I’m going to be a 2 year missionary to Japan.
You know me, always to the point. And honestly, that’s why you came to this blog anyway. I’m not one to dance around the heart of the matter. It’s more likely I’ll jump into the middle of a frigid river than ease my way in from the bank. That slap to the senses is needed more often than not.
I tried to ease my way in. Believe you me that I was fighting God hard on this one. I was adamant and looked for every excuse to keep me here in my comfortable life in Dallas. Me, a missionary? The mere thought puts a sheepish smirk on my face.
Well, why Japan? The past few years have been full of lessons about love. And they’re lessons that I didn’t think I’d have to learn until I was married or had kids. For many years, I’ve enjoyed the life of a single adult which has allowed many amazing opportunities but also a lot of selfishness. I get to do what I want when I want with who I want. True, I was teaching in a poorer public school and really involved with international student ministry as well as short term mission trips. But I realized that those were all things that I was giving out of my excess. It was easy for me to do those things. But the messy relationships God brought into my life taught me about how love was sacrifice. And while I was doing good things, I was doing it in a way that it required only a little of me.
God wants the best I have to offer, not just the leftovers. He has made me eat my words so many times. I said I would never be a teacher, let alone a public elementary school teacher. So much for that. And a year and a half ago, I said I would never be a missionary. Yes, I’ve been there briefly the past two summers. But I, like many, think that so much more could be done with more time. Japan is not a third world country where I can go build wells and teach children to read in order to get an “in” with the Gospel. Japan has a heart problem, like all of us everywhere. And like most matters of the heart, it usually takes time and patience. That’s why I’ve committed to two full years.
Leave it to me to go into one of the hardest mission fields in the world. There are over 30,000 suicide deaths every year; far more than the 2011 tsunami killed. There’s close to 1 million men, the “hikikomori”, who have completely withdrawn from all of society because of the shame and cultural pressures they cannot bear any more. Because many men invest the bulk of their time in work, familial relationships are strained. Some young girls seek “fatherly affection” in the form of teenage prostitution called “enjo kosai”. As many as 9% of high school girls and 4% of junior high school girls have reported participation in enjo kosai. One time, I was standing at the window in a Starbucks that overlooks Shibuya crosswalk; it’s the busiest crosswalk in the world with a literal sea of people swarming the intersection at each change of the lights. One of the Japanese college students asked, “With so many people in the world, how can any one person be special?” There’s such longing in the Japanese people that only Christ can fill.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” Every day, I am learning more about the ultimate beauty of Christ and His sacrificial love for his people. The arts ministries in Tokyo seem to form the edges of a puzzle in which I, oddly shaped, fit perfectly right in the middle of everything, right in the heart of Tokyo. If Tokyo goes up for Christ, the rest of the nation will not be far behind. If Japan goes up, it will send a shock wave across the world far more than any earthquake will ever do. It is such strategic place within the mission field and I am betting all my money on Tokyo. I’ll be using the arts, visual and musical, to build relationships with the Japanese but also to show how the creative spirit of humanity points to our Creator and His passionate love for each of us.
I figured I should keep a blog since this is going to be quite the story. I’m the kind of person that needs accountability to keep up with something. I’ve also never seen myself as a blogger and prefer face-to-face interactions. Plus, the blog world is a bit intimidating; I can’t imagine publishing without proofreading it a dozen times as well as sending it to my mom to check that I don’t offend someone. What if something is misspelled!? Years of being a teacher and years before that writing dozens of papers each semester has made me paranoid. I’m also more of a one-liner kind of girl. I can zing ’em off but to construct a well-articulated thought for everyone to read is daunting. The 140 character cap has ruined me. Even then, I really only quote my students. For those of you keeping up at home, here are some of my favorites.
“Ms. Schoon, you look like a Chinese woman.”
“Ms. Schoon, are you from Mexico?”
“Ms. Schoon, are you pregnant?”
“Ms. Schoon, I thought you’d be married by now.”
“Ms. Schoon, when I’m old, you’ll be dead.”
“Ms. Schoon, your hair looks like a mushroom.”
“Ms. Schoon, are those your real teeth?”
“Ms. Schoon, I just drew a martini!”
“Ms. Schoon, you’ve got some swag!”
There are very few moments in life where we get to invite people to share in our experiences; the moments when we’re surrounded by the love and encouragement of people from all different phases in life. Usually, that’s reserved for weddings and funerals. Maybe the birth of your first child. So you can see why my reservations about missions, support-raising, and moving to a culture where I’ll be completely submerged in my own weakness has turned to excitement. I will get to share with everyone my passion. I will get to talk to everyone: old friends, distant relatives, and random strangers about who I love. And that’s ultimately Christ.
Please, pray for me. Send me words of encouragement and love. If you’re lead, please support me financially. But mostly, pray for me. Not half-heartedly but purposefully. This is both one of the hardest and the most natural thing for me to do with my life.
And I can barely wait.