My friend Melissa has asked an interesting question that perhaps I should address on this blog: why Japan? Celia has explained a bit about her history with Japanese people growing up with Japanese friends, teachers, exchange students. Seattle has Japanese people in it. North Dakota does not. Growing up, my experience with Japanese culture was limited to translated video games and anime cartoons. I was somewhat interested in learning Japanese so that I could play the Final Fantasy games in their original languages, so much so that I even bought a Japanese to English dictionary. I failed. I also tried to take a college course on Japanese history while I was still in high school, which is perhaps my darkest academic secret because I ended up withdrawing from the course. I just didn't have the motivation. I also had no aspirations of being a missionary, and as far as I was concerned, foreign countries had little to nothing to do with me. I didn't even see the ocean until I was over 20 years old, I didn't like flying (still don't), and I had planned on being a doctor so that I could make a lot of money.
So what happened since high school? Well, I have a story that helps explain a bit about my personality, which you might remember, Melissa, because you were there. I was walking through the music building in college, and I looked inside a classroom to see professor Whitney teaching an aural skills class with her students who were sitting in a circle on the floor doing rhythm exercises like in elementary school. Whitney was a fun and great teacher, the class looked interesting, and it was just what I needed in response to the awful experience I had with my dreary calculus 3 class. Thus I joined the study group called Theory Junkyz (I think that's how we spelled it, but only with a backwards z). Lame? Yes, but fun. That started my journey to a music degree.
The point of the story is that I am prone to the snowball effect. Something refreshingly new caught me, and before I knew it, I was hooked. That's how I ended up taking so much Koine Greek at Regent College and learning how to play ultimate frisbee. These are small passions of mine, but ministry with Japanese people is a passion that is still ballooning. My friend Izumi somehow got a commitment out of Celia and me in the 2008-2009 academic year to help lead English conversation with Japanese working-visa holders. I dreaded cramming another obligation into my way to full schedule, but as the weeks went by, I found the Wednesday night broken English conversations to be the most compelling thing of the week. Celia and I found so much solace doing that ministry that we decided to check out Japan. Nine months in Japan was more than enough time for us to determine this was going to be a life long passion. Even in the last year of doing another TalkTime ministry with Japanese, I have found this passion of befriending Japanese people and helping them to understand a loving God who would send his son for us, to be so strong that it can hurt.
So I guess the short answer to why Japan is that it took me by surprise and I can do nothing for it but go. I have felt thankful many times, and I have said as much, that Celia and I have this same passion. It is such a gift from God to be united in like-minded ministry with my wife to reach the Japanese with the love of Christ, and it is as much a confirmation of God calling us together as a couple as it is God calling us to Japan.
There you have it. Thanks for asking the question and leaving us a comment, Melissa. Also, if you happen to have a picture of the Junkyz, could you email that to me?