My heart melted when I saw a port visit in Japan on our long-range schedule this January. Could it be, that after nearly a decade, I would be going back to a country I never stopped loving? My mind tried to tell me that it couldn't be happening. God had continually shut door after door on my attempts to go back to Japan. No church we had joined in our duty stations ever sent short-term missions to Japan and the US Navy seemed to not want me back overseas. Finally, since the Navy hospitals in Japan don't treat cystic fibrosis, God told me no for what I assumed was the last time.
Japan means the world to me, which is probably why God needed to take me out of the country. The ministry I had been doing (very occasional preaching and Conversational English Classes) had almost become more important to me than the God I was serving. In fact, maybe it had become that way. It could be that this pride caused me to leave Japan. Or perhaps it was just my time. I won't know until I get to heaven.
At any rate, I almost didn't believe it was happening. In fact I almost didn't plan anything for the visit! Normally I try to contact a missionary or church in the cities I visit, and a few weeks before we landed in Kagoshima, I finally realized I needed to contact someone. I'm grateful that God had allowed me to visit the city once before in my travels. I contacted the missionaries I had visited nine years prior: Walter and Mary Maxey (pictured here):
I can't believe they had remembered me! It was such a blessing. We made plans to meet up on Sunday for church (something I hadn't been able to do the last time I visited the city). They were even going to enlist the help of one of the members to get us to and from the church.
Since I had a day to kill before Sunday, I went out with two other first classes and did some sight-seeing. Here is a small premonade that we found and enjoyed as it had a number of shops. Some people even tried to speak English to us. It was awesome!
The layout of the streets is pretty cool here. You can see how narrow they are, can't you? They fit three lanes over there in the area that we'd probably put one, maybe two!
This is a favorite past-time of just about every Japanese teen/young adult. And, since Timothy and I are avid Mario Kart fans, I just had to drop my 100 Yen coin in and try it out! So awesome!
Finally, Sunday arrived. Mr. Funasaki, a retired merchant ship captain, offered to pick us up. He arrived almost an hour early, so I gave him a quick once over of the ship. Of course, he had no trouble getting around. He was moving through hatches and scuttles faster than I was! Here we are at the church:
Mr. Funasaki had almost flawless command of the English language. It was easy to talk with him!
Walter Maxey brought the message that day and translated to English some of the key points. I was very grateful that he did that for us, as I had three friends with me, and my very shaky Japanese was the only native language between the four of us!
After the sermon, we were treated to a fellowship meal with the church. Everyone simply moved the chairs out of the way and set up tables! Suddenly, a room that had been the sanctuary was now the fellowship hall! It rocked. American churches should live with such a small footprint. It would do us good to be humbled.
Here are some pictures from the fellowship. The first picture is how the sactuary looks when it's in church service mode, and the pictures after show it in fellowship mode:
We took this photo once the meal was finished out front:
After church, we all went back to my ship for a tour. It was really fun, but did cause a bit of a stir with the command. Apparently they didn't realize that I intended to bring so many people with me! In thier defence, I did show up with a small army, so I understand.
Here I am with the Maxey's:
On the following day, a Japanese pastor in the area, who pastors the sister church, came by with his family and I gave a second tour. He was very, very knowledgeable about the US Navy. His family is amazing.
And this one is just cute, I think:
I wish nothing but the best for the churches I got to host on my ship in Kagoshima Japan. It was a blast to share my ship with them. I'm grateful to have shared a meal of fellowship with them as well, and as such I am grateful for Mary Maxey, who prepared an outstanding meal on out behalf. I will be forever grateful.
Special note of thanks: You may notice that when I'm with Mr. Funasaki, I am in a regular collared shirt, but when I'm in the group photos, I'm in a sweater. That sweater was a gift from Mary Maxey, and I am grateful as the nights in Kagoshima were pretty cold! I was even more grateful once we went further north to South Korea, because it was really cold there! Thank you Mary!