Sunday, July 6, 2014

Japan- the joy of rekindling a friendship

For eight years, Yoko lived and studied in Hawaii, an ocean away from her home in Japan. It was during that time that I met Yoko and we instantly became friends. We’d hang out nearly every night- cooking together, watching sunsets, and bonding by watching episodes of Friends. She’s got one of those personalities that is so sweet that you almost wonder if she’s real! She’s one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever met.

This group was inseparable when we first met back in 2009
In her first years in Hawaii, Yoko was going through a tough season of life and was battling with depression and loneliness. It was at a shopping mall, of all places, that she saw a worship team from a local church singing praises to God and she was so moved that she showed up at their church the next Sunday. God captured her heart that day and since then, she has become a very committed follower of Christ through the years.

Last year, Yoko moved back to Japan, where she teaches English to freshmen at Utsunomiya University. Yoko’s heart for her students is evident in the way she talks about them. For her, teaching isn’t only her job…it’s her mission field.
The last time I saw Yoko before she left Hawaii for Japan
 Back in May, I traveled to Japan for the sole purpose of reuniting with Yoko and a few other friends I’ve met through the years. I spent most of my time with Yoko. You know, sight-seeing was great, the food was good, and Japan is a lovely country. But my absolute favorite parts of the trip were the hours and hours we spent talking- whether it was on a train or in a teeny tiny hotel room in the wee hours of the night.

Exploring Tokyo with Yoko
Though we’ve kept up with each other through e-mail, there’s just something special about having those face-to-face conversations. It’s totally worth a trip across the world to have such a sweet reunion!

One of the most memorial days of the trip was the day I went to work with Yoko. As a teacher at a public university, she is not allowed to outwardly share her faith with her students. However; since I was visiting as Yoko’s guest, I had complete freedom to do so…so we made the most of the opportunity :)
Some of the girls from Yoko's English class
In all three of her classes that day, I shared with her students about my life in America and then about my faith in God. I also told them that Yoko follows Jesus and they can ask her any questions that they may have.

Her students were so kind and even sent me a scrapbook after with sweet little notes of appreciation.
Eating Utsunomiya's famous "gyozo" on my last night in Japan
My time in Japan was wonderful because it gave me time to deepen a friendship with a sweet sister in Christ. I think I needed it as much as she did. Her encouragement ministered to me deeply, and I thank God for a friendship that knows no bounds…not even continental ones!

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