2015 Japan – Jennifer WY Lee

Find Me in the Rolling Hills

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:1-4

The day I discovered I was assigned to Japan, I was working on a joint research project on East Asia in my little dorm room in Indiana. My interests had always been in East Asian affairs, so I was thrilled to know that I would be going to an East Asian country. As I went through the team list, I saw that I had been put on a solid team. However, after a minute or two of scrolling through the names (Danny Kim, Sean Norton, Mary Koh…), I came to the stark realization that many of these individuals had danced at one or two New Philly events. My mouth went dry as I asked if our team was a dance team on Facebook. Dancing was one thing I did not know how to do. If there was anything I sucked at, it was complex motor tasks. Drink a cup of water? Sure. But pop, lock, and drop it? I don’t even know what that means and there’s no guarantee my body will move according to intention. Soon after I had asked the question, one of the members confirmed my fears. “Do I have to dance?” I asked. Much to my relief, Danny, our team leader, informed me that not everyone was dancing. My mind stopped racing and my excitement began to grow. I began to prepare my heart and mind for the trip.

Personally, I had no expectations for my trip the Japan. I knew God would move, but I didn’t know how or how much. For several years, I had known three things about Japan and its people: first, that Japan was an atheist nation with spiritualist overtones (often occultic); second, that the Japanese were a polite and private people; and third, that Japan was considered a first world nation with economic conglomerates rivaling the U.S.’ own mammoth institutions. Of course, to the secular world, these facts point towards greatness – of intellectual sophistication, cultural depth, and an unrivaled capacity for excellence. To be sure, Japan and the Japanese people harbor these qualities. However, the same qualities may actually appear a bit daunting to those who understand that “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). In short, I understood, as a Christian, that while Japan was no Botswana or Bangladesh, our work as God’s hands and feet was still cut out for us. However, something Danny said to our team stuck with me throughout the trip – the idea that God had prepared us in all the months and even years prior, to serve and toil for the Kingdom during this specific moment in time… in Japan.

Part One:
Before going on this mission trip, I had been in America laboring under the duress of institutionalized academia with the hopes of completing my undergraduate degree by December. However, I was also undergoing psychotherapy to treat an old enemy of mine – borderline personality disorder. Although 90% of my symptoms had vanished post-healing and deliverance back in 2011, I discovered in college – through the help of my loving Christian community in Indiana – that I still had certain borderline tendencies. My pastor in Indiana encouraged me to begin therapy with a local Christian counselor. Out of a deep desire to grow out of old mental and emotional paradigms, I took his advice and sought out help. It was one of the best decisions I made as a Christian and as an individual. The Lord expedited my healing throughout my time with my therapist.

During this time, I felt the Lord tell me that He was going to bring me to a place of wholeness. He also let me know that He intended to heal me through a process. As I struggled through being intentional about my healing, I kept His words close to heart. Soon enough, I started hitting important milestones in my recovery. I began to grow excited. My soul grew more vibrant with each milestone. As the days progressed, I began to see who God made me to be in both personality and character. More importantly, I began to act in accordance to these revelations of identity.

Part Two:
I knew moving to Korea would mark a new season in my life. I knew that it was in Korea that I would walk out all that I had acquired and built throughout my time in the wilderness with God (in Indiana). Although I did experience certain setbacks while preparing for missions, I always bounced back with more momentum than before. I was determined to prove myself worthy of the good fight – to put my skills and experience to good use. Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

And then missions happened.

All was well for the first couple of days. I was assigned as the photographer for Team Tokyo. It was exciting to handle a DSLR for the first time. I was ready to take on the world of missions with my (or should I say, Danny’s) Nikon D600 and go beyond my call of duty for the Lord. The first day, we experienced some technical issues, but I quickly brushed it off. Nothing was going to daunt my spirit.

Then the days progressed.

I began to lose things. First, it was my camera’s battery charger; I left it at Osaka Castle, one of the places we had performed at. Next, it was 300 out of 800 photos we took on Day 2; they mysteriously disappeared when we tried to import the photos. If that were not enough, my computer and iPhoto consistently gave me trouble throughout the trip. I had to stay up late during the nights to resolve these technical issues.

By Day 4, I started to feel the weight of my equipment backpack, tripod, and personal luggage grow on my shoulders, back, and legs. Since we were walking most of the time (sometimes in the rain without umbrellas), I began to struggle a lot physically. I had not been in the best of conditions pre-trip due to a cold and this extra physical burden began to take its toll on me. That evening, as the team was leaving Osaka, I was led to believe (after a minor miscommunication) that I had lost my tripod. I had forgotten that I’d intentionally left it in Tokyo. Convinced that my brain was malfunctioning, I broke down sobbing. I kept losing things, forgetting things, misunderstanding things, etc. I didn’t remember the last time I felt this disoriented, lost, and weary. Things got worse as time went on.

Soon enough, I felt some of my old thoughts and symptoms creep back. My emotions began to overwhelm me as I sank into feelings of defeat and ineptitude. Fortunately, my team members were compassionate enough to help me with my bags and equipment. My physical burden lightened, but inside, my spirit was slowly sinking.

Part Three:
However, the Lord did not abandon me in my time of trouble. Every time I began to sink into my thoughts, He sent me team members with whom to talk, laugh, and share my struggles. Any time I wanted to retreat into myself, I saw the light of the Lord shine through those we were building relationships with in Japan. And during the nights I was isolated with my thoughts and difficult circumstances, the Lord came to comfort me with His presence. As I shared my testimony with those at the local ministry, I began to see the goodness of God in a new light. During my lowest points, I saw that He is always worthy of my sacrifice. My physical burdens were nothing compared to the cross He carried to Calvary. My internal struggles bore little weight in light of the weight of glory. In faith, I trudged on forth. By His grace and good will for me, I stumbled upon joy and greater joy out on the field. Slowly but surely, I found an inner strength I had not known existed. It was a strength that burst forth in spite of logic… in spite of weakness and what could be assumed in the natural.

It was the strength of the Lord – a strength empowered by love, marked with joy. It was a strength founded on something beyond my own strength. It was a strength the Lord had built in me with His steady hand over the past year. It was clear that He was to be my fortress and guiding light. When I could not go on, the Lord continued on for me.

Conclusion:
Post-missions, I had a difficult time processing through the trip. I couldn’t make sense of many things. All I could think about was the struggle and the pain. However, as I sat in my room on a Sunday evening, I felt the Lord urge me to pull up a poem I had written right before my trip. It was a poem I had written in a stroke of inspiration and lovesick passion for God and Japan.

It was 380 BC,
When blithe Socrates traipsed the earth,
And thrust geometry onto your soul.

And some centuries had passed
Before just Aurelius envisioned the ego,
Tempered of its superfluous troubles.

Also did Zarathustra “sprach” in 1883,
Of an übermensch stripped
Of its crutches and convoluted meanderings.

In 1905, it was the philosopher’s business to dismantle gods and kings,
And try patronizing systems and the religious in court —
For their patriotic balderdash, no less.

Alas, in those days,
The lion became mere Felidae and genus.
Saw I you fall from the infinite with it.

Throughout, I stood beside you,
Nimbostratus reverberant in my chest,
I followed the ill-translated clangor of your deep unrest,
To find you gazing prostrate into your abyss.

Quite frankly, my dear
My heart continues to thunder on
For you.

PS:

Find me, lovesick
In the rolling hills,
Cumulus.

Despite having written it, I did not know entirely what it meant or why I had felt compelled to write it. However, as I sat there in my room, I came to the sudden realization that the poem had been for me all along. During the trip, the Lord had been my Shepherd. He did not leave me in want or distress. He guided me along the right paths for His Name’s sake and daily replenished my soul.

The poem was His way of letting me know that should I ever desire to find Him, He’d be where He always is… The green pastures and its rolling hills.
And the weather there?
Cumulus.

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