Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Cows, Music boxes, & Laughter

Mt. Fuji in the distance
Last month David Copely, the director of Global Missions, came to visit Nicole and me in Japan. There is nothing like getting a visit from someone back home. He flew into Nagoya on a Monday. We spent the next two days visiting the various ministries I work with and chatting about my time here. He even braved a couple hours in Mitsuba (the pre-k class). Since the children are always surrounded by women, the boys were instantly drawn to David’s presence. It was fun watching them play with him. 

On Thursday we boarded a train to Kiyosato where we met up with Nicole (my fellow volunteer in northern Japan). In Kiyosato we stayed at Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project. KEEP is an educational facility complete with a farm and retreat center. During the summer they hold many camps to teach children about the environment.  KEEP was built after WWII to help build relationships between the US and Japan. It also helped rebuild the local economy. 

Nicole, David, and I got to relax. We ate ice cream, milked cows, went for a hike, and saw Mount Fuji. On Friday afternoon, the Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori arrived along with Peter Ng (coordinator of Asia and the Pacific Anglican Relationships), Richard Schori (the Bishop’s husband) and many other church officials of the Japanese Anglican Church. Everyone was a blast! I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

Nicole and I got to share our experiences of the past six months with Bishop Schori. She was such a great listener. I love hearing stories of Nicole’s experience. Nicole works at the Asian Rural Institute. It is a place where people from all over the world come to learn sustainable agriculture. They then return home to teach others how to live within their means. At ARI they live in community, share ideas, their cultures, and their lives. Her stories of community are so beautiful. On Saturday, after we said goodbye to everyone, Nicole and I went to a music box museum. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have seen. We saw a giant music boxes that was over 100 years old.

That week came at the perfect time. It was nice to see everyone and get to share our stories with others back home. It reminded me how much I love my work here and how thankful I am for this opportunity. 

Music box that played at the World Fair in Paris in the early 1900s

Our amazing guide around KEEP and Kiyosato
We got to play with the music boxes ourselves!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Leaves, Stools, and Fires

Every Friday my friends Kaori and Chazu Mitake come to Nagoya to deliver vegetables. For about an hour Kaori comes over to practice her English. Although a lot of the time she teaches me Japanese culture and language. A month ago I finally visited their farm. We ate, laughed, and shared stories. I even helped a bit on their farm. The work involved dancing in a container full of leaves, chicken manure, water, and something else having to do with wheat.  It was exhausting but a blast!

The oh so kind neighbor.
At one point during the day we visited their neighbor’s workshop. This man grows mushrooms, makes bamboo charcoal, and is a carpenter. He showed us around his work space, explaining how he makes the charcoal and pointing out the various furniture he had made. Halfway through the tour they showed me one of the stools he made. He asked if I liked it and of course I did. So he gave it to me without any look back. Once the tour outside was over we went into his workshop. He showed us everything he could inside. He wanted to share as much about the Japanese culture with me as he could. It was great. By the time we left this sweet man (I had just met) had given me a hand-made stool, a beautiful plant, and a box of cookies. I was completely overwhelmed by his generosity. I hope to visit him again someday soon and in some way repay his kindness.

That evening while Kaori made dinner Chazu and I had wonderful conversations about culture, religion, and world problems. Chazu told me a Buddhist story about hospitality. One day some animals of the forest wanted to practice hospitality. A beggar man came their way and built a fire. Seeing that this man was hungry the animals decided that they would provide for him. The squirrel gathered berries, the fox gathered some meat. But the rabbit didn’t have anything to offer besides grass. So he decided to offer himself to the man and jumped into the fire. The Gods were so amazed by his-selflessness that they saved him from the fire and placed an imprint of him in the moon. The moral of the story is to help others as much as possible even if it means offering yourself as a sacrifice. I have thought about this story every day since he told it. For some reason this story of hospitality struck a chord that I can’t quite get over. In the Christian religion we have several stories of sacrifice. Our faith encourages us out to go out of our way to help those in need. But how often do we actually do this? The story of the rabbit haunts me. It refreshed that need/calling to serve. I keep thinking what would it mean to jump into that fire myself ? What would such an act of sacrifice for someone be like in my life? 
That weekend at the Mitake’s Farm was full of so much love, delicious food, and wonderful conversations. I would say the time I spent at their farm was productive. Not only did we solve all of the world’s problems but I left with a challenge…jump into the fire.  

Kaori and I about eat the most delicious dessert..zenzai!

Chazu making room for more leaves to be collected.

Getting ready to dance in the leaves

God's Peace,