions positions came about because I pursued the position. Well, this time is no different. Have you ever noticed that God tends to work the same way in your life? Interesting isn't it? Anyway, as I prayed for His peace and direction, He gave me His peace and told me to be patient. Then on Tuesday (2/16) around lunch time I just knew that a change needed to be made sooner rather than later, but I could not see how it could happen. So, I just decided to wait on God and see what He had up His sleeve. At 3:45PM I received a call from my supervisor saying that our Tokyo mission team was making a major change in our structure, and the leadership decided to move me to a new team to better position me for the future possibility of coming back in a career position!!!! WOW!!!! I had no idea they had even been discussing details about me. God was at work, and once again knocked my socks off!!!!! So, in August I will move to a new team and begin a new ministry here in Tokyo. Not sure yet what this new ministry will look like, but I have a "feeling" that it may involve children somehow. :) It does not guarantee me a career position, but it will help me a great deal when that time actually comes.
So, at 10 months with the IMB, and almost 8 months in Japan, A LOT has changed!!!! Those of you who traveled with me on mission trips know that I always gave you a rubber band to wear on your wrist, or carry in your pocket. It was to remind us during the trip that being stretched is a good thing. It may feel bad at the time, but it means we are being used. A rubber band is ONLY useful while it is being stretched. If it isn't being stretched, then it isn't being used!!!! There have been moments when I thought I was being stretched beyond what I could bare. But, God was faithful each time to give me strength and encouragement through His Word and His people.
I ask you, are you allowing God to stretch you? Or are you playing it safe and staying in the box so you don't have to feel the pain of the stretching? Please hear me when I say, that although it does hurt, the joy you receive from following God far out weighs the discomfort!!!! It is scary to stand on the "line" and think, "I don't know if I want to leave this comfortable place to go someplace I have never been before." But once you take that first step your whole life changes. No it won't always be easy, but God did not create you to live on the mountain top right now. No, you were made to walk through the valley, and He has promised He will never leave you and He will never forsake you! In Psalm 23 it says, "Though I WALK through the valley of the shadow of death." Notice it does not say, "though I sit/lie down in the valley." No, it says WALK. So, keep walking with Jesus through the pain of the stretching in the valley!!!!! I challenge you to get out of the "box" and join the "rubber bands" who are being stretched for the Glory of God!!!