Martha has now been living and serving in Chiba, Japan, for one month. She has eaten octopus and squid, fish eggs and eel, seaweed and lots and lots of rice. She has been to the public baths. She has learned to navigate the train system, and how to get help when she accidentally boards the wrong train. She has learned how to ask for help when shopping for groceries.
Martha wrote that, at first, not knowing the language made her feel very vulnerable, but that she has learned that vulnerability is a gift. It requires her to talk to people and engage with them in even the most ordinary, mundane life situations. She's found that when she asks for help, the Japanese people are eager to assist her, and that the simple act of helping a confused American girl find the powdered cocoa can soften someone's personal boudaries and lead to an opportunity for a lengthy and more meaningful conversation.
Martha is growing in love for and appreciation for her awesome team members and the variety of personalities and gifts they bring to the Chiba ministry. Even with the stresses that are part of living in tight quarters and working long days, she writes, "The longer I'm here, the more I like everyone on this team."
Here is a glimpse of the MTW church-planting mission in Japan. Dan Iverson is the team leader over the group Martha works with, and this clip shows some of the places where Martha is living and working this summer:
The first couple of weeks, Martha and other interns taught classes at a small Christian school in Chiba. With school out for holiday, they are now helping with VBS programs at Oyumino Chapel. Martha is also teaching piano lessons and helping with English as a Second Language classes offered at the church.
Martha spent a recent weekend with a very gracious non-Christian Japanese family. When the family visited a local Buddhist temple, the mother gave Martha a coin to donate to the temple and told her she could ask for a blessing. Martha explained that she was a Christian, and that she prayed to Jesus, not to figures at the temple. Later that evening, the mother asked Martha to pray over their meal. "We do not know how to pray here like you do," she told Martha. "We need you to show us how." When Martha left this sweet family to return to her residence with the other MTW interns, the mother shared that she and her family wanted to come to Martha's church, if that would not be inappropriate. Martha was delighted!
Martha's favorite thing about living and working in Japan this summer is definitely the CHILDREN. Whether it's teaching piano lessons, practicing English, doing Bible school activities, babysitting, or just playing a game together, she loves loving on the children.
I think God has richly answered Martha's prayer, prayed when she was such a tiny child herself. Children, music, missions - three passions combined into one amazing opportunity to share the love of Christ.
Please continue to keep Martha and the other MTW Chiba interns in your prayers over the summer. Pray for many opportunities to experience for themselves and to share with others around them the great Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Martha writes: "May Jesus Christ be praised in every corner of the earth!"
(Thank you, Natalie Lockard, for sharing the photos! Natalie is one of Martha's team-mates, and she has a blog about her experiences in Chiba that you can check out here.)