My first blog back in the states…two months later

I’m sure we all could have guessed that I would be writing this blog much later than I originally intended.

I was hoping to write one while I was in New York and then again at home before heading to Lake Junaluska for the summer. But, like it always does, life got a little too busy for that to happen.

It’s hard to believe that I have only been in the US for two months. Some days if feels like I’ve been back much longer and other days it feels like it was just yesterday that I was saying goodbye to my family at ARI.

My last week on the farm was great and I will always remember the people I got to know while I was there. Part of me wishes I was still there, but I have to remember that eventually I would have had to leave. Some of the participants asked me when I would be back, thinking I would return before they leave in December. It was heartbreaking to tell them I would not be returning to ARI anytime soon.

The last FoodLife group I worked with. :) Going away boiled egg party after taking care of the Chickens.

The last FoodLife group I worked with. 🙂 Going away boiled egg party after taking care of the Chickens.

The Three Eggs! Job from the Philippines, Lian and Chit Chit! from Myanmar

The Three Eggs! Job from the Philippines, Lian and Chit Chit! from Myanmar

One last handshake with Ito san

One last handshake with Ito san

The TA's, Khaling from Manipur and Nick from the Philippines

The TA’s, Khaling from Manipur and Nick from the Philippines

Sabitra from Nepal and Fred from Uganda!

Sabitra from Nepal and Fred from Uganda!

The experiences I had while I was at ARI are ones that I will not soon forget. I learned so much about the world, love, and myself. My eyes were opened to so many injustices that are present around the world and now I just hope that I can help make the world a better place and fight some of these injustices. Before living at ARI I had never really been exposed to people of other religions, and as much as I hate to admit it I always kind of viewed them in a negative light. I think that’s easy to do when other religions from around the world are portrayed as something so awful by the media. I also gained a lot of knowledge, too much to actually process all at once, on organic farming and sustainability. These are things I hope to one day incorporate into my ministry, whatever that may look like.

My sisters and two of the most faithful women I know. My time at ARI was richly blessed by the friendship of Kaori (Japan) and Acivo (Nagaland).

My sisters and two of the most faithful women I know. My time at ARI was richly blessed by the friendship of Kaori (Japan) and Acivo (Nagaland).

I flew into NYC the evening of April 29th. I was originally upset that I had to have end terms in New York for almost two weeks before I was able to return to NC and see my family and friends. But, having end terms in New York before returning home was a true gift…and it allowed me to get over jetlag before returning home! Sharing experiences with my fellow mission interns and getting to hear how they spent their past 2 years was inspiring. This was most likely the last time we would all be together in the same place, but thankfully we have technology and the ability to skype and stay connected through the internet.

GMF's 2013-2015. This is one of my favorite groups of all time.

GMF’s 2013-2015. This is one of my favorite groups of all time.

On May 11th I finally flew home to North Carolina and was happily reunited with my family and friends. I only had 2.5 weeks at home before I had to head up to Lake Junaluska. I will be at Lake Junaluska until August 15th to finish up my program with GBGM. My first weekend at home was spent at my cousin Meredith’s house with most of my family and some friends. It was a great day to catch up and see people I hadn’t seen in two years. My first Sunday back at Zion UMC was absolutely wonderful. There was a covered dish for me after the service, but getting to see the church that has supported me over the years was the best part. I am so grateful that I have had such a strong church family praying for me since I have been gone.

Welcome home team! Sarah, Mandy, Charlotte, Mom, Dad, and Lee!

Welcome home team! Sarah, Mandy, Charlotte, Mom, Dad, and Lee!

My cousin and mentor Meredith!

My cousin and mentor Meredith!

First family picture in over 2 years!

First family picture in over 2 years!

Some days are harder than others when it comes to getting back into the “groove” of things in the US. Knowing that we waste so much of what we have, from food to other resources is something I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with. I have also found that some people ask pretty generic questions about my time away and expect an answer in a minute or two, something that is rather impossible to do. I am learning how to summarize this entire experience in a short enough time, but that has taken quite a bit of practice.

At Lake Junaluska I am working on the youth ministry team and really enjoying it. I am working with other young adults who are passionate about youth, the church, and the direction it is headed in. It has been a great place to be as I finish out my program. My favorite part would have to be the beauty of the nature that is all around, something I have enjoyed looking at during my morning runs.

This place is absolutely beautiful!

This place is absolutely beautiful!

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I got to see some of the Yadkinville UMW that I met here before I left in 2013!

I got to see some of the Yadkinville UMW that I met here before I left in 2013!

Tim, Laura, Taylor, Jay, Bryce, Me, and Libby - Summer Youth Staff!

Tim, Laura, Taylor, Jay, Bryce, Me, and Libby – Summer Youth Staff!

Teaching the youth groups Japanese exercise!

Teaching the youth groups Japanese exercise!

I would like to share with those of you who may not know yet that I have finally decided on which seminary I will be attending. August 29th I will move to New Jersey where I hope to obtain my Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. It’s about a 9-hour drive from Monroe, but I figure if I lived across the world, a drive like that won’t be too bad.

I visited Princeton the day after I landed in NYC and it was beautiful!

I visited Princeton the day after I landed in NYC and it was beautiful!

I ask that you continue to pray for this period of transition, moving from Japan back to the states and then from NC to NJ. I am excited to see where God is taking me and look forward to sharing that journey with you. Thank you again for all of the prayers and support you provided while I was away.

Be a blessing!

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

PILGRIMS! I’ll start like I usually do and apologize for not blogging sooner. …and for that cheesy joke. This will be a lengthy little blog, but I tried to spice it up with a few pictures.

We have two new kids on the farm!

We have two new kids on the farm!

Most of our new participants arrived starting the 23rd of March and since then things have been busy. Two of our participants coming from West Africa, Liberia and Sierra Leone, arrived on campus a few weeks earlier than the others because we were not sure if they would be asked to wait in quarantine before being released to come to ARI or not. Luckily everything at the airport went smoothly. For their first 3 weeks they had to take their temperature twice a day and send it to the government offices. Should they catch a fever, even if they only had a cold and not Ebola, they would be put in quarantine until they were better. Also, everyone who had come into contact with them since they arrived would also be tested and have to be in quarantine. So for their first few weeks here when there were visitors or groups visiting the campus they remained in women’s dorm due to the government requests and regulations.

I went to the airport to pickup new participants and waited on these four from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Nepal at their gate.

I went to the airport to pickup new participants and waited on these four from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Nepal at their gate.

In addition to our new participants we have also welcomed new volunteers who will be here anywhere from 6 months to a year. They are a great group and I am glad I had the chance to meet all of them before leaving Japan. At the end of March I was also able to see my friend Yeseul from Korea. She was visiting her parents who live here and kindly invited me to stay with them for a few nights while she was in town. She is currently studying in the United States and was on a short break. I am hoping she will be able to join my family for Thanksgiving this year, but we aren’t sure if her schedule will allow it or not.

Tokyo Disneyland, hiya Walt!

Tokyo Disneyland, hiya Walt!

For Easter, ARI had many things going on and I was able to join in on a few of the worship services. I helped lead the Maundy Thursday foot washing service with another volunteer and one of our TA’s from Manipur. On Friday Kaori and I headed to Sendai to stay the night at the church of a pastor and his wife who are good friends with ARI. Saturday morning we were shown the disaster area from the March 11, 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake that struck Japan. It was hard to see the damaged areas and to realize that even though it has already been 4 years, this community will never be able to fully rebuild and recover from the loss they experienced. After seeing the disaster area we headed back to the church to join the youth for an Easter egg hunt and lunch.

Maundy Thursday Service

Maundy Thursday Service

Height of the Tsunami in the Sendai airport

Height of the Tsunami in the Sendai airport

We headed back to ARI Saturday afternoon and made it in time for dinner and the first womens dorm party. Sunday morning I woke up to attend the most interesting Sunrise service I had ever been to. There were individuals from 6 different countries who spoke throughout the service, which I thought was pretty incredible.

Communion at the Sunrise Service

Communion at the Sunrise Service

I have come to learn and grow accustomed to the fact that ARI is a place of goodbyes. Since returning from Nagaland I have had to say more goodbyes than I would like. The first sets of goodbyes were to another long term volunteer, Kado, and our two Graduate Interns from last year Mitsu and Yohei. The three of them left at the end of February and beginning of March. This past weekend I said goodbye to two of my favorite people in the ARI community, my Korean parents. Ban san and Jeen Hae left Monday morning to go to Korea and then visit Bethlehem with the Korean church. Unfortunately, my flight takes off at 5:30pm and their flight lands at 5:40pm on April 29th, so I will be unable to see them again before leaving. Sunday night I went to their house for dinner and to say goodbye. Knowing I have quite a few more of these ahead of me before leaving is not something I like.

My Korean parents, Jeen Hae and Ban san!

My Korean parents, Jeen Hae and Ban san!

Although I will miss a lot of the training year with our new community, I was lucky enough to be here for the opening ceremony and community event to see the Cherry Blossoms. Both of these days are filled with great memories and I am glad that I was able to experience them both before leaving.

Sakura's (Cherry Blossom) in the park.

Sakura’s (Cherry Blossom) in the park.

Not the best picture from opening ceremony. This is our staff and participants. This year we have 30 participants from 19 countries.

Not the best picture from opening ceremony. This is our staff and participants. This year we have 30 participants from 19 countries.

Bonfire Saturday night after opening ceremony.

Bonfire Saturday night after opening ceremony.

Two weeks from today (depending on the day you are reading this), I will be flying back to the states. With leaving comes something that I have been dreading for the past few weeks. I have to say goodbye to this community that I love, some of whom I have just met. I almost didn’t want to meet the new volunteers and participants because I knew that I would be leaving them so soon. So while I am sad to be leaving these people and ARI, I am excited that I will be seeing my fellow mission interns in just two weeks. And, even more exciting is the fact that I will be seeing my parents, friends, family, and dogs shortly after that! After being away from home for 20 months I cannot tell you how excited I am to pet my sweet pup Bo dog (and of course see everyone else)! I hope to blog again once I am back in the states and again when I have made it home. Thank you all for your support over these past two years, I honestly do not think I could have made it without all of the love and prayers I have received.

Be a blessing!

Decisions, Decisions.

See, I told you I’d post another blog today! I am on a roll!

Before leaving for Nagaland, my days were spent stressing over graduate school applications and wondering if I would be accepted to any of them.

That being said, I am happy to announce that I have been accepted to four different graduate schools. The only bad thing about this is that now I have some decisions to make, something that has never been a strong point of mine.

I have been accepted to Duke Divinity School in NC, Princeton Theological Seminary in NJ, Wesley Theological Seminary in DC, and Vanderbilt Divinity School in TN.

I hope to have made a decision by April 1st on where I will be attending next year, so I ask that you pray for me as I discern where it is I should go. If you happen to have any suggestions or fun facts about why I should go to one of these schools, feel free to leave a comment letting me know! Or, if you know anyone at these fine institutions that you think I could benefit from talking to, please put me in touch with them! 🙂

I will be flying to NY on April 29th and back in NC on May 11th! I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can once I get home!!!

Be a blessing!

Trip to Nagaland

Now that it’s March, I’ll go ahead and tell you what happened in February! Last time I blogged I asked that you would be praying for my visa to India. Well, ya prayers worked!! February 7th through the 21st I was in Nagaland, India!!!

On Feb. 7th we left Japan and headed to Nagaland. Our team from Japan consisted of two ARI staff members, Yukiko and Kaori, and the pastor, sensei Kuruyu, of Home Church Zion that I have recently started going to, and myself. We flew from Tokyo to Delhi, Delhi to Kolkata, and Kolkata to Dimapur. We spent one night in Kolkata and the next morning took a flight to Dimapur. At the airport in Kolkata we met up with Leo, a commuting volunteer from ARI, and he traveled with us for the first week of our trip. Once we landed in Dimapur we met up with the rest of our team for most of the trip. Acivo, a current staff member and graduate of ARI, and Zippo, a 2010 graduate of ARI. The purpose of this Missions trip was to build prayer partners between Japan and Nagaland.

Nagaland is a state in Northeast India. They want to be an independent country, so we learned not to refer to Nagas as Indians or say they are from India. They don’t look like other Indians and say that when they leave Nagaland and go to the main part of India they are asked what country they are from. They look similar to Japanese, so many times on our trip I was the only one who stood out.

We did quite a bit of traveling all over the southern part of Nagaland, visiting many Chakhesang villages (the tribe Acivo belongs to) and towns. Our first night was spent in Dimapur at Acivo’s church. This was probably my favorite place that we stayed even though we were only there for the first and last night. The womens group at the church made us feel so welcomed (along with everyone else at the church, they were just my favorites) and I had a blast getting to know them. Our first morning there I woke up early to help them cook and really enjoyed learning from and laughing with them.

After breakfast we headed to Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. From there Aze, Zippo’s niece, joined us. She is the same age as me, so it was nice to have someone else my age join our group. I learned soon that I have a bit of elevation sickness and that plus the bumpy roads gave me a bit of carsickness, but it wasn’t too bad. After having lunch in Kohima we headed to Cesezu village where we stayed the night at Zippo’s house.

The next morning we toured around there a little and then headed to Chekhesang Baptist Church Council (CBCC) where Acivo lived for 13 years (going to college and working). We spent two nights at CBCC, and there we had prayer meetings with different staff and groups. Our second night there we had a worship service with the students at Baptist Theological College (where Acivo went to school). Rev. Kuruyu preached and I shared my testimony. After the service we had dinner with the professors of the college.

The next day Kensa, a 2013 ARI graduate, came and picked us up and we headed to Phek Town. Kensa is a the youth pastor at Phek Town Baptist Church. Kaori, Aze, and I stayed here 5 nights and the others went to Tizu Village for two nights to have fellowship and sessions there. Yukiko did organic farming workshops and Rev. Kuruyu preached.

Kaori and I had sessions with the women and youth groups, Kaori shared about fundraising and foot massages, and I shared about the Proverbs 31 woman with the women’s group and gave my testimony to the youth group.

On Sunday morning we went to the worship service and saw just how big PTBC is. There were over 1500 people there that morning. It was incredible and pretty awesome.

We left Phek Town on Tuesday morning and headed to New Creation, a school and church in Sekruzu. On our way we stopped and helped some farmers cultivate a paddy and had lunch by the river. When we got to where we would be staying for the night we had a tour, ate fresh honey, watched and helped butcher a pig, and had a campfire with the children living at the center.

The next day we headed back down to Kohima to visit the war memorial. There is a lot of history between Japan and Nagaland. After leaving the memorial we headed to Nino’s church, a 2008 graduate of ARI. We stayed here for two nights. This village is one of the cleanest villages in Nagaland. Most places in Nagaland have trash everywhere, littering is a huge problem, but when Nino returned from Japan she told her community about how clean it was and how their garbage system worked and helped to clean up the community. We met with some of her church elders and they told us that she keeps everyone in line, telling them to pick up their trash and keep the area clean.

We headed back to Dimapur on Friday to do some shopping and spend our last night at Acivo’s church again. I was so happy to see the elders and church workers at Acivo’s church when we got back and enjoyed talking and spending more time with them for our last night in Nagaland.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at another graduates house and then a light lunch before heading to the airport. We were flying back the same way we came, Dimapur to Kolkata to Delhi to Tokyo. Our first flight was an hour and a half late, but we were able to make our flight in Kolkata because it was also delayed 30 minutes. When we landed in Delhi, Kaori, Yukiko, Rev. K, and I had to go back through baggage claim and check back in because we had not been checked all the way to Tokyo. Because of our delay and having to check back in we missed our 9:30pm flight to Tokyo. Luckily, Acivo got on the flight and landed back in Tokyo at 8am Japan time. We finally got a flight out of Delhi at 3:30am. We had a 2 hour or so layover in Beijing and then, finally, landed in Tokyo at 5:30pm Sunday night. I do not recommend India Air at all, for your future traveling information.

After I had a bit of a problem going through security in Tokyo, we finally made it back to ARI around midnight. Luckily, we were able to see Mama, our training assistant from Cameroon, at the airport before she headed back home.

Things I experienced in Nagaland:

  • Lots of chai, delicious chai.
  • Mass prayer – what a powerful way to worship
  • Eating with my hands
  • Bucket showers
  • Squatty potty’s
  • Sticky rice
  • A Naga funeral
  • Roller coaster roads
  • Meeting some of the most fantastic and welcoming people in the world.
  • Trying and immediately regretting trying King chilly
  • Eating snails

Pictures!

Kaori, me, Rev. Kuruyu, Yukiko

Kaori, me, Rev. Kuruyu, Yukiko

First morning in Nagaland, cooking with my favorite Nite

First morning in Nagaland, cooking with my favorite Nite

I miss getting to see views like this everyday. Thankful for a God that created such beauty.

I miss getting to see views like this everyday. Thankful for a God that created such beauty.

99% of the time this is how we cooked.

99% of the time this is how our food was prepared.

Oh chai, how I love thee.

Oh chai, how I love thee.

My new sister Aze

My new sister Aze

Sharing my testimony

Sharing my testimony

Yes, we did cross this for lunch one day.  :)

Yes, we did cross this for lunch one day.

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Rice and snails lunch by the river

Thank ya Jesus!

Thank ya Jesus!

Women's Pastor, Aze, me, Kaori, and Kensa at Phek Town Baptist Church.

Women’s Pastor, Aze, me, Kaori, and Kensa at Phek Town Baptist Church.

Just a few of the amazing people we met at Phek Town Baptist Church

Just a few of the amazing people we met at Phek Town Baptist Church

Pit stop to help cultivate a paddy.

Quick pit stop to help cultivate a paddy.

Picnic lunch

Picnic lunch

They carry most things like this...those neck muscles though!

They carry most things like this…those neck muscles though!

Tonight's dish, pork.

Tonight’s dish, pork.

Nino's pastor giving the closing prayer.

Nino’s pastor giving the closing prayer.

Giving gifts to Vese, the only driver who was with us the entire trip!

Giving gifts to Vese, our driver who was with us the entire trip!

Elders and our group at Acivo's church.

Elders and our group at Acivo’s church.

Aciov and Zippo - without these two women this trip could not have been what it was! They were with us from the beginning, translating when needed and making sure everything was taken care of.

Aciov and Zippo – without these two women this trip could not have been what it was! They were with us from the beginning, translating when needed and making sure everything was taken care of.

This blog does not describe half of what I experienced and saw in Nagaland, so once I’m home feel free to ask me more about my trip.

I’ll post another blog tomorrow (yes, really tomorrow) to update you on what else has been going on!

Be a blessing!

Winter at ARI

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog, and I’m sorry about that. There’s so much to talk about, and y’all know I love talking, but I just never seem to have the time. Here lately especially. So this post is pretty long, but no worries, as always there are some pictures!

November was a pretty slow month around ARI. The participants were gone for most of the month on the Western Japan Study Tour, so the work was left to staff and volunteers. November was also my birthday month, the big 24! Heyyyoohh. Also, thanksgiving! And we did it right at ARI! Last year I was in Nepal with the church in Korea and we had nothing that resembled a Thanksgiving meal. This year, however there were plenty of overseas volunteers, most of us from the states, and we made sure to have a bit of home here with us. We cooked two turkeys (bought at the Costco that’s about 3 or so hours from ARI), two chickens, and a duck. Along with that I made mashed potatoes, and we had stuffing, deserts, soups, rice, salad, and bread. It was wonderful and well worth the 5 or so hours we spent in the kitchen to get everything ready.

December was probably the saddest month so far here at ARI as it is the month of goodbyes. All of our participants graduated (not the sad part) and headed back to their home countries (the sad part). Knowing that there is a possibility I won’t see some of these people ever again (this side of heaven that is) is a hard thing to realize. At the beginning of the month we went snow viewing since most of our participants had never seen snow before. The 15th, 16th, and 17th were early days for us as we got up around 4 or 5 to say goodbye and send different groups to the airport. Along with all 27 participants, two of our long term volunteers left ARI in December. We also had three of our overseas staff go home for winter holiday. They will be back at the end of January and February, so there aren’t too many hands to help take care of the farm.

Snow viewing

Snow viewing

John (Uganda) and Aye Aye (Myanmar)

John (Uganda) and Aye Aye (Myanmar)

Graduation Day!!

Graduation Day!!

Thi Thi and Ni San about to board the plane to Myanmar

Thi Thi and Ni San about to board the plane to Myanmar

My favorite Cuban!!

My favorite Cuban Jose!!

We did celebrate Christmas here at ARI. We had work on the 24th and 26th, but Christmas day we had off. No work except for foodlife work which was either feeding the animals or making breakfast, lunch, or dinner. On Christmas Eve I went to a church service, caroling, and then joined midnight mass on the mountaintop. It was such a lovely mass, the music was absolutely beautiful and afterwards we were able to talk to some of the nuns and the priest who led the service. The priest happened to be from the states, so that was pretty neat. We did a homemade gift exchange that was pretty exciting. I made banana bread since I’m not that crafy. We also had an ARI Christmas play which was pretty interesting. We didn’t have “costumes” per se, but we made use with what we had. I was a wise man with one of the staff members and one of our graduate interns.

Christmas Eve service at church

Christmas Eve service at church

Midnight mass

Midnight mass

3 wise men

3 wise men

Shoma's Christmas Concert!

Shoma’s Christmas Concert!

We had winter holiday from December 27th to January 4th. I went with Noriko to Kamakura (where we visited Sister Carmen, our recent graduate) Atami, Hamamatsu, and Tokyo from the 27th-31st. We came back to ARI on the 31st to help work on the farm for the rest of break. For New Years Eve Kado, Noriko, Turner, and I went to a shrine that’s down the road to see how the New Year is celebrated in Japan. The road leading to the shrine was lined with food venders that would be there all night and the next day as well. People waited in line to pray to the shrine and get fortunes to see how lucky their future and New Year would be. It was an interesting thing to see and while most people here do not go to the shrine or temple often, they told us that the New Year is the busiest time. I guess it’s kind of like the church in the states when a lot of people come at Christmas and Easter, but aside from that aren’t at church too often.

Carmen (East Timor), me, and Noriko. Carmen is one of our recent graduates who is a sister and living at a convent in Japan.

Carmen (East Timor), me, and Noriko. Carmen is one of our recent graduates who is a sister and living at a convent in Japan.

January has been an interesting month so far. It is normally a slow month at ARI, but this year we have a group of 20 college students and 2 of their professors who are here from St. Olaf, a university in Minnesota. They arrived the 6th and were here until the 12th. Now they are away on a study tour of sorts and will come back the 18th and stay until either the 29th or 30th. It’s interesting having so many Americans on campus, and definitely hard for the Japanese staff and volunteers to always understand what they are saying. They haven’t quite grasped the concept of speaking slowly so that everyone at the table can participate in the conversation, but hopefully they’ll get better.

Here lately I’ve been busy applying to different graduate schools. You’re probably thinking this is something I should have done sooner, and you’d be correct. I kept putting it off and at the beginning of the month realized all of my due dates were the end of this month…or sooner. But I’m lucky and blessed to have received an undergraduate education at Pfeiffer, having formed relationships with professors who are willing to write a recommendation on very little notice. I am hoping to go into the ministry, so I am applying to different seminaries and theological schools. I am still not 100% sure what I want to do within the ministry, but that’s what discernment is all about. I used to want to go into missions, no doubt, but after being at ARI my idea of missions has changed a bit. I still want to help, but not in a way where I am a hindrance or cause the community I work with to think that there needs to be someone from outside to come and help before there can be change. I have also found a passion for organic farming and sustainability, so I think this is something I would like to incorporate into my ministry. I also still have a passion for working with youth, so who knows what I’ll end up doing! Prayers would be nice!

I would also like to ask that you pray for my trip to India! If all goes according to plan and I get my visa approved I will be heading to India Feb 7-22! I am so excited and ready to go! I will be going with two staff members here at ARI, a local pastor, and a commuting volunteer. We will be going to Nagaland, a state in Northeast India. One of the overseas staff is from Nagaland, so we will be meeting her there and she will fly back to Japan with us.

I hope to blog a little more once I get all of my applications in.

Be a blessing!

Overdue update of October

The month of October was probably my favorite month since I left the United States. I only wish I could have spread it out to last longer than just four weeks.

First, let me tell you about our Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration (HTC). It was October 11th and 12th, and the week leading up to it was filled with nothing but meetings and preparation for the weekend. There were no classes for the participants and no work for the volunteers and most of the staff members. The best thing about it was that the night of the 10th I went to the train station and picked up my mom, dad, and cousin Meredith. It had been over a year since I had seen them and I couldn’t tell you how happy my heart was the entire time they were here.

Setting up one of the gates

Setting up one of the gates

The stage for performances

The stage for performances

Opening Worship

Opening Worship

This years harvest. Yes, that is a live chicken.

This years harvest. Yes, that is a live chicken.

HTC is a big weekend for ARI. The participants are able to cook foods and do performances showing traditional song and dance from their countries. The participants also have a chance to bring items from their home countries and sell at booths to the Japanese visitors. There were around 1000 guests throughout the two days.

Ernest from Malawi

Ernest from Malawi

Tunny san from Japan

Tunny san from Japan

Myanmar Unity Dance

Myanmar Unity Dance

The best part of October

The best part of October!

Ito san from Japan and Nike from Indonesia

Ito san from Japan and Nike from Indonesia

Me, Ayoma (Sri Lanka), and Noriko (Japan) in the Sari's Ayoma dressed us in.

Me, Ayoma (Sri Lanka), and Noriko (Japan) in the Sari’s Ayoma dressed us in.

Stage and Decorations Committee!

Stage and Decorations Committee!

Post-HTC party and the fisherman's dance.

Post-HTC party and the fisherman’s dance.

On Monday, October 13th, I left ARI with my parents and Meredith and we headed southwest to Kyoto for vacation. Kyoto was beautiful. The first night there was a storm, but for the rest of the time there it only rained a little bit. I loved getting to see parts of Japan I had never been to, but more than that I loved being able to be with my family.

These three did great for their first time to Japan :)

These three did great for their first time to Japan 🙂

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Golden Temple

Golden Temple

Bamboo Forrest

Bamboo Forest

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Reunited with his long lost relatives.

Reunited with his long lost relatives.

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Goodbyes are the worst

See y’all in May! 

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They headed back to the states on the 16th, but I did not go back to ARI. Instead, after sending them off at the train station I headed to the Osaka airport to meet my soul sister Grace who was flying in from Bethlehem. Our midterms for our program started on Sunday, October 19th, but Grace and I wanted to hang out some before the meetings and business of midterms began. We stayed the first night in Osaka and then headed to Hiroshima until the 19th. We visited many places while in Hiroshima, including Miyajima (which means Shrine Island) to see the floating Torii gate (unfortunately the tide was down so it didn’t look like it was actually floating). We went to the Peace Park and Memorial of the atomic bomb, which was heartbreaking. In the museum we saw photos and personal belongings that had been damaged, burned, and ruined when the bomb was dropped. We read about the children who had been outside at the time of the attack and saw what had happened to them and how most of them had died because of the bomb. It was a sobering place and some of the images we saw I will never be able to forget.

The Atomic Bomb Dome. The closest standing building to the hypocenter. It was left as a reminder of the destruction of the bomb.

The Atomic Bomb Dome. The closest standing building to the hypocenter. It was left as a reminder of the destruction of the bomb.

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Okonomiyaki - really really good Japanese pancake.

Okonomiyaki – really really good Japanese pancake.

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Floating Torii

five story pagoda

five story pagoda

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On the 19th we headed back to Osaka and reunited with our fellow Mission Interns who were flying in from all over the country. What a reunion it was! It was so great to see everyone once and again and listen to what everyone is doing in his or her placement sites. Only one Mission Intern, Victor placed in Brazil, was unable to make the meeting due to passport issues. It was interesting to see how my ideas of missions have changed over this past year. I no longer only think of missionaries being people who go to rural areas or work in hospitals or orphanages. Mission work is all around. Sometimes a ministry of presence is all that you can bring to your area, and I am learning that in times that is all that is really needed.

Karaoke!

Karaoke!

View from the top floor of the hotel where we ate breakfast.

The view from the top floor of the hotel.

Prayer Partners

Prayer Partners

One neat thing I saw while with my class in Osaka was when we went to a Brazilian restaurant one night for dinner. Hanna from South Korea and Fidele from the DRC have both been placed in Brazil and have learned Portuguese. Our waitress, who was Japanese and didn’t speak much English, also knew a little Portuguese. It was so cool to see Hanna and Fidele helping everyone with their orders and translating for all of us without using Japanese.

Midterms ended on the 26th, but I stayed I Osaka for two more nights so that on the 27th I could go with some of the mission interns who stayed behind to Harry Potter World. It was fun, but it was also some weird Halloween time, which meant the park was packed and there were too many people to be able to enjoy everything we saw. Spending those extra few days was still fun, but after being gone for two weeks, it was nice to get back to ARI and not have to live out of a suitcase.

Grace, Rachel, Weird Harry Potter mask person, and me.

Grace, Rachel, Weird Harry Potter mask person, and me.

Danny, me, Beth, Grace, and Joy

Danny, me, Beth, Grace, and Joy

Sorry it’s taken so long to write another blog. Things here will be slowing down soon as the participants are all getting ready to return to their home countries in two weeks. To say that I am sad they are leaving is an understatement, but after being gone for 9 months I know they are ready to get back to their families and communities. They will go back to share everything they have learned here over the past 9 months, something that is both exciting and frightening all at the same time.

I ask that you pray for them as they head home. They all leave the 15th, 16th, and 17th of this month. Please pray for safe travels and few questions when going through customs and immigration.

Also, as you know Christmas is coming up. Now, I don’t really need any presents or gifts, but I have always loved getting cards in the mail. If you would like to send me a Christmas card, I won’t complain. 🙂

My address is:

Asian Rural Institute

CO: Meg Gaston

442-1 Tsukinokizawa

Nasushiobara. Tochigi

329-2703 JAPAN

Be a blessing!

Run, Forrest, Run!

It has been a crazy three weeks in Japan and I won’t be able to share all of it with you now. On the 11th and 12th of October we had our Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration (HTC). The day after that I headed to Kyoto, another city in Japan, with my mom, dad, and cousin Meredith!!! It brought me so much joy to have them here with me even if it was for just a week. The day they flew out my friend and soul sister Grace flew in from Bethlehem and we explored Hiroshima for a few days before meeting the rest of the Mission Interns (now Global Mission Fellows) in Osaka for our midterms. Hard to believe I’m over halfway through! I will post another more detailed blog (or two) on all of these adventures later, but I wanted to share some exciting news with you before I ran out of time.

On November 9th I will be running in my first race, the Yaita Takahara half marathon. Craziness. This is the first race I’ve ever run and for some reason I decided a half marathon would be a good place to start.

Last month I met one of the old staff members from ARI who now works for AFARI (American Friends of ARI). He asked me about running and I found out that he has been running marathons to raise funds for ARI for the last 7 years. He has helped to raise over $51,000 towards scholarships and reconstruction after the earthquake in 2011.

My time in Japan has been blessed by all of these rural leaders I have had the opportunity to get to know over these past 6 months. This training program allows these soon-to-be graduates return to their communities and help make more of a difference than I know they were already making. I want to help support those who have made such a difference in my life and I hope that you will consider helping in this effort as well. I have posted a picture below that talks about how you can donate, should you be interested. If you have any questions, let me know! Make note, your donations are tax deductible. 🙂

Also, if you need me to send you a copy of the image below so that you can print it out or read it easier leave a comment with your email address and I’ll be happy to send it your way.

Here’s the link to the AFARI website if you’d like to learn more about how your donations are used: http://www.friends-ari.org/support-ari

If you write a check you can put "Meg's Half Marathon" on the memo line.

Click on the image to make it bigger.