Back to the Future

40 years ago this last May, we stepped off a plane at Narita with a screaming 3 yr old and couldn’t even find the bathroom because there were no English signs.  The mission had sent us a letter by mail months earlier to say that they wouldn’t be meeting us at the airport because they were “Very busy’, so we had little expectations.  That was good because the travel agent had neglected to get our son a visa.  I told the immigration agent they could have him.

But thankfully our lifelong friends and partners in crime, the Gierharts, rearranged their ‘Very Busy” schedules and came out to pick us up.  They’d been in Japan for 6 months already and had acclimated to the smog, stop and go traffic on the freeways, cheek to cheek housing, etc. They picked us up and drove us into the guest apartments, across Tokyo in rush hour, and it took about 3 hours.  We were trashed.

That night, Trevor finally gave up and went to sleep and I wrote my Daddy a postcard.  All it said was, “We’re here safe.  I think I FINALLY found a foreign country.” Keep in mind we’d lived in Africa three years prior to this, but I was freaking out.   I looked at Tony, on the verge of tears and I’ll never forget what he said. “We’ll talk about this in the morning.”

The next morning we were rested and the sun was peeking out from the clouds.  We went shopping along a little street near the mission that looked like something out of a samurai movie. It may all have been in Black and White, I can’t remember, but the shopkeepers all thought Trevor was cute so that made us happy.

Japan will get under your skin.

As we were walking back to the hostel the other night, I stopped and just took a deep breath.  The SMELL of Japan. The wet street, the aroma of a nearby flower growing out of a manhole cover, the waft of the famous ‘oden’ that’s always cooking at the check out counter of the 7/11 where we’d just bought our favorite ‘go to’ supper (sea chicken onigiri, or rice balls with tuna).

We’re half way thru our sudden visit, asked by the mission to come and see if we could untangle the challenge of “What should we do about the Olympic evangelism outreach for 2020?”  They’ve been working on this project for a year already but haven’t come up with what they need to be on track, it now being only two years away.

Since we’ve had the experience of doing this twice, first in the winter Olympics in Japan in 1998 and then in Sydney for the summer Games in 2000, we’re considered what they might call in some circles, ‘expert witnesses’.

We’re not too sure we’re all that ‘expert’, but we do have the ability to focus, since unlike the rest of the missionaries here, we’re not already overloaded with other vital ministries.  But before we get too full of ourselves, we’re also realizing that at 68 and 70, we also have several handicaps to work with.

The last Olympics we did was 20 years ago.  We gave out thousands of VHS “Jesus Film” videos.  That’s not gonna be appropriate now.  We’re dealing with a new technology age that we are just barely aware of.  Once we can get our heads around this, or better yet, find someone who can, things may actually be easier than before.

We’re older than we’ve ever been.  We’ve been away from the ‘no car’ world of Tokyo for three years now, but now, being back, have averaged 8 miles a day just walking to and from trains, climbing innumerable stairs, sitting on floors …… you know, the healthy life of the Japanese. And as a result, we’re popping aspirin like never before, and literally crawl into bed every night, groan a couple of times and fall into the sleep of the aged.

We haven’t yet had a moment to indulge in our favorite meals, choosing instead to just grab the rice balls and the like. We even ran out of time and had to eat at MOS Burger the other night.  This would NOT be on my list of food I love. We’ve drunk a LOT of tea, and even with new facilities going up all over Tokyo still got to experience again a nice, dirty, ‘squatty potty’ in a train station.  If that doesn’t ‘take you back’ nothing will.

But it’s all good news.  We’re so happy to find people willing and interested in helping.  Now we just need to sort, report, allocate and figure out the big questions like …….what ARE the big questions?

Thanks for your prayers, none of us know where this is going.  We’re talking to a large group of volunteers this next Tuesday who possibly will be getting their mega church in the States to jump on board.  In fact this blog is going out late because we’ve been busy getting them settled in today.

Concerning volunteers, we have said over and over, “Sometimes it’s not the receivers who are blessed but the givers”. Either way, these Olympics will be a blessing to thousands of Christians and Christians to be.

Our goals for the remaining time we’re here are to reach as many potential contacts, churches and the like.

Our selfish goals are to get some of that beautiful Japanese food that we miss, hit a “100 Yen” shop for essentials and maybe have a nice hot bath in a hot spring somewhere. These goals may or not transpire depending on the schedule.

But we’re loving it all.

Till the next week!  I’ve got some NEW stories for you!!

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