January

“January” as in “October through January and most of February” because I haven’t written a blog post in like almost 5 months.

I started writing this post on February 4th but just like I didn’t do my laundry for 2 weeks, I also procrastinated on finishing this. Tonight the laundry is hanging up to dry finally, so we’re all good.

It’s the middle of February; my 11th month in Japan. I’m resurrecting as I see hints of Spring coming.

Winter can suck it, honestly. A part of me dies every winter like the rest of nature does. The only good part about Winter is that the cockroaches and spiders die as well, and don’t try to come live in my house with me.

But the point is that I’m coming back from the dead, and like the world does during Springtime, I’m going to blossom and have a bunch of babies.

That was a joke, I’m not reproducing.

Enough weird antics, I’m actually getting really serious about what I want to do with my foreseeable future. These 250 Japanese kids I see every day have inspired me enough to face my recent biggest fear:
GOING BACK TO SCHOOL

LIKE A COLLEGE/UNI WITH HOMEWORK AND CLASS SCHEDULES AND SHHH.

It’s not the actual learning part that scares me, but the fact that I have to inevitably stay in America for the next couple years, because going to a university here in Japan just isn’t very realistic.

I wanted to escape and go to Italy instead of facing America, I even had multiple families who wanted to welcome me as an Aupair in their homes there. But this past month especially I’ve had clarity reach my brain when I’m at the kindergarten and I realize how much I want this life for a long time. When they run up to me in the morning to hug me hello, or bring me something they drew at home, or when a kid who hated English starts enjoying it because I’ve gained their trust.

I want to be a teacher.

A real one, with credentials and knowledge and something to give.

Elementary school keeps popping into my head after we took the graduating 6-year-olds on a field trip to a nearby Elementary school. The kids there were so funny and smart, and they had this unreal level of compassion and understanding that took me by surprise.

Since starting this post I’ve (I mean, thx Mom..) applied to University of Hawaii in Hilo. Which for all of you keeping track back home, is on the same island I was on when I was with YWAM. It’s like I would be back in a place I love, but as a new person. Not going backwards, but forwards with plans & dreams.

So can you all collectively ask Jesus right now that they accept me and let my plan come to fruition so I don’t put it off any longer.


 

Update on my Japanese skills: I feel really comfortable at this point. It’s almost been a year, and even though I have a language book and everything, 98% of my learning has been through trial and error and repetition. Like there are some things I hear so often that even in my ALONE TIME AT HOME I say it in Japanese to myself. Just because of repetition, not because I’m trying to be cool haha.

My speaking is still definitely lacking whenever I leave the kindergarten, because I’ve gotten so used to talking to kids that I get scared of talking to adults sometimes. You don’t really talk to adults about bugs and robots and what kind of fruit they like.

The other day one of the 4-year-old girls was like “Sarah you understand Japanese?!” even though 99.9% of the conversations I have with her are in Japanese unless we’re practicing English lol. Smh, they don’t give me enough credit.

If I get into UofH I’m definitely getting myself into a Japanese class to continue learning. I’m scared of losing what I know now due to lack of daily use. (There’s always anime with no subs *thumbs up*)

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This is the cute street I live on

I really don’t want to leave Japan.

Really

Really

Don’t

Want

To leave.

I want to continue waking up and stepping outside to Japan air. And walk to work every morning, looking to my right to see a little hill that I’ve always wanted to climb and sit on but can’t because it’s private property. Walking past a little farmers’ market that sells fresh produce for close to nothing that I say I need to buy from more often but never seem to. Then crossing the street, waiting for forever because there are always so many cars at 8am. Passing the Lawson convenience store, often stopping in for that day’s lunch or a quick onigiri and juice for breakfast. Seeing the same girl going to school/work/wherever she goes every day, who always seems to have a scowl on her face but I’ve imaged us in another life being friends and greeting each other every morning. Or the guy who takes a smoke in his garden at the same time every day, giving me a little nod of acknowledgement. I keep going and there’s always the same cats, a really fat orange one and a tiny little speckled one. They both hate me. The road then gets steeper and at this point every day I become fully awake and think to myself, “I love it here,” before opening the gate to the Kindergarten, putting the lock back on, and starting my day with greeting all of the people I’ve grown to love so much.

Yeah, I want that when I wake up.

Wherever I work in the future, I want that same feeling. Like I’m going somewhere comfortable, like a home or a safe place.

I’m going to miss riding the train on weekends with the sun pouring through the windows onto all of the passengers’ heads, a book in my hands, looking out at all of the buildings as we pass them. Everyone’s always on their phones. Other than the inconvenience of it, I’m glad I never bought a SIM card for my phone. It’s way more interesting to read or look at the aesthetically-pleasing Japanese architecture I like so much.

I’m going to miss the food. So much. Miso soup and shirasu and gyuniku.

I’m going to miss waiting for the bus. And the overly friendly restaurant staff. And cool clothes. And wearing masks so casually. And karaoke nights. And Pocari Sweat. And vending machines everywhere I look. And using yen. And the feeling I get when riding in a car through narrow Japanese streets. And not being scared walking places by myself. And the really adorable guys who work in hair salons that always tell me I’m cute. And Fuji-san. And Japanese trees.

And my people. Everyone I’ve met here. That’s what I’ll miss the most.


Today we had an 音楽会 (music festival/recital) at the kindergarten and all of the kids performed songs they’ve been practicing for weeks. Songs that will not, under any circumstance, leave my head…”tomodachi-i-i neee! 

Tomorrow they do it again for the parents who couldn’t make it today and I know I’ll die a little more inside because it’ll be the last big event of the year other than graduation. 

Japanese people will stand in line over night to have the best spot to see their kids and take videos, but they don’t ever cheer when the songs are over. It’s so weird. In American culture we’re super loud and annoying about it, everyone’s like “YO, THAT’S MY KID!!” but here they just clap like some guy gave a speech instead of their adorable kids singing in their adorable voices after over a month of practice.

I want to be more annoying and go “WOOooOooo!” more but I keep it to like 2 seconds to not piss off the people next to me. I feel like kids respond well to that kind of praise, they deserved it.

Afterwards, two of the volunteer helper moms who I’ve grown to know pretty well came up to me and started crying because it’s almost been a whole year and I’m leaving in a month. More so than my host fam and the other teachers, hearing those moms say thank you for being such a good teacher and reminding me how much all of the kids love me did something to my heart. I had to step away and break down privately afterwards.


The 5/6 year old boys make me draw them things constantly. What they want comes in phases, one week it’s dinosaurs, or sports cars, or bugs. Recently they’re collecting these different kinds of Kirby’s (Goku Kirby was my favorite). But now instead of them watching me, I make them sit down and practice drawing next to me or else I won’t give them one. They make me a Kirby and we swap, so now I have a bunch of these little drawings on my fridge. It’s so cute, it went from, “Sarah, draw me somethinggg!” to “Sarah let’s draw togetherrr!” One of the boys is really talented and started to draw his own Kirby’s at home and then give them to his friends when he got to the Kindergarten.

I met the girl who’s replacing me and the other current English intern (Maria) as the next English teacher.

She’s never going to read this, so I can say freely that I didn’t want to like her. Something inside of me was like, “this girl is taking your kids,” and I immediately felt jealousy instead of excitement for her. Because she’s what I want to be, she’s 25 and went to uni and has actual credentials. She was teaching English to elementary/middle school kids in a different part of Japan before this. She’s not some young kid with no real idea what she’s doing.

She genuinely seemed sweet and friendly but I’m a brat and I have issues.


This post is so rambley, but lately I’ve realized that the dry season I went through/am going through with God has been a season of choice.

For the first time in my life, it actually feels like I’ve had to make the choice to want Him. Since whenever I gave my life to Christ as a child, I’ve had that blind faith. That child-likeness. There wasn’t much in my way that could stop me from choosing Him, it was simple, it was easy, I wasn’t a part of the world yet. A world that wants me so desperately to give up on my faith.

But it’s offering all its got and none of it is remotely satisfying. It only claims to be satisfying, but it’s like eating a bug. It’s just going to eat away at your innards, lol

Before, I wasn’t being handed two pills, the God-pill and the world-pill. I didn’t have to think about any of it, I just had my Father. Other ways were so foreign and abstract.

Now a hand is holding out the two pills, and I have to physically, mentally, and spiritually reach out and grab the right one.

What about you? Which one are you choosing?

A week ago I started putting on an audio Bible every night so my spirit would hopefully be learning good things while I sleep. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be talking to somebody and in the moment need to share scripture, and some deep part of my sub conscience will erupt in all of the wisdom I’ve learned while asleep hahah. It’s a nice feeling and I’ve gotten legitimately better sleep since starting. 100% recommend.

Here, I’ll make it easy for you. CLICKTHIS

It’s audio Bible while I sleep and worship music when I wake up.

I’m trying to choose the right pill. The one that fills.

 

 

 

It’s 2am, if I don’t post this now I’ll put it off for another 4 years.

 

 

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September

  • Personal Update

I haven’t written anything for July, August, or September. That’s sad.

Where have I been?

In mud.

I haven’t felt like myself since I wrote my last update and writing about how disappointed I was in who I was becoming didn’t feel very productive. But I think that’s just my pride talking and I couldn’t bring myself to be vulnerable to anybody. If you wanna read more about that, skip down to the ministry update part of this post, because I wanted to write about my experience climbing Mt. Fuji in this section (since I promised it weeks ago…)

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When I was 15 I painted a terrible picture of Mt. Fuji that still hangs on our living room wall to my disdain. But as we were on the bus heading to the mountain, I remembered how I felt while I was painting it. It was me putting my dream of seeing Fuji into art, like I was declaring that it would be real and in front of me someday.

I owe it all to my housemate Devi, who planned the trip and kept me excited for it. We had to keep postponing it because of bad weather, but eventually we just decided to go on the last day Fuji was open to climbers. This was our chance. We couldn’t wait until next summer when they opened it again, it was now or never.

The week before we were supposed to go we checked the weather and a typhoon was supposed to hit that day. It was honestly really disappointing and we almost called it off, but instead we decided to pray every day that week to see what happened.

The day before: we checked the weather reports again. The only two days without rain and/or a typhoon that week and next week were the two days we were going to spend at Fuji.

God?

So my friend Take (host fam’s son) came along too and we set off on Friday night. We had just worked 8 hours at the kindergarten but were too excited to be tired.

The plan was to climb Fuji that night and get to the top in time to see the sunrise, but during our travels we realized the information we had was outdated and the bus we were going to take that night had already left and there weren’t any more again until 6:40 the next morning.

Devi was still set on going, so her proposal was that we travel the 3 hours to Fuji that night and then sleep at the station until the morning bus. As uncomfortable and cold as that sounded, I couldn’t say no to her. Plus I just really wanted to climb Fuji.

Take didn’t want to go with us so he went home, but Devi and I made the trip to the station near Mt. Fuji. There was one point where we were running to catch the last train going in that direction and if we arrived 2 minutes later we wouldn’t have gone at all.

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Us sitting on the ground trying to sleep lol

We arrived at Kawaguchiko station (near Fuji) at 1am and it was freezing but we plopped ourselves down and slept for a solid 3 hours haha.
We woke up at 4am (because it was cold lol) and waited it out until we could buy the bus tickets at 6am.

We actually made it to Mt. Fuji at 8am Saturday morning.
Even though we had barely any sleep we were surprisingly upbeat and super proud of ourselves.

When we told people we were climbing Fuji, they told us we were crazy to do it by ourselves.

“If you get halfway and don’t want to keep going, don’t feel bad for going back down”

“It’s dangerous for two girls to go by themselves”

“Maybe a boy should go with you”

Um, no.

To that, I say now: read it and weep. Girls can do anything by themselves. On 3 hours of sleep they got outside a train station after a full work day chasing after kids. Thank you very much.

The trip up was entirely made up of rocky switchbacks, but the elevation was the hardest part. In the beginning it was difficult to catch our breath, but once we got used to it I think it was a decent hike. Challenging yet so awesome, my body was exhilarated and it felt super good.

I don’t know what qualities I possess that allow me to make friends so easily, but we met so many people along the way. At least 4 different groups of people told me I was great at Japanese and it was a rewarding feeling.

 

On the way back down which sucked more than going up, we met this group of Japanese in their mid-twenties who thought we were fun so we all climbed back down together and they gave us a ride in their car back to the station. It took us 7 hours to climb up and about 5 to climb down because our friends were kind of slow ha.

 
It was ridiculous how many times I had to wipe tears from my eyes while up there. I can’t explain it, but on that mountain, like He did so many times in the bible, God met me. Above the clouds, above all of my fears and doubt, He said “this is what it feels like to be with Me.”
Because everything felt so small and insignificant. I didn’t care about anything silly or worry about my future. I was there, happily in the present, feeling like I could do absolutely anything.

 

The feeling didn’t last forever, sadly, as I’m not that high anymore, physically or figuratively, but it was incredible to experience and I would 100% do it again. My other pictures are on Facebook so I don’t feel like I have to post more, but here’s proof that we did it. Our legs were sore for a good 4 or 5 days after that and the kindergarten kids took advantage of our pain.

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  • Ministry Update

Vulnerability and humility are the only things that have ever helped me mature as a person (my family and people who were with me during YWAM would know that, haha…) so here’s what’s up.

It wasn’t until I confided in a friend about my struggles with the mud that I realized I was putting all of my hope in myself instead of in God. Instead of going to God for His love, I was going to Him for my own personal agenda and the gifts I wanted Him to give me. They weren’t bad things in themselves, but when you start to put a ‘calling’ above the actual person you’re trying to glorify, it becomes about the wrong person. Yourself.

I had so much faith in myself that I could be a great missionary and bring change to the people here that when things got difficult, I became hardened. Severely. To the point where at a time I was only hurting the relationships I had made with the people in my church. It’s so hard for me to be loving to others when I’m constantly getting mad at myself for my shortcomings.

I snapped when my pastor told me I was too young and not qualified to be a missionary in his church. It was the only thing I could think about for the longest time. Me. Not qualified to do the only thing I wanted to do. Not qualified, not qualified, not qualified. There were constructive things he told me after that but I took hold and heard nothing else but those words.

What could make me qualified?

Answer: Nothing.

Because it’s not about me. I have nothing to offer and I always knew that, so when he blatantly told me I needed to do things like go to seminary to study to become a good missionary, I flipped out and got mad at God for not giving me the gifts I thought I needed to serve Him best.

I didn’t think, “wow, I must just need more of you, God,” I immediately jumped to, “give me better gifts.” And when He didn’t comply with my literal demands (I was very dramatic about it), I got even more hardened.

Why don’t you want me to be a better missionary? I just want to serve you better.

Yeah that definitely wasn’t my motive, though I had thought it was. And when I didn’t get what I wanted out of the relationship, I assumed He just wasn’t there anymore. He didn’t want to bless me so He must be done with me. What sad logic.

Another thing my friend reminded me (thank God for wise friends who understand the mud) was that I deserve nothing. I didn’t deserve the gifts or blessings in the first place. Being with God doesn’t mean you’re OWED His goodness. I definitely thought I was owed something, like because I loved Him and was trying to walk in His plans for me that He had to give me what I wanted.

Nope, nope, nope. He’s good because HE’S GOOD. Because that’s who He is. It’s all Him, it’s not me, it’ll never be me.

Now as I’ve been laying here in the mud for quite a while, all I can do is look up. And that’s when I saw what I’ve been missing. Him.

Who He is, what He is, and what that makes me. With nothing to offer; a stuck in the mud Sarah. Not qualified, not some amazing Christian. Just the pathetic me, the real me. I’m His, and that’s the truth I had lost that led me astray.

It’s as if I’m a baby Christian again, re-learning all of the basics that made me excited to be with Him in the first place. Being with Him daily just to be with Him turned into “how can I gain more of Him to look like a better Christian?”

But I miss Him. I miss talking to Him for no reason at all, other than that He’s my Father and I love Him.

So in a way, being in the mud and only being able to look up has been good for me. I have no obligations, no big plans to try and fulfill, all I can do is look at Him and accept His love while I feel like the biggest loser on the planet.

Because that’s what Christianity is, Sarah. It’s being a loser and being loved by Him anyway.

 

  • Kindergarten Update

The kindergarten is the only part of my life that I’ve continued to feel proud of here. I’ve really buckled down and put more of my focus on the material I’ve been teaching since summer break, seeing the ways the kids learn best and trying to make the quality of the class better each day.

Also, Devi and I have started teaching the 3-year-old and 4-year-old classes, as well as the 5-year-olds, so it’s been challenging coming up with simpler material that’s more goofy. Lots of songs and games.

She’s definitely better at it than I am, I prefer teaching the older kids, but the challenge is fun.

Today we had a meeting with a guy who taught us how to use the new curriculum we just bought for English. It’s this big touch-screen tv with an amazing curriculum that I’m absolutely stoked to start using. Making my own material until now has been really fun and I felt proud of what I’ve been teaching, but to have official courses set out that I’m given the freedom to put my personal touch on is really exciting and less stressful, haha.

Devi and I usually teach separate classes, but we’ve started doing story-time skits together every Friday. I love it. We have different strengths, so we work really well together.

So far we’ve done stories on The 3 Little Pigs, Noah and the Ark, The Wall of Jericho, and The Prodigal Son. I love that I work for awesome Christian people who let us tell the kids Bible stories. Hopefully someday when the kids meet Jesus they’ll think back and remember two crazy foreign girls telling them about the Bible.

The kids have a sports festival in a little over a week and they’ve been practicing for it very diligently. They have races and games that they’re competing in and I love competition so I think it’s super cute.

They’re so hard to wrangle sometimes, I’m constantly impressed with their class teachers.

Teacher: “When I say go, run through the finish line and touch the wall, then sit down on the yellow line!”

3 year old: Runs, doesn’t go through the finish line, doesn’t touch the wall, sits down on the pink line.

It’s so funny, the 3-year-olds are a hoot.

Something I’ve learned being here is that there’s always a way to a kid’s heart, you just have to find it.

One of my favorite 6-year-olds has always been annoyed by me (for no reason other than that he’s 6 and wants to hate me) but he’s adorable and super smart, so I’ve made it my mission to be his friend. Every single day I say hi to him, take an interest in what he does, and tell him I love him/how cool he is, but none of that worked. He would just glare at me and tell me I’m stupid.

BUT. Then I found out I was really good at making toy guns, so I made some for a couple of the boys. This kid, he saw it, and I could tell in his eyes that he wanted one too but he wouldn’t dare ask me because he didn’t want to give me his attention. So I went and for a good 40 minutes made him two of the most badass guns ever, way cooler than the other ones I made. And as he was leaving to get on the bus back home, I ran over to him and got on one knee and presented him with the guns, telling him I wanted to be friends.

His eyes got super wide and he started laughing all giddily, while his friends around him were like “whoa!!” He looked me in the eyes and nodded, then left.

That was a little over a week ago, and every single day since then he’s said good-morning and goodbye to me without me initiating it first. WHILE SMILING. Now when I talk to him, he actually responds back instead of glaring. Yesterday his mom told me thank you because he was really happy I did that.

I melt.

That’s just one story, but I love these kids.

I’m still seriously considering going back to school to get a degree in teaching. I think highschoolers would be really fun someday.

And that is all.

June

•Personal Update•

Hey guess what, I’m still in 日本! Just thought I’d remind any of you who may have forgotten.

Today it’s the 4th (at least when you guys read this it will be), so it’s Independence Day in America. In the past it’s been my favorite holiday spent with friends and family, but lots has changed and I’m in Japan anyway so I guess I’m okay. But to all of you in the U.S., enjoy your day and light some fireworks for me.

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This month has been full of good things; one being that two of my favorite people are back home in Japan!! We picked up Take and Senzo from the airport on the 8th and I felt a certain level of peace fall over my heart when they got here. Not that I wasn’t peaceful before, but I just love them a lot and it feels even more homey here having their familiar faces and funny selves.

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In more news: I have another housemate! She’s living in the apartment above YanFang and I, and is also teaching English at the kindergarten. Her name is Devi, she’s from Indonesia, and she’s freaking hilarious. She likes to sing random songs and calls me her “little baby Sarah” even though she’s only like 22. I like her.

“So how’s living with people?”
It’s really nothing new considering that when I was in YWAM I had 9 roommates, but there are still pros and cons to sharing a house with other human beings that you aren’t related to. Making me Vietnamese and Indonesian-style food? Pro. Both of them knowing Jesus? Pro. Having people to laugh with? Pro again.

I guess cons would be that I actually have to wear clothes around the house and that three girls getting ready in the morning means it takes us longer to get out the door, ha. But honestly it’s a good experience and I like the dynamic of 3 friends more-so than two.

Tonight (7/2) the three of us went on a nightly run to the convenience store for snacks and in line YanFang says to me, “you got your egg sandwich?” because I get one every time I go in there. It’s those little, weird things I like.

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To show you guys the holy sandwich. It’s delicious and I love eggs okay.

“How’s your Japanese coming along?”
Well things are considerably better than last month but it’s still challenging. The rumors are true though; you pick things up so much easier when you’re surrounded by it all the time. Immersion really is the best way to learn a language, like everybody says. Rosetta Stone will get you absolutely nowhere, if you want to learn then go to where that language is spoken and hang out with local people. Hanging out with people who barely speak any English is definitely challenging at times, but if they’re the right people I think it’s the best way to learn. Plus my friend helped pick me out a good Japanese textbook so I’ve been using that lately as well.

“Are you married to a Japanese guy yet? Harhar”
No.

“Are you ever coming back to America?”
No.

But the greatest news of all-
In a little over a week I’ll be seeing my all-time favorite Korean group that I’ve been a die-hard fan of for yearrrrrssss.
B.A.P in Japan. How does that happen? The only thing that would make it better is if my sisters were going with me and I wasn’t going all by myself, haha.

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There’s another festival this weekend, it’s called Tanabata (or Star Festival) and the biggest celebration is held in my prefecture, so I’m super pumped to go!

(Not my photos, they’re clearly stolen from the internet)

{Update: probably won’t get to go because of an event at the kindergarten but I’ll still leave the pictures here so you all can see}

 

But all-in-all, I’m doing well. I’m not homesick, I still love it here, and everyone is nice. Plus I bought chips and salsa from Costco so there’s nothing to complain about really.

I think that when my year here is up next April and I have to either get a new visa or go home, I want to try to get into a university here to study Japanese full-time. Or if I feel I don’t need it and can just study on my own after all of the practice I’ll have had after a year, I’ll go try to get a teaching degree. Hopefully that could be possible for me in Japan, but we’ll see. I always said how much I hated college and think it’s a waste of time and money, but I never knew I had a passion for teaching until I came here. It actually outweighs my hatred for college, which if you know me, is huge.
I just wanted to keep you guys updated on my thoughts, who knows what will happen, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

 

•Ministry Update•

!   I’m very excited to write this ministry update   !

Since Take is back in Japan we’ve gotten to talk about the ministry we want to pioneer here and it’s got me all fired up.

Really since the start of our friendship we’ve talked about how cool it would be to have a place for Japanese youth to encounter the presence of God. A place of rest, community, and Jesus. Somewhere a person could come to and study, or pray, or even to just feel accepted and loved on. With worship nights and guest speakers and great coffee. Things this place needs.

On the same property I live on there’s a house that Take’s grandmother used to live in. It’s currently unused so we’re going to flip it into our place of worship. We’re in the process of cleaning it up and preparing everything necessary, but hopefully this summer it’ll be ready to use and we can start inviting people to help us.

When I lay in bed at night and wonder how on earth I got the chance to come live here, God reminds me that this is why. This idea, this dream got me here. Back in Kona when we talked about it I wondered how cool it would be to chase that dream, and now here I am, laying in my bed in Yokohama Japan, Take is back, and we have an actual building to use. Like, what??

Just goes to show you that your dreams are really His dreams, and if you earnestly seek His direction He’ll open every single door. I’m beyond excited and thankful.

Take said I could name it, so I thought about it for a bit and suggested the Fire House. Must be the right name since he then shared with me that when he first got the vision for this place he saw it as a fire spreading from Yokohama. SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. Fire House it is. Bring on that Holy Spirit fire and burn us all up, God.


 

At the end of this month I’ll be going with a team from church to Kumamoto prefecture. If that name sounds familiar to you it’s because it’s the place where the big earthquakes were in April, including one with a 7.0 magnitude and almost 50 deaths. 3,000 others were injured and more than 44,000 were evacuated from their homes. We’ll be there a couple days to volunteer at some places set up as temporary homes for those affected. Hopefully we can bring a little joy into their lives and share the love of Jesus with them through our serving.


 

I mentioned in my previous update that things were kind of difficult with all of the Japanese at church, but this month I’ve been bombarded with the love of my church family. We get Pastor Isaac’s sermon notes every week, but I can never read them because there’s too much kanji that I don’t understand.

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To give you a visual. I can read all Hiragana and Katakana, but there are thousands upon thousand of Kanji so it’s really difficult to remember them.

But today one of the members gave me back the 4-pages of sermon notes that he had written all of the Hiragana translations of the Kanji on (see all of the red writing in the picture). He said it was so that I could study with it.

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It’s little things like that. My heart swells.

I taught a conversational English class at church today (7/3) and it was so weird teaching my language to people much older than I am. I feel so unqualified but they’re always like, “you’re the only one here who’s a native speaker, that’s the best qualification you can have.” So shut up, inadequate feelings of Sarah. Take the opportunities you’re given and enjoy them.

 

 

•Kindergarten Update•

Summer break is coming up soon, there’s only a couple more weeks of school for the kindergarten kids. I’m really excited to enjoy this summer, but when I think about it I get kind of sad that I won’t get to see their wonderful faces every day.

I’ve started them on verbs recently; i.e. eating, running, laughing, etc. We’re also working on months of the year and it’s fun because then they can say “my birthday is in ____.”

They think it’s fun to have little possessions, like a kind of reward, so I draw them little cards with pictures and new vocabulary they’re learning and make like a million copies so they each get to collect them and put them in their little card box. It’s pretty cute.

Before I used to initiate conversations in English, but now lots of them come up to me when they first see me in the morning and speak with the English they learned. It makes my pride swell as their teacher, they’re so smart and I never want any of them to graduate because I want to see them forever.

They set up a big pool in the play yard and it’s so fun to swim with the kids, even if it’s only a couple feet deep, haha. It’s been soo humid lately.

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We’re having a SLEEP OVER this week, where we literally stay at the kindergarten all night with the 5 and 6-year-olds. It’ll be a lot of fun, I’m excited.

I never went to kindergarten in the U.S., nor have I ever visited one so correct me if I’m wrong, but kindergarten in Japan just seems so much more fun!

Daily there are the bug-scavenging kids; the ones who take their little bug crates or paper cups and dig through the plants and around the trees, searching for whatever they can get their hands on. Mainly potato bugs/pill bugs (dangomushi). They pile the bug crates full until the bugs are piled on top of each other. I’m surprised there’s even still a potato bug population there honestly.
Then there are the climber kids, who scale the rock climbing walls that line the halls inside. They have competitions to see who can hang on the hang-bars the longest, I think the standing record is 165 seconds. I act as their spotter in case someone gets hurt or scared because they climbed too high. They come to me when their hands are sweaty and I dump a little pile of chalk into their hands before they try tackling the wall again.
There are the kids who run to the pile of cardboard boxes the teachers bring in, usually empty milk containers or chocolate boxes. They use massive quantities of tape and strap multiple boxes together, then secure them onto their arms as make-believe guns. These kids shoot me and find it hilarious. Every single day.

There are even kids who ride unicycles. How a 4-year-old rides a unicycle is beyond me, but they do it.

I just love their creativity and freedom, there’s not a lot they aren’t allowed to do there and I feel like that kind of learning is so important. Kids should be allowed that kind of fun in a safe environment. It’s just cool to witness.


 

It feels nice to be more familiar with all of the Japanese teachers. They’ve always been super nice and welcoming, but at first it was kind of hard to get to know them because they hardly speak any English. But now that I speak a lot more Japanese, conversing is way easier. I would be so bold as to say I’m even on a friend level with some of them.

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This picture is from the Father’s Day celebration at the kindergarten. All of the kids were painting their dad’s faces so Ichi-sensei was my pretend dad and let me turn him into Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle. What a trooper.

I think that’s it for this update, as always thank you for reading and supporting me. I have so many wonderful friends and family members behind me and it encourages me every day, truly.

Prayer requests

-For God to open up the hearts of the people we’ll meet in Kumamoto
-That God would lead the Fire House ministry and clearly steer Take and I in the right direction
-Continued healing for my church friend Leo

Also if there are any pressing (or even simple) prayer requests on your end, leave a comment and I’ll 100% pray with you.

May

Personal Update

It’s Saturday morning and for some reason my body woke me up at 8am and I couldn’t go back to sleep. This is coming from a girl who would go to sleep at 7am and not get up until 3pm back at home.

Plus it’s SATURDAY. My only day to sleep in.

For some reason I decided to work out (I don’t know whose blog you’re reading right now honestly), so I put on a worship playlist. The song “You Know Me” by Steffany Frizzell (listen here) came on and I lost it, I couldn’t focus on what I was doing anymore.

This was the song I was listening to when I first started researching about YWAM. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to the time when I had first turned 17 and was sitting in one of the computer labs at Clark Community College back when we lived in Vancouver. I was watching videos and reading blogs written by YWAMers and started bawling because they were living the life I wanted. I distinctly remember the person at the computer next to me looking at me with a pitying expression, haha.

I wish I could have told 15 and 16 year old Sarah where I am right now. She probably would have rolled her eyes. She would have told me that I was lying and she could never make her dreams into a reality. Maybe she would have screamed insults or punched me, because that seemed to be her favorite pass-time.

In any case, the past couple days I’ve been really emotional thinking about where I am today and where I was years ago. That’s the power of God. He takes us from where we were and leads us to someplace better. And it doesn’t even have to be physically, it can just be into a joyful mental state.

Yesterday one of my friends came to visit the kindergarten. It was so sunny and bright. As we were cleaning the classrooms he started playing a song from Howl’s Moving Castle (my all-time favorite movie) on the piano (thiss song). I looked out the window and the wind was blowing the bright green Japanese trees. I melted. That moment perfectly describes how my heart feels on a daily basis living in this country.

— Anyway, greetings from Japan!

Finally on my laptop so that I can write things out 110x easier. Thank you guys so much for reading my April post, the feedback on it was so nice. I was honestly surprised!

I’ve been really good this past month, I officially feel settled-in and have got the hang of living here. Meaning I don’t get lost taking the metro anymore, haa.

News: I have a housemate! It’s crazy, we thought she’d be coming in June/July but she got here on like the 11th of May instead. Her name is YanFang and she’s from Vietnam. It’s nice because she speaks English really well so communicating isn’t a problem, and she’s only a couple years older than I am so there aren’t really any barriers. She makes me delicious food and has a very open, non-judgemental way about her.

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This is YanFang in Costco

Plus anyone who’s cool with me blasting my kpop as soon as I wake up is a friend of mine. She’ll be returning to Vietnam at the end of July to take her Japanese understanding test at university, so pray she does well because I think she’s nervous!

My friends Senzo and Takezo (whose family I’m with) will be back next week and I’m honestly so excited. It feels like summer already.

I posted pics on Facebook already, but I got to go watch fireworks in a yukata and that was life-changing. My bucketlist slowly grows smaller and turns into a list of memories.

There were so many people. It was in one of my favorite places in Yokohama; Sakuragicho. It’s so clean and beautiful there, and there’s a fun little amusement park with a huge ferris wheel. The rollercoaster dives into a hole in the water and it’s so fun, I went there with my friend Taichi a couple weeks ago.

Not only did my friend Yu let me wear her yukata and helped me put it on properly, but then her and her mom were like “you should keep it as a present.” Japanese people are so kind, they never fail to surprise me with their level of generosity.

As I sat in the grass in these beautiful clothes, looking up into a sky full of exploding fire next to my good friends, I felt as if I were in the best anime ever. I think maybe it’s because America doesn’t have culture like this, but Japan’s culture goes back so far.

Also hi, at the beginning of May I got to go to the coolest amusement park in Japan, and possibly the world because it had so many world-record holding rollercoasters. I have proof.

See those certificates? See their beauty?

I think that day still holds the top spot on my “Favorite Days in Japan” list.

My local friends and I are planning a trip to Osaka this summer! It’s exciting because it’ll be my first time there, I can’t wait.

Ministry Update

Firstly, I just wanted to say that to anyone who read my prayer request in the last post about my Japanese: THANK YOU. I know it’s supernatural because the level of conversational understanding I’ve achieved in the past month has been significantly changed.

To be honest, ministry itself in May has been draining. Church is all in Japanese and I really miss being filled and learning in a setting like that. I’ve been watching lots of sermons online and listening to my own worship music, but it’s just not the same as I’m sure others would understand.

That being said, since my housemate YanFang has been in Japan I’ve invited her to church with me, and since she was raised with a Catholic background, she agreed and was very open-minded about it. My church is very warm and loves newcomers of all backgrounds, so she really liked it there and wanted to keep going with me.

Last week Pastor Isaac and I sat down with her and she gave her life to Jesus in a new way!! It was really exciting because I think it was one of those situations where she really understood what she was doing and it wasn’t her blindly saying “yeah I’ll do that” just because we thought she should. It was very encouraging.

Any fears I had about being lonely after moving here are nonexistent. If anything, my new fear is not having enough alone-time because there are too many people I want to be hanging out with. Also my personal devotional time in May drastically decreased. It’s really hard to balance my life the way a perfect missionary would. Because I know I have to be spending time with people, people matter so much and if I’m not out there with other believers or non-believers then what am I doing. But sometimes I take it to the point where I forget or I’m too tired to spend long amounts of time with God, like going on little dates with him to the park or whatever. I miss that. I need to get back into that habit, even if it means telling people I’m busy and can’t hang out.

I met some YWAMers at a Joy Festival concert event and was reminded of how much I love that culture. YWAMers are so fun and so bold. They were from a base in Australia and it was cool hearing about their experience, and also getting to share about what the Kona base was like. It made me nostalgic and I miss Kona worship.

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Kindergarten Update

To sum up my recent kindergarten experience: a couple weeks ago the Yajima’s told me that I now have an important role here and that they’ve seen a difference in the kids since they started communicating with me.

Not gonna lie, tears came to my eyes after hearing that. It was really nice validation that the love I’m pouring into these little people is making a difference somehow.

But honestly, at this point the 5 and 6-year-olds feel more like friends than students at this point. Some of them have gone from saying “Sara sensei” to just “Oh, it’s Sara” hahaha. It’s so cute. I wish I could post pics of them but apparently I’m not allowed to put them online because of safety reasons. Just imagine really cute kids though.

I mentioned on Instagram once that one of my favorite kids has a dad who spends all of his time playing video-games and kind of just sucks as a father figure. Well his mom came up to me recently and thanked me for playing with him, she said when her kid comes home he always ends up talking about me because he loves me. He’s the middle child in his family, he has a couple older siblings and his mom just recently had a baby, so I don’t think he’s been getting a lot of one-on-one attention. It really humbled me that she said that.

I had to stop writing for a bit because I got so emotional, haha. I mentioned this in my last update, but I truly never valued children the way I do now. Maybe because the majority of my friends don’t want kids or see them as annoying brats, but my mind has been renewed these past couple months to see them the way God sees them. With value and importance.

Seriously, there’s a 360° change in a kid’s behavior if they feel valued. This is the time that their brains are growing and they’re forming thought-patterns that will carry through their lives.

Any older person is reading this thinking, “duh” but I’m writing it for anyone my age who has a skewed opinion on children. Not those who don’t want kids, but those who say they “hate” them.

Or maybe you guys just need to come to Japan, these kids are cuter hahaha.

I now teach English every single day, which is crazy. We call it “Enjoy English.”

It’s insane how quickly kids learn things, now they come up to me all the time and start singing the days of the week or point out what color things are. I love it.

They’ve been learning the following:

  • Greetings- hello/how are you/etc.
  • Days of the week
  • The daily weather
  • Flashcards for vocabulary- animals/body parts/etc.
  • Fruits, vegetables, and colors
  • Leaving greetings- thank you/see you tomorrow/etc.

This next week I’ll be starting them on the alphabet! I made them their own cards with phonics on them because they like having something to hold. The goal of the week is for them to write their own name, but maybe that will take a little time.

The amount of bruises and battle wounds I have from these children is insane.

Tight.


I have a lot of good expectations for June. It feels so summery already and I can’t wait to have beach days and go on roadtrips with my friends. We’ll go camping and have BBQ parties and enjoy the freedom summer always brings.

Until next month!

 

Prayer requests-

  • YanFang’s Japanese test and continued growth in her walk with Jesus
  • Healing for my friend Leo

April

・Greetings from Japan!・

I’m going to split my monthly updates into 3 parts. My personal updates, my ministry/God-related updates, and then my kindergarten updates. So feel free to read whichever section(s) you’re interested in. 

As I still haven’t gotten an adapter for my laptop charger (lazy?), I’m writing this on my phone. Please bear with me and my poorly designed blog until we get our acts together.

•Personal Update•



It feels as if I’ve been here both forever and no time at all. 

Even though I was in Japan for 3 months last year, this past month has been a completely new experience for me. Last year I was with a team of 11 other people who spoke English; this year I’m surrounded by the Japanese language on a constant basis and have an apartment all to myself. Last year I was living in Tokyo; this year I’m in a small town in Yokohama where it’s rare to see other foreigners, etc. But the feeling of being at home in Japan has stayed the same and I can see myself living here for a very long time, if not forever (Mom & Dad, you’ll just have to visit).

Not gonna lie, the language was tiresome for a good two weeks and I went to bed with headaches almost every night. I think my brain is getting used to it now, it’s just a lot to take in constantly. I love learning though. The feeling of being taught new words and being able to remember them for a later conversation is so rewarding. It’s like unlocking a secret code. What’s amazing is the patience in the people around me, everyone’s been so nice about teaching me new things and trying to communicate no matter how poor their English is. It’s beautiful honestly. Language is an incredible thing and my desire to want to communicate with these cool people drives me to keep learning, even if it’s slow or difficult. 

I’ve been learning so much about myself since living here as well. Like the fact that as much as I want to completely adapt to this culture, I’ll never be Japanese. I joke with myself and say my soul is Japanese, but in reality, I can’t escape who I was made to be. I’m learning (slowly) to be proud of who I am (cheesy?) and embrace the advantages I have being a foreigner here. Because whether I like it or not, I’m noticed more. But being noticed is good. It gives me a door. Speaking English gives me a door. I can use the foreigner card to my advantage and meet a lot more people than if I were another Japanese person.


On a different note: my host family, the Yajima’s, have been absolutely wonderful to me. Not only are they letting me live in an apartment on their property and have given me a job at their kindergarten, but they’re just genuinely awesome people and have made me feel like this is my home. They’re understanding and warm and super hardworking, I’m learning a lot by watching the way they live. I’m crazy thankful that God led me to be good friends with Take and Senzo because their whole family is amazing. (Also if either of you are reading this, hurry up and come back to Japan because I can’t wait to see you) 

Things I hate about Japan: their recycling system and 5,000 different garbage days that I have to remember or else my recyclable plastic will find its permanent home under my kitchen table…

Also like half of the songs on YouTube I used to listen to are blocked in this country and it’s very upsetting. 

But other than that? Peachy, haha. 

•Ministry Update•

God is alive.

No but really, He is. 

I’m going through a very real season I like to call, “wow, God is honestly present at every single moment” and it’s crazy. Once I put my world in His hands and started relying on Him for everything I saw immediate change in my daily life. Which has always been important to me because I used to only feel Him on special occasions, until like 6 months ago when I started really studying and seeking understanding on what this “abiding” thing was. (The “Abide in Me” tattoo I got on my hip last year was so prophetic, so thanks to the person who had the idea. It’s my favorite passage now, hands down) 

He knows my thoughts. He knows all of my worries. He knows all of my dreams. 

He knows me. (Spoiler alert: He knows you too.) It’s not even just big things, it’s every small moment, it’s Him being present with me. It’s abiding

I’m a part of a church called YICC (Yokohama International Community Church) on the other side of Yokohama. The best part about this church is how truly international it is, I’ve gotten to meet so many different kinds of people since going. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, American. Half of them aren’t even believers, yet they’re attracted to the love and acceptance found in the church. Because we are the church.

So every Sunday I attend YICC and have awesome fellowship. Just this last Sunday a group of us went to the local rec-center and played table tennis and badminton, it was so much fun and I wasn’t too bad either. My Korean pastor, the one who helped me with my visa, said he’s going to train me to be great at table tennis because I have potential, haha! I never knew. 

「Speaking of visas though, I wanted to share that God’s faithfulness to prayer is incredible. I got my Certificate of Eligibility within two weeks and then they issued my visa on the spot. It’s a process that can take up to 3 months, but He wanted to show me that I’m meant to be here.」

Anyway, I’ve never been a part of a church like this, so I really appreciate their warm, welcoming spirits towards me. Even though the sermons are in Japanese I’ve gotten more revelation from this church than ones I’ve attended in English. The Holy Spirit is always the best teacher. 

I’ll be joining the worship here soon and that’s something I’ve never done before. Pastor Isaac really wants me to because he knows I love worship, so I’m gonna go for it, but I’m really not a very good singer. I was nervous about it until the Holy Spirit reminded me that the quality of my worship is decided not by the sound of my voice, but by the  depth of my focus on Him.

I’m super thankful for the close friends I’ve already made at church, it was a huge prayer request I had and I know my mom has been praying for that specifically as well. He’s so faithful I can hardly stand it. (This is my Chinese friend, Ekiki. She’s super smart, speaks 3 languages at 20 years old, and is a kindred adventurous spirit) 

I post a lot to Instagram with updates and little stories so you can follow me at Idriskeverything if you wanna see those. 
•Kindergarten Update•

In case some of you didn’t know, I work at a kindergarten owned by my host family. It’s called the Yajima Yōchien (kindergarten) and there are about 250 kids ranging from ages 3 to 6 years old. 

I. Love. Them. All. 

I’ve never been around lots of kids in the U.S so I’ve always felt a little awkward around them, but for some reason I’m just obsessed with these little Japanese humans and I’m really comfortable with them. 

They call me “Sara sensei.” It’s kind of the best. 

At first a lot of them were scared or too shy to play with me when we had our free playing time. But the best feeling in the world is to see a kid who previously only cried in your presence run up to you and hug you and start rambling on in Japanese with a smile on their face. 

Right now it’s Golden Week in Japan, so I have a weeklong holiday from work. I’m missing all of their sweet little faces. 

To give an idea of what my day looks like: I’m there from 8am-4pm, Mon-Fri. When the kids first arrive they have free time to do whatever they want. I love that they’re so diverse with their interests. Some of them just want to run around for an hour, some strictly play in the sand box, some do crafts and make flowers, some are meticulous with their building blocks, etc. 

I’ve grown very attached to all of the boys, especially the naughty ones, they’re so amusing and adorable.


After free-time they all have their different classes and right now I’m helping the Murasaki (purple) class. There’s about 27 of them I think, around 3 & 4 years old. 

I never went to kindergarten in the U.S, but I’m fairly certain the styles are completely different. It’s taught me a lot about Japan as a country from watching the way they’re taught at a very young age. I love it. It’s so interesting, this culture is beautiful in so many ways. 

We have bento lunches together with the kids and they’re always like, “wow you eat weird things” hahah. I guess sandwiches are weird. I try making bentos sometimes but I’m still working on perfecting that skill because it’s seriously lacking. 

The kids leave after more playing time and then I help clean the classrooms. There’s a staff meeting after that and I usually work on getting crafts and other materials ready for the coming days. They’re definitely putting my love for art to good use. 

Before this gets any longer, I’m cutting it short. There’s just too much to tell and this is already long enough. 

Until next month! 

Prayer request: 

A supernatural understanding of Japanese