Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Problem Solved!

It`s amazing how easy the solution to seemingly huge dilemmas can be. I prayed, read my Bible, asked several of my good Christian friends for their opinions. The answer came during Monday night skype Bible study when one of the girls in the group spoke up.

"You know, Laura, you could just quit the job you have now like you were planning to do and apply for a job at a private company."

Silence. "What?" I asked.

"You said you don`t really like teaching high school. You don`t like huge classes. Working for a private company could solve that. In fact, you even suggested it yourself earlier, but you didn`t seem to think it a viable option. Why not?"

I thought about it. True, my Japanese pastor had also mentioned it before, originally putting the idea in my head. I also had a friend in Nagasaki who quit his public school job and switched to private and found the change an answer to prayer. But I hadn`t really considered the pros and cons of it for myself, because I had been so stuck thinking that my Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET) job was "it." Nearly everyone who wants to teach in Japan aspires to be a JET, because it has the highest pay, job security, and number of vacation days. But seeing as I really don`t care about the first two and I`ve already seen most of Japan that I want to see, those aren`t issues for me. I actually wouldn`t mind if I had a little less job security, seeing as signing the contract would force me to stay another year with no way out, but working for a private company I could pretty much leave at any time (depending on the company, of course.)

Another girl, also a very dear friend of mine, spoke up too. "If you didn`t work for JET, you could chose your own place. You could have a roommate. You could maybe even keep a pet."

Over the following day, all the pieces started to fit together. I thought back over my life, and noticed that God has always had an amazing way of closing and opening doors for me. Just take the JET job, for instance. Japan was not the first on my list of places I wanted to go. My dream was to return to Malawi Africa as a full-time missionary, possibly among the Muslim population, doing both humanitarian and evangelism work with AIDs orphans. But it has always been very important to me that I not be a burden on the church, so I always want to be able to support myself and never ask for donations for my own benefit. (There are too many starving and sick children in the world for me to be hogging funds like that. It wouldn`t be fair.) In missionary terms, we call this "tent making," because one of the first evangelists, the Apostle Paul, was a tent maker. There were no "tent making" opportunities for me in Malawi. I might have been able to work something out, to have found something that would give me just enough to live on, but I had my student loans to worry about. Another big financial principle that I try to keep for myself is that I never owe money to anyone if I can help it. That is why I don`t even own a credit card. I was bent on paying off my student loans before they accrued interest. So I looked for other opportunities besides Malawi. I sort of decided on Japan last minute. I went to the mission board of my church to ask them to pray for me.

"Oh, God must have given you a heart for Japan," they said.

I was surprised. "No," I almost replied. "I know next to nothing about Japan and it was the last place I ever imagined myself going as a missionary. I heard about the job, applied for it on the spur of the moment, and somehow got it." Of course, I didn`t say that. I smiled and accepted their prayers, hoping God WOULD give me a heart for Japan.

And He did. I fell hopelessly, madly, inescapably in love with the country and it`s people almost from the moment I stepped off the plane. I loved the mish-mash mix of traditional culture and the modern high-tech, the geisha walking down the street holding cell phones, the huge projections on the buildings portraying Samurai and ninja listening to their I-pods. It was the perfect combination for a fantasy and science fiction writer. Japan is a land of double worlds. In it, I have grown as a person, as a writer, and as a Christian. God knew what was best for my future, far better than I did.

And so, sitting in my apartment, one and a half years later, I decided to trust God once more. I rededicated myself to His plan, His timing, His love. I decided to apply for jobs both in Japan and the U.S., and God would open the doors He wanted me to walk through, and close the ones He did not want. I hadn`t been trusting God to be the Master of my life. He is so big and so amazing, how could one single little choice I make ever diminish His plan? It was arrogant on my part to think that I had such power. He will lead me where He wants me to be. I just have to let go of my fears. Ultimately, He wants the peace and happiness of His children. I am confident that wherever He leads, He will give me the strength and desire to follow.

In the mean time, I would appreciate prayers for my Thursday night class (particularly that people will actually come this semester and KEEP coming), for the many ministries of the church and that the Gospel would spread miraculously throughout Japan. Just when Japan is feeling like impossible ground, God surrounds me with a great cloud of witnesses, also eager to do His will and follow His plan. One friend told me she feels that trying to minister to people in Japan is like trying to plant seeds on cement. Who knows? Maybe what we`re doing now is slowly, gently, cracking the cement. The seeds are still to come.

Until next time, keep loving and keep praying, no matter what the cost.
L.J. Popp

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