It’s been quite a week. Keith preached on Sunday, then on Tuesday we headed to camp. When we came home (exhausted and seriously sleep-deprived) on Thursday, we headed straight to prayer meeting, then I went out for supper with my kimono club. Tired as I was, I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful it was at that point to talk to other adults about things I understood. Friday was spent catching up on all our weekly appointments—I had a rehearsal and a Japanese class. In the evening we had our pastor and his wife over for dessert. This morning (Saturday) we made a trip to the farm, where we harvested a bunch of stuff, including all the remaining daikon, and replanted the daikon for fall harvest. All very good things, and many learning opportunities… but I think I will be spending the rest of the day lounging around the house. Tomorrow will be a busy day too!
Returning to the subject of “camp,” I mean a 3-day gathering at a nearby youth hostel for kids (grades 5-12) from churches all over Hokkaido. From our church, there were about 8 kids and 3 staff. We decided to join the staff so we could support and encourage each of these kids.
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a natural youth worker. We are helping lead our church’s youth group because there is a need and because it is an important part of our training. I think the reason it is going relatively well is that we see most of these kids every week. We know their parents and their siblings, and even their grandparents in some cases. Most weeks we hear how their school and club activities are going, and we pray together. They’re like our family. We trust them, and they trust us. Probably.
But at camp, I was the odd one out. These kids were not my family—I was dropped in the middle like a student transferring schools mid-year, and I found it difficult to find anything to talk about. I had one kid from our church in my group of 4 1st year middle schoolers (US 7th grade), and Keith didn’t know any of his 5 kids, also 1st year middle schoolers. However, all of my kids, plus the other 4 1st-years from another group, knew each other. They had all been together last year and the year before. As they chatted excitedly about boys and pop stars and other subjects that I knew nothing about, I quickly got bored. Even when I was in middle school, I had no interest in pop stars. If I hadn’t been the group leader, I would have gone away and found some other way to amuse myself… but I couldn’t leave. I felt profoundly out of place. I found myself getting jealous of the other staff—they seemed to be getting on so well with their campers, but there was no way any of my girls were going to open up to me in the 3 days we had together. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. “Is it because I’m not Japanese? Or am I too old?”
Then there was the ringleader of all the 1st years—a pastor’s daughter who pretended not to understand me when I told her to shut up and go to bed. She had all the “right” answers during devotion time, but somehow it didn’t seem that her heart was in it. I have to admit I was glad when she decided to do a different afternoon activity than the other 3 girls—then I was able to spend uninterrupted time with them on a walk through beautiful Hokkaido scenery.
The first 24 hours were misery. I wanted to go away by myself and cry, but I couldn’t. “God,” I prayed, “If anything good happens here, it’s not going to be my doing. Help!” Then I realized that this was also part of my training. Each of these girls could be the only church-attending kid in their class, or even their whole school. In a society that places such a high value on being part of the group, doing something that stands out can lead to isolation. I was feeling left out because I didn’t get along well with a group of middle school girls for just 3 days, but how much more does each one of these girls have to deal with isolation on a daily basis?
Towards evening on the second day, things started to go a bit better. I felt like someone was praying for me. (If it was you, thanks!) I also figured out some things for us to do together other than talking about boys and pop stars—I highly recommend a game which I call “Telephone Pictionary”; it’s fantastic in any language.*
|On the walk, there was also a giant roller-slide. Fun! (3 girls from my group, and one from the other 1st-year group)|
|Other than games, other silliness happened.|
|Both 1st-year groups and leaders together|
*How to play "Telephone Pictionary": Sit in a circle (the more the merrier); each person writes a sentence on the top of a piece of paper and hands it to the next person. This person draws a picture based on what the first person written. He or she then folds the top of the page so the original sentence is hidden, and hands it to the next person, who looks at the picture and writes a sentence describing it. And so it continues until each person’s page comes all the way around the circle… at which point we open them up and laugh.
|Done with camp and out with other grown ups! And wearing yukata too! Yay!|