So, life is changing.
Some changes are exciting, exhilarating, and miraculous. Some are hard.
But I’m trusting that I’m learning and growing in it all. Learning more about myself. Learning more about God. Learning more about people. Learning more about friendship. Learning more about repentance, and forgiveness and what is true. Just learning.
I’m trusting that God is doing, and will do through this season, what needs to be done in me, so that I can live differently, passionately and more sacrificially in the future. I’m trusting that things are stripped away with a purpose. I’m trusting that the depth of the reality of living free and forgiven from the past because of the work of Jesus is completely true. I’m trusting that when I sit in the secret place with only Holy Spirit and my guitar for company, that as always, that is when I am truly home and truly alive.
But, life is changing. Quickly. Changing.
This week’s important and mean-I-have-to-dress-smart meetings have begun, and with that, I have realised that I have just over 7 weeks left with this wonderful project, and this feels-like-my-home charity and team.
And that means that I have just over 12 weeks in the UK.
A Christmas of long catch ups with precious family and friends, 2 weeks hard graft at Bible College, a great-looking conference, a week of spending some downtime in Edinburgh with some of my favourite girls in the world, and that’s me… Away on life’s next big adventure.
But in thinking about the future, it’s also good to reflect on the past. Learning from the mistakes, yes. But also remembering the incredible faithfulness of a God who has never failed.
I re-joined Facebook last week. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do. But the prospect of moving, and the need to link in with language school and church in Japan kind of made it more essential. And I have been amazed. Amazed by the amount of emails and love and affirmation I have received from people. Amazed by how much I have been blessed.
I love hearing the testimonies of my old young people. Those who are still walking with God. Those who are struggling and need to reconnect. I love remembering the miracles and salvation that God has worked in the past. I love hearing from friends who still want to share that the dreams and words you heard for them years ago are coming to pass today. I love rejoicing with others, and crying with others, and receiving the prayers and words that others have on their hearts.
And it has made me so, so thankful and restored my perspective in a whole new way. Because in remembering what God has done, you begin to dream about what He still will do. And in remembering your past boldness for God, you begin to pray that you will walk in a new boldness for what lies ahead. And in being so moved by those who you have seen come to know Jesus, or be healed by Jesus or who Holy Spirit has led you to prophesy over, you come to the realisation that you would give up anything to see that same fruit in the place God has you for this day, and in the days to come.
It reminds me that I have a choice right now. Things have been hard, and I can allow that to rob me of my future, and I can allow the words spoken over me to take hold, and the rejection to cut deep, and I can start to dream small and think little. Or I can continue trusting that the same God still reigns and still calls and still equips. Have I made mistakes? Yes, and they are forgiven. Have other people hurt me? Yes, and I have forgiven. But do these things need to hold me back? No. Because God chooses the unlikely and the unexpected and the sometimes-unlovely. Just read the Bible.
I spoke to one friend recently and I couldn’t help but remember her before she knew Jesus. I remember being so broken for her after one long conversation that I couldn’t sleep, and I stayed up through the night praying and interceding for her salvation. I was desperate. I loved her. And I knew that what I was feeling was nothing compared to the God who loved her. And I remember praying and literally saying, ‘God, I will do whatever it takes to see her saved. I will keep praying and not give up. I will fast. I will give. Whatever it takes’, because the burden He had allowed me to carry was so strong. And two weeks later, I got to pray with her and see the tears of joy run down her face as she understood for the first time that her Heavenly Father loved her and had done everything to be close to her. That kind of burden and desperation for the lost has been in my heart since I first recieved the Holy Spirit when I was 8 years old. And it still moves me today. It’s what’s moving me to Japan at all. He is moving me.
And so, with these things and this joy in mind, I want to tell you some more about what God is opening up for me in Japan. Because I would value your prayers. I would really value them over this next 12 weeks as I prepare, and then into next year and this whole crazy journey.
I’m going to be going to language school in Japan to build my own spoken confidence in Japanese, and I’m also going to be working for that same language school.
The English teaching part of the school is brand new, and the vision is big, because it involves teaching in a new way. They have a building, and are starting to get some media interest prior to the launch. Terms like ‘informal education’ and ‘community learning’ don’t really exist in Japan in the same way as the UK, but they do express the heart of what is going on here. Because teaching through youth work? That’s what I love! And working with university age students? That is just amazing? And developing brand new projects from stratch? That sums up what I’ve been doing for the past 5 years.
Being part of the team who are creating this… Well, that also gets the project-development part of my brain ticking into overdrive. Because we have a great-location building… And a blank canvas in front of us.
Now, rewind slightly, my research in Japan has been and is continuing to look at vulnerable young people; especially young people leaving care and hikikomori adolescents, who on the whole, don’t engage with mainstream schooling, drop out earlier, and have clear links into types of exploitation. Some of the female care leavers I met this summer were ending up in paid-dating. Many of the hikikomori young people I worked with would not consider leaving their homes. These are the young people I currently pray through the night over, who I cry over and who I am so desperate to see meet Jesus.
So imagine… If you could run a school, or a community education centre that could engage these kinds of young people alongside more mainstream lessons? Can you see it? Because, I think I can… To be honest.
Those of you who know or work with me know well that a huge part of my job is applying for pretty big funding streams and managing the issues that go with that. And I have seen God do huge miracles in opening doors in this area. Because I really believe that He loves to provide resources to work with the poor and the needy in our society. And on my travels… I’ve found some international funders who love to invest in projects that support the vulnerable. Especially ones that twin learning from one country into developments in another. And I have some real enthusiasm from the UK.
So, I’m flow-charting on flip-chart-paper, and I’m beginning to get a sense of what could-be-might-be-will-be, and God is speaking.
And although this last few weeks has been so incredibly hard, I can’t quite shake that memory of me, broken over the lost at 2am, saying that I would do anything to see just one come to know Jesus.
So the question I am left with is more about how much faith am I willing to have? How much boldness am I willing to step into? How much am I willing to sacrifice? How much will I give to see the joy of their salvation? How much will it cost to be obedient?
It’s like that Misty Edwards song sings, ‘How far will You let me go? How abandoned will You let me be?’
Because there’s something bigger going on here. And I’ve been distracted for far too long.