Friday, October 1, 2010

"Return to your home, and declare how much God had done for you". Luke 8:39

It’s time to get personal! Here is my story:

During training one of the many things we did was to decide very clearly for ourselves why we were going abroad for the year. These goals had to be specific and important to us. We were told not to even bother going if we didn’t have a specific goal. We were told that when things get tough, which they most certainly will, that without specific meaningful goals it is easy to lose sight of why you are there and lose hope and faith that God is sending you there for a reason.

I get asked here all the time, ‘why are you in Japan’, or ‘why did you chose Japan’. In fact, I didn’t choose Japan. It was a decision made for me, though it was a decision that I was more than happy to comply with! I am a postulant in the Diocese of Massachusetts and as part of my formation process the Commission on Ministry in the Diocese along with the Bishops recommended to me that I do missionary work or volunteer work for 1 year. Here’s the kicker…I could go anywhere in the WORLD. After I was told that, I have to admit that I was overwhelmed with options. As someone who has lists of future travel plans PAGES long in my journal, I was amazed that I couldn’t choose. The temptation was high to knock one of the countries of my list or to return to a country that I was already familiar with. As I attempted to choose a location for my year of service, I had the distinct feeling that there was something going on in my planning that was bigger than me. Honestly, that feeling overwhelmed me much more than picking a location ever did! I decided to turn it over to God and applied with the Young Adult Service Corps. During my interview, three different locations came up and I knew that the choice was not mine to make. I told Douglas and David that I’d be fine with any of the three placements and returned back to Boston. Even as I was waiting for the news of where I would be living next year, I knew that I’d be going to Japan. I kept getting a feeling that I called an “Asia vibe” and it was no surprise when David called to tell me I’d be going to Nagoya, Japan for the year.

So, why am I in Japan? I am in Japan to develop skills for my future career in ministry. This is the goal I set for myself in training and it still holds true today. Everything about me being here is going to help me be a better priest and a better person. The concrete things are perhaps the most obvious: I’m teaching, I’m working with children, I’m volunteering with homeless men and women, I’m learning a new language and I’m away from home for the longest I’ve ever been before. But it is the abstract aspects of my being in Japan that I’m beginning to recognize as being just as important as the concrete. For example, for the first time in my life, I am a racial minority. I get stared at on trains, giggled at when I order coffee and sometimes, though very rarely, people won’t sit next to me on trains or benches. It’s an experience that is uncomfortable at times, but I recognize it as one that is essential for me to have. Also, female Anglican priests are still a rarity in Japan. I’ve on more than one occasion had to answer questions about me as a female hoping to be ordained that had never come up for me in the states. As challenging as they are, I am incredibly grateful for these opportunities. I know for me that in order to be the kind of priest that I want to be…that I’m being called to be….I need to have these experiences and get out of my comfort zone once and a while.

I love the work I’m doing here in Japan. I especially like teaching more than I ever thought I would. I’m getting an incredible variety of ministry experience and am meeting many amazing people! Two months in I still have the feeling that this is bigger than me and part of God’s plan which is an awesome (in all possible meanings of the word) feeling! Two months down and ten to go. I can’t wait to see what happens!


  1. hey christen,

    glad to read about your time in japan. would you be interested in emailing further about mission re: mission partners/missionaries and the philosophy/theological justification for mission work? i am writing a paper on YASC and missions for a world christianity course and would love some input from people "on the ground."


  2. Christen,

    I am getting such a kick out of your blog. Thanks for keeping your friends up to date. Your experiences are becoming our experiences. Your mission is our mission. Thanks for being there for us. We think of you often, and you are in our prayers.

    Peace be with you,