So today I would like to ask for your prayers. I know, I know, I ask for your prayers quite a lot… But please know it is because I totally and genuinely believe that prayer makes all the difference in the world.
It really does.
I find intercession is one of the most amazingly exciting ways to spend my time… Because prayer just shifts things and releases things and it's mind-blowing that Holy Spirit uses our weak, tiny prayers to move huge mountains in every sense of the word.
(So please also know that I really love prayer and I really love people, so if you want me to pray for you… It seriously is or would be my great honour to stand with you!)
And so, when I think through all God has done and is doing in my life, I'm currently praying for an increase of my vision. My expectations. So that I expect God to do the unexpected. If that makes sense.
I guess I'm being challenged more to find the balance of being ever thankful for all God is, and has done and is doing, whilst also living with an expectancy that is rooted in His character, what He loves to do, and the fact He desires to save souls, transform lives and change nations.
Being completely content and thankful, whilst also living with an expectancy and dis-satisfaction that means you are seeking more of Jesus all the time. It sounds like a paradox. But it's not. At least not a bad one.
And I think prayer is the thing that stops us from being either extreme. You know? Prayer keeps me thankful but reminds me that there is so much more. Talking to Jesus brings His peace to my heart, but His peace then calls me out onto the waves. Abiding in God causes me to feel total rest in His grace, but then that grace fuels this fire of passion inside that I can't extinguish.
So, yeah, prayer… Where am I going with this?
I was asking for your prayers.
Today I had a really exciting conversation with an international funding body about work in Japan. And not just a hypothetical kind of conversation. A put-some-meat-on-the-bones-and-look-to-submit-a-bid-in-April type conversation. A really positive conversation. Because I have a partner UK organisation. And I have a few options. And I am so overwhelmingly aware of just how much I have to learn and how much I don't know… (The Johari window would tell me I don't even know all that I don't know right now! I am a non-expert!) And I have way too many ideas in my head and heart.
Let's rewind a bit.
I've now been working with young people full time for a decade (THAT makes me feel old!! I promise I'm only 28… I just did my first degree alongside full time work…), and I have discovered that you can't really take the youth-worker out of me. You just can't.
For the past five years I've been managing projects for Barnardo's, which is honestly a journey that God has used to change me and shape me more than I ever thought possible. Because it opened my eyes from doing big-crazy-youth-events and pretty mainstream church youth work (which is amazing, has a huge impact and is a ton of fun!), to working intensively with some really, really tough and heart-breaking scenarios. It pushed me to ask questions about how the church could engage with young people who really would never walk through the front door. It stretched my faith. The issues facing young people in care began to be the things I carried with me. Their stories marked me. The reasons that led girls into situations of sexual exploitation became real to me. Their stories burdened me. And as I worked with those labeled as drug user, or thief, or sex offender, or teen-Mum, each individual, now hundreds of them, changed me and left marks on my heart and life that I pray will always remain.
I guess I also got to be up-skilled in the sounds-more-boring tasks of HR, budgets, writing tenders and applying for funding.
And I learnt that the Spirit of God can be real in and through it all. (I still give God full credit for every single successful funding bid…)
So when God first dropped Japan in my prayer life, my dreams, and any other way He could to grab my attention, it was youth work and social work in Japan that went along with it.
And when I began to make contacts and plans for this last summer it was this field that I naturally ended up absorbed in.
In two months I spent time with about 14 organisations in 5 cities. Church based and non-Church based. I prayed in prayer rooms, and around jam-packed streets and in Tokyo's red light district. I spoke in churches. I hung out with missionaries. I visited children's homes. I lectured at universities. I worked on a farm with hikikomori young people (STILL my favourite project EVER!!) I visited YMCA centres, and NGOs, and midwives for teen parents and through-care-after-care projects. I did drama with teenagers, and took kids on outings, and discovered that I am seriously bad at volleyball. I learnt about Japanese youth work theory and the concept of 居場所. And I listened and learnt and cried and prayed and worshipped. And prayed some more. And each individual changed me and left marks on my heart and life that I pray will always remain.
I saw something of how little I knew and how much I needed to learn.
And if you remember my far longer summer ramblings… This was the project summary of where I got to:
Yep. I make pretty pictures in the planning stage.
So as my move-to-Japan date gets closer, I'd really value your prayers.
I'm at the point in time where I need to narrow down my dissertation write up. I'm currently revisiting two ring-binder-size folders full of policies, photos and interview transcripts from the summer, and through it I'm praying deeply and falling in love with Japan all over again.
I'm at the point in time where conversations with funders (like today) are getting more real. Real possibilities for real projects with real money.
I'm at the point in time where the question of to-work-or-PHD-it in Japan long-term needs an actual answer. Like, my window for PHD funding application is April to June 2014. Which is not so far away now.
And in it all, I am so desperate to just seek the face of Jesus. To remain rooted in prayer. To keep loving and pouring all I am into the broken, knowing that He is ever faithful to sustain and refresh.
Because in all my memories of youth work, in any country, it is praying for others and leading them to Jesus and seeing them fall more in love with God that causes my heart to soar.
And I will go anywhere and do anything as long as He's in the driver's seat.
So, please pray for me. For these next steps, for my Japanese abilities (which still have so, so, sooo far to go), and for wisdom. And if you're interested in Japan, or youth work in Japan, or the national leaving care agenda in Japan, please geek-out with me and talk about it. I'm sure I bore the socks of my house-mates sometimes! And please stand with me in faith, knowing that all the barriers and burdens in the world cannot stand in the way of a Mighty-Creator God who can move mountains.
I love you all! ^^