Tuesday morning we had a good breakfast. Amy Smith always made the best food for us while we’ve been here. Sweet bread, yogurt, cereal, smoothies, among other things. She really spoiled us with western food most of the time and we love her for it. A lot of the native foods here are mysterious and intriguing.

The Smith family has been such a blessing. We’ve gone through several phases of culture shock while we were here and they helped us more than anyone else. Jim came to Japan just several years ago so I think he still remembers what it was like and how he had to adjust and struggle to understand the people. There are so many intricacies to the way of living and thinking here that are completely backwards to us Americans. Many abstract thoughts have a deep impact on the way people live here. Concepts like fate, honor, shame, sin, purity, life, death, no logic of non-contradiction, no directness, work ethic, history, sacredness, relationships, conformity, marriage, family, patience, and perseverance all are lived out and thought of differently in the minds of the Japanese compared to us Westerners. These abstract concepts affect big decisions from where you work and who you marry to everyday details like how you choose words to construct phrases, who you can talk to, how you purchase things, how you clean, and how you eat. The Smiths have helped us greatly in understanding the Japanese way. When I first came I told him that by the time I leave today I expect him to have changed me to think like a Japanese Christian. I want to think like the Japanese so I can minister to the people better. He appreciated our enthusiasm and he was up to the challenge. While I think he has done a good job in helping us adjust, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully think like a Japanese Christian. I think we’ve just touched the surface of the differences between Japanese and Western thinking. The challenge in other cultures is to become all things to all men as to not cause unnecessary cultural offenses yet still deliver the truth of God’s word accurately.

After breakfast we finished packing and left for the airport in Narita. Jim drove the whole way not really knowing where he was going. The GPS helps guide us in the general direction of where we are going and we always end up in the right place no matter how many wrong turns we make. We stopped off for lunch at a hamburg and steak restaurant. We had good food and fellowship and had our last meal in Japan.

Our flight from Japan to San Francisco was interesting to say the least. I couldn’t sleep during the flight even though I was going twenty something hours of no sleep. I stood up to walk around for a bit but I started losing consciousness and went head first into a seat. The flight attendant ended up putting me on an oxygen tank. God provided yet again and kept me healthy through the rest of our flights back. Every little part of this trip has been an adventure. Our full day lasted 38 hours.

During this trip we have been in awe of the ways God has been with us and provided for us. He has opened doors for us in ways that were beyond our imagination. We didn’t expect to go on this trip this year. We didn’t expect to see so much of Japan. We didn’t expect to meet and talk with so many missionaries. We didn’t expect the bond that we made with the people at Wakaba mission. We did not expect the silent persecution of Christians in this country. Through his providential plan we have seen things that were vital for our understanding and lay a foundation for future work with the Japanese people.

Saying goodbye is always difficult. I think it’s probably even more difficult to the missionary when you’ve made an American friend in Japan. Japanese people that speak English fluently here are few. The culture doesn’t hug and most conversations are very surface level. American Christians aren’t close-by and nobody really understands your way of thinking. Life of a missionary seems full of loneliness and sorrow. It’s painful to leave your friends yet we still had to say goodbye for now.

We left Jim Smith at the airport waving and watching until the escalator took him out of sight. However, we left under the pretense that we will seem him again in Japan in two years, Lord willing.

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