Thursday, August 14, 2014

Unspoken expectations and freak-out moments

Today’s coffee: Kenya

Today is refreshingly cool. Perhaps it’s a good day to get some work done at the farm. It looks like a jungle with all the weeds, not to mention kabocha-out-of-control. I’m very thankful for cool weather, since last week we had natsubate. That’s a very useful Japanese word which means “feeling tired and gross due to hot, humid weather” or something like that.

In the middle of tired-hot-cranky, and following a conversation last week with our pastor about our future (in which he was very affirming and positive), we went home and had a freak out moment. (No, it's not Takahashi-sensei's fault.) That’s the sort of moment where we wonder if we are really fit to be missionaries. Well, mostly I had the freak-out moment, but Keith sort of did too.

Although Takahashi-sensei praised us for our ability to build relationships with people and encouraged us to “level up” in that area, I felt very strongly that I had failed in the unspoken expectation all missionaries face: you must bring new people into the church. This church. In our year and a half at Wakaba, I brought 2 friends once. They were musicians, and they played with me in our Christmas concert. Honestly, if they were seriously interested, I would want to send them to a church closer to where they live. But as for making friends in the neighborhood and bringing them along to events and such: zero.

I confess that the freak-out moment was not so much caused by my concern for the well-being of people in the neighborhood as for the pain of my own failure to meet others’ expectations, even if they are unspoken, and I had to repent of that. After all, “success” is walking with God. That comes first, even before evangelism. (Please don’t shoot me for saying that… it’s like “putting on your own oxygen mask first before assisting the person next to you.”)

After I had my head on straight again, I picked up a book which had been lurking on the shelf for a number of years. It was a gift from someone; I can’t remember who. (If it was you, let us know, and thanks!) The book is I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, subtitled “What postmodern skeptics taught us about their path to Jesus.” Although the authors’ context is very different from mine (IVCF university ministry in the US), I have found a lot of what I have read so far resonates with things I have learned and observed in Japan. I’ll write more about this book after I’ve finished it, but for now, I’ll just say that I’ve been encouraged to be patient, pray consistently for the people God has put in my life, walk together with those who are on a journey to faith, and trust that God is working in their hearts. But seriously—this book has been super helpful so far!

It seems like we weren’t the only ones to be tired, hot, and cranky—I heard from a number of colleagues about their freak-out moments in the last few weeks. (Please pray for us not to be discouraged or distracted!) Still, I hope other peoples’ freak-out moments have turned out as fruitful as mine did!

p.s. My computer came home. Yay!

No comments: