It finally stopped snowing in Sapporo this week! And there's something so beautiful about being able to walk about without-being-in-the-centre-of-a-mighty-blizzard-wishing-I-was-in-a-full-body-snow-suit that I have been walking outside at every opportunity and absolutely everywhere the last few days! On Monday night, I even walked the hour from language school to church (which by Sapporo standards apparently makes me crazy!) But I love the prayer time you can give to God when you walk. And sing. And listen.
There's a modern remake of an old hymn that has being gripping my heart and has been my prayer over this now-home-to-me city as I have walked from place to place this week.
There's a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins,
And in that flood my sin is washed away.
And You came to give me life,
No longer I, but Christ who lives in me.
Stunning isn't it? The meditation that brings?
You know, just typing those words out makes my heart skip in the reality of thankfulness that is contained in those simple 6 lines.
In that flood my sin is washed away.
How can you sing that without feeling the tears-prick, or the tingle-in-your-spirit or the overwhelming desire that all would know and join the song of heaven?
Oh man, I'm in the middle of our school lounge and I'm going to start balling…
Ok, anyway, onto the update that I need to give you wonderful, beautiful, much-appreciated praying people. Right now, I sit here, post afternoon-Japanese-lesson, enjoying the biggest cup of Earl Grey tea and hottest blueberry muffin I could physically find.
I could perhaps have just have had the (not really) bad influence of encouraging everyone else to join me in the caffeine-and-cake-buying-outing, but I think it is spreading the joy… 😉
It has been a brain-melting-laughter-inducing-day.
Two of my friends are sitting next to me muttering gently under their breath in Japanese as they study hard.
And I just have one phrase circling my mind.
'I am flipping blessed.'
I was interviewing one of the most wise and interesting professors I have ever been privileged to spend time with yesterday, and I left the meeting after 3 hours and those four words were honestly the only ones I could say.
I am flipping blessed.
Ok. Let me rewind a little.
Last Friday night I was invited to join a research group for the evening who specialise in educational responses for socially isolated young people (or something that translates a little like that…) The evening itself was fascinating. The warmth and welcome of the 10 or so individuals there was overwhelming. And the expertise of the group was humbling. I joined a group made up of Professors, Head Teachers, and a Senior Research Fellow from the Yomiuri Shimbun (that's like Japan's biggest newspaper… God's got a sense of humour, right?!) And not just the meeting itself but the chance to talk over dinner and set up an awful lot of follow up meetings for the next month.
So roll on Sunday. Post two-absolutely-brilliant-church-services-and-hot-dog-party (you know, I like to make the most of my Sundays ;)) I visited a youth centre in Sapporo town centre and met another couple of youth workers whose passion and knowledge was just so encouraging. And then Monday, post language school, I spent the afternoon at Sapporo YWCA learning about the Free School they run for young people who can't attend mainstream education.
So, expectations-already-exceeded-to-overflowing, yesterday afternoon, I hit a meeting that was probably one of my biggest learning experiences in Japan to date. The professor I interviewed talked me through so much, but particularly three pieces of his own research. The first was on the self formation process of children and young people, and the idea that young people excluded from community (through being care leavers, young offenders or non school attenders) have a fragmentation of self. Fascinating to hear about using Japanese theory and interpretation of theory.
His other research moved onto this idea in practice, with quite major projects exploring the function of 'mediating communities'. So again, he talked me through various projects throughout Japan which work with the disabled and also with the Buraku (think the 'Untouchable' equivalent if Japan had an obvious caste system) in order to build community capacity and reconciliation between traditionally excluded groups.
I literally wrote pages. And pages.
*****And… I got asked to take a couple of classes in Community Learning and Development next semester… Which is super cool!! Lecturing with a translator is always fun… ;)*****
But the thing is, when you're researching something that your heart totally burns over, the theory doesn't stay abstract.
How can it?
Which is why I started with that song.
So, I'm rejoicing that God has opened so many doors, I truly am rejoicing.
But do you want to know when it gets really real?
Because it's not in the offices or the meeting rooms or the restaurants.
It's when I hear the story of the girl who couldn't go back to school because she was so badly bullied that she cut her own throat? Or when I find evidence emphasising my deep fear that many of the female care leavers here end up in the 'Delivery Health' business? (Btw, that's pretty much prostitution and Google gives me at least 100 pages of listed businesses in Susukino alone.) How about the heart breaking reality of child pornography here? Or the truth that this research into the fractured personalities of excluded young people that finds it's literal outworking in the broken lives of so many tangibly within an arms reach?
That's where the flood that washes our sin away gets really, really real.
I was reading an article recently that had this phrase that hit me hard in the spiritual-gut.
Jesus' hands displayed the ultimate sacrifice – how do mine? Jesus let's His hand be the bridge between God's generosity and people's scarcity.
It's not a holding on, it's a letting go, that brings hope.
Opening my hands wide to display the generosity of God.
Not just a grace that we grip onto personally and have to keep inside of us, but an overflowing and an outpouring type of grace that is a boundless ocean of His love. That we open our hands and open our mouths and open our hearts and risk everything on this journey of love.
As William Booth wrote:
O boundless salvation! Deep ocean of love,
O fullness of mercy, Christ brought from above,
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, now flowing for all men,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!
So these last few days I've been walking.
I've been praying.
I've been singing.
I've been loving.
I've been so thankful.
But you know what? I've also been crying. And weeping. And interceding. In the best possible way. Over these streets. Over these lives. Over these broken. Not in hopelessness.
But in beautiful hopeFULLness.
Because His salvation is so boundless.
And the darkness isn't dark to Him who is Light.
Let's keep praying 🙂