Sunday, January 30, 2011

Staying in Japan Vs. Returning to the U.S

You are probably wondering why I haven`t posted in awhile. One reason is because I`ve been focusing on my fiction and teaching. Also, the Pakistan trip had to get nixed, at least for now. I got an email for Rev. Shafiq that read like this:

On 27th Jan 2011 at 3:00 pm

A person named, Ramond Davis who is the technical Advisor in American Consellate in Lahore , Pakistan, was going through Mazang Chungi , Lahore. Two Unknown Person who was with their weapons, stopped his car and tried to attack him. then Mr. Ramond used his weapon for self defence. and they got killed by Mr. Ramond Davis.
Now extremist muslims of Pakistan are angry becouse of this incident, and they are protesting on roads.
i hope that u should have seen this in the current news.
and i feel it as important to inform you about this.

your brother in Christ
Rev. Shafiq

Besides that, all those who originally took interest in the trip have backed down, and no one new has signed up to replace them. I think that is a pretty clear sign from God. Rev. Shafiq was disapointed, but understood. I`ve tried to make it up to him by putting him in contact with some other Christian organizations that might be able to help him with funding and advice on making his ministry a registered NGO/NPO. Plus, you can still donate to his ministry! (See my blog post entitled "Upcoming Pakistan Trip Details.")

But also for the past week, something very heavy has weighed on my mind. God sent me to Japan to tell people about God`s love through Jesus. I was pretty sure when I went, I was supposed to stay about two years, like Paul in Rome at the end of Acts. But now that those two years will be done in six months and I must make a decision whether or not to recontract for another year, over the past few weeks I`ve constantly thought "the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few." As a child, my favorite hymn was when God asks and Isaiah answers in Isaiah 6:8 " `Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?` Then I said, `Here I am. Send me!`" I used to sing that hymn with such enthusiasm, even as an eight-year-old, knowing God had called me to be a missionary in some capacity.

The pastor at the church where I serve has assured me that if I leave, he can take over my duties for me, but I know it will be hard for him. He just lost his father, and he and his family are very poor, receiving no money from the church, so he has to work on the side. Students may be less willing to come for someone who is a non-native speaker and very clearly a pastor. There is a chance that my successor at the high school where I work will be Christian because of all the prayers we have lifted up for it, but even if God chooses to answer those prayers, I would be taking that person away from another part of Japan that also needs witnessing Christians.

Some days I feel it is really time for me to leave Japan for home. I`ve had my fill, seen everything I wanted to see, grown as a person, and seen God do some truly amazing things. I miss my family and want to "move on with my life." Responses to my discussions with students, Christian cultural events, etc have been minimal. Plus, I still have six months even if I don`t recontact! My parents think that is enough and I should come home on in late August/early September 2011 as we originally planned. I want to come home to publish my young adult Christian fantasy novels and get a job with International students, like I had before. There are many opportunities for serving there too. As you can see, I am fighting God really hard on this. But those are hardly reasons to resist God`s call, whatever it may be. He can always change our hearts. Some moments I really feel He wants me to stay, that there really is no other option for me if I`m really serious about the Great Commission to "Go into all the world and preach my Gospel to every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you, even to the end of the age." I can`t help but notice the promise at the end of that. Christ will be with me, so why am I so scared? My Christian friends seem to think that God will bless whatever decision I make. But if the most important thing is preaching the Gospel in largely unreached lands, then would I be turning my back on my most important duty as a Christian? I literally weep when I think of all the Japanese people who have never heard about Jesus. Despite all the brick walls, despite all the people who smile and say they want to learn and then never show up to events or hurry away/shut down when I start speaking of spiritual matters even in the most casual manner, I know that the Holy Spirit can work. Is working.

I always felt my most important calling was writing and publishing my books. But in the Bible, the most important thing is preaching the gospel "to the ends of the Earth." That`s what I`m doing now. Maybe God wants me to do it for another year and a half (as it is, my contract ends in six months but I can recontract for another year). I want to act in faith. I want to serve God. Then why am I so afraid? Why do I have this sick feeling in my stomach? Why do I think about staying in Japan for another year I feel so...depressed? I want God to change me, but it is so hard to change.

The sermon this week was about letting go and trusting God even when the future is unstable and unsure. One of my Japanese Christian friends thought that was a very clear sign for me to go home. I wasn`t so sure.

One song that keeps running through my head is Isaiah 43:

"When you walk through the waters, I will be with you.
And the waves will not overcome you.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name. You are mine.
For I am the Lord your God.
I am the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

When you walk through the fire, you`ll not be burned.
And the flames will not consume you.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name. You are mine.
For I am the Lord your God.
I am the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I am the Lord."

I have never taken this passage of scripture literally. In the context of the larger story, God was promising through Isaiah that despite all the horrible things to come, (Israel was about to be conquered), God would be with them through it all, and as a whole, they would make it through. I think the same context applies to our lives today. The waters will come. The fires too. Notice it doesn`t say you won`t be burned. It says you won`t be consumed. That`s what I have to keep reminding myself through all of this. Whatever decision I make will be hard, but I`ll make it through.

I have to give my school my decision by Wednesday. Any thoughts?

Until next time, keep praying and loving, no matter what the cost,

L.J. Popp


Mistress of the Manse said...

(from laurie Ann Powell)
Oh, Laura, I feel for you! I really do!
You have done so well, staying as long as you have and making the best of the opportunity you have been given.
A few things strike me:
One is that I have heard that in the Greek,the "Go" in "Go... preach" is "go and as _you are going_, preach the gospel"... We do the work, and move on. It is possible there is more to do where you are, but it is also possible that there is more equipping, or more opportunity in a different venue. Those with an apostolic calling are in motion or in preparation. Jesus scattered seeds, and kept on walking, and those with ears to hear followed him or changed their lives. He didn't hang around Galilee repeating himself just because some didn't listen.
Second is that being a team of one American in your roles really limits you, and that there are good reasons why you feel overwhelmed at looking at a longer period of that. Even Jesus put together a team to do everything together - a team that was all related and neighbors to help each other along. Maybe coming home would give you a team.
Finally, do listen to that sadness and depression. There is nothing spiritual about deliberately being miserable. Yes, there are times we have to slog through a tough time, but we have Good News and if we can't be radiant and joyful, then what is our life message? Your passions are God-given, and I'm sure he'll make a way for you to fulfill them.
Whatever you do, DON'T stay because of worry about the load on others. We are not indispensable unless our work is in our own flesh - because God will raise up others to do His work, if it is of him, and if it is not, then maybe the season is over. "My yoke is easy, my burden is light"... if we are heavy laden, it is our own expectations or the expectations of other people - and that goes for pastors too - not God's plan.

L.J. Popp said...

Thanks so much for this message! It really helped me feel at peace about my decision. When I do come back to America, I want to spend time with you and your family again, if that is all right, as part of the re-entry process. How are Bethany and Daniel?

Mistress of the Manse said...

Hi, Laura,
We look forward to seeing you and hearing all about it!
My kids are all doing well. Even Elijah, the youngest, seems to be at peace with food that doesn't taste like dashi, people who don't look Asian and a house that doesn't have mat floors and paper walls :)