This was my fifth time in Tokyo…
My fifth time in a place where I’m familiar with the train systems and chopsticks;
My fifth time walking amongst the people I’ve come to love, small and polite, yet hopeless in so many ways;
My fifth time praying amongst busily-trodden streets, observing and attempting to emulate the cultural norms of cleanliness and silence;
And my fourth time revisiting where such a large part of my heart is and probably will remain forever.
But I’m learning that God’s changing my heart. Rather, he’s broadening it.
This year’s Texas Super Summer Global trip was incredible. As usual, my role varied from any role I’ve been in the previous four times I’ve served in Tokyo. From one week student to intern, to intern leader, to assistant coordinator, to head coordinator…God consistently teaches and stretches me, pushing me out of my comfort zone, and reminding me of my depravity, and his Holiness…and how I should glory not in my own pitiful status, but in the sufficiency of His scriptures, the beauty of His gospel, and the hope that only comes from Christ.
And this summer, like the previous ones, I was reminded that he doesn’t need me for this work…but he chooses to allow me to join him in what he’s doing.
Our team of 123 individuals – made up of high school and college students, as well as adults, was incredible. Incredible. Never have I experienced a one-week team more understanding and joyful in the truths of scripture.
My prayer became that each of us would grow in a deeper understanding of bottom line truth: God, give us all a passion and desire for your glory. Make us jealous for your fame and glory among the nations.
And through the actions and words of our team, it was evident that God answered that prayer, for his glory.
Here are a few quotes from our team throughout the week:
“I was to the point where I was asking, ‘God, why are you making me weaker? I know the road is hard, but I also know it’s not about me. No matter how much I’m breaking, I know you will be exalted.’”
“No matter the darkness, God’s name is going to be exalted, and we can’t stop that.”
“I just want to encourage you to keep praying because it works and God wants us to keep crying out his name.”
“Ancient work is coming.”
Two of the core values we teach include Ancient Work and Joy of the Sower. We teach that God’s work is ancient – he’s been wherever we’re going to serve long before we arrive, and he’ll continue his work there long after we leave. Evidence of this is all throughout scripture, and we specifically teach it from Acts 8 and 10. Understanding this truth and living it out allowed the students to experience joy in their ministry – joy in prayerwalking, joy in meeting people, joy in sharing the gospel, and joy in simply being allowed to join God’s work in Tokyo, Japan. Joy of the Sower is something we teach from John 4. We impress upon the students that there is joy in sowing as much as there is joy in reaping, sometimes more in the former. Understanding that it is God who saves someone, not us, the students were joyful in simply being a part of the process of people coming to recognize and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. Grasping these two core values together showed the team’s grasp of the bottom line – of being about God’s glory rather than anything else. They were okay with not being the one with the fabulous story at the end of the day. They were okay with not being the one with the fabulous story, period. Grasping bottom line truth leaves no room for pride or selfishness…and that’s what I saw in this year’s Texas Super Summer Global team.
This was my first time to walk from beginning to end with a group of students…through the recruiting at camps, to reading their applications and learning about their struggles and strengths, to fighting through the fundraising process, to packing and losing their luggage at base camp. It was incredible to be reminded that these trips are the ones where our leaders originate…these trips are sometimes the beginning of God ruining the lives of students who will forever strive to live a bottom line life, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. As Shu said during his teaching at base camp, this truth is so much bigger than our team.
It’s so much bigger than our trip.
It’s so much bigger than Tokyo.
It’s so much bigger than me and my passion for the Japanese people.
It’s about HIM and HIS glory and desire for his name.
And even though I’ve heard this truth and attempted, however feebly, to pursue it for the past five years of my life, this year brought a deeper understanding of it which challenges me and sparks within me a deeper joy than before.
I loved watching these students, seeing them be ruined for God’s purposes instead of their own, observing them grasp truths and struggle through application of those truths, and having them unknowingly challenge and humble me in the process.
And so for the first time ever, I’ve felt like God’s stretched my passion for his glory in Tokyo beyond the borders of that island, and outwards towards being jealous for his name everywhere.
For the first time I’m okay with never returning to Tokyo, if that is God’s will.
Because it’s not about Tokyo.
It’s not about the Japanese people.
It’s not about me.
It’s about God’s fame being spread everywhere.
And I’d love to do what I do anywhere on the face of the earth. Walking with these students and learning from them and growing with them is incredible. Wherever God allows me to do this, I’ll be joyful and obedient.
Because, like so many of our students proclaimed in Tokyo, God doesn’t need me anywhere. He allows me to join him specifically in places where he’s already at work. Why not have joy in that?
So my passion remains for Tokyo, but it stretches out far beyond the regions of Yokohama and Chiba and Saitama.
And I’ll love going with students wherever God allows us to join him.
Not my preference, but His glory.
So, like I end the majority of my tweets, so I end this entry:
I love my job.