Tonight we said good bye to Ai, Shioli and Lena. I thought I would come home feeling free, like we had our life back to normal. I thought it would be easy parting. I also never dreamed, to my own shame, that the girls were enjoying it here, and would also have a difficulty parting. I was entirely wrong.
The class has a tradition of writing thank-yous out to be read aloud at the final potluck. For the first time, I heard Lena speak. She was more clearly understood than either of the other two, yet all month, for lack of confidence she refused and would have Ai or Shioli speak; she looked incredulous when I told her she spoke well. I too lack confidence--for every positive thing they said in their thank yous, I kept finding in my own mind exceptions...ways that I had failed...problems that I had created...probability that they didn't mean what they said. Well, I could, or should, have done better. But I am not perfect and perfection isn't what God expects I can perform (though on the other hand we are to be perfect as He is perfect--it's the goal but unachievable in our own strength...I have to remind myself of that!).
I asked the girls if they were looking forward to going home. They all, to my confused surprise, shook their heads. I was so sad that they didn't long for their families more than this strange American family with whom they couldn't communicate. They said they wanted to stay longer. I don't know what they could have said that would have made my heart ache more.
I was wanting all month to tell the girls my testimony, and to share more about Christ with them. There had been no openness, no opportunity. I had a suspicion somehow that though they'd heard a lot about Jesus, they didn't know that He is alive today. This was one of the keys to my faith--attending our first church for four years before I understood that, explained by someone at work. We sat a while; they were very evidently ready to listen and talk. We discussed their visit to start, and then I told them about how I came to faith. I started by telling them that at their age I knew so much less than they did about Jesus; that they had gone to church more than I had at their age. I told them that Jesus was alive today--and I saw the confusion on their faces, a confusion I knew myself not so terribly long ago. It was my delight to clarify that confusion for them, to tell them about the resurrection, which they had seen in the two movies we'd shown them, but also about the ascension. It is so vital because Jesus being alive today is someone we can worship; if He were dead, what would be the point? Where would His power be?
The great topper to all this was to tell them the changes that knowing Jesus makes--the peace, the joy, the forgiveness received, the forgiving ability, the eternal hope, the freedom...I told them how to pray and that they could pray with Marcel, his wife Karla, with me, or by themselves. It did seem that a new understanding had dawned on them. I hope and will be praying that they will turn to Christ and live for Him. Japan isn't the greatest place to start a Christian walk, so this would be a challenge--but with God all things are possible.
Well, when we were ready to go, the girls and Tim were all lost in tears. This was something I never would have imagined earlier in the day. We took pictures, said good-bye to Marcel, and left; the girls followed us out to the van and accepted Katie's pad of kleenex. The parting was as though we had been closely knit together throughout the month. I am so bumbling, so mistaken; I have assumed so much and gotten it wrong; I am so thankful for God's forgiveness and grace.