This morning I was challenged by my tea cup.

There are some days where an idea for a blog really resonates in me and I know exactly what I want to write before I even sit down at the computer.

There are other days, days like today, where I have no idea what is going to come out before I sit down and start typing.

Right now I am sitting in my little house, giant mug of tea next to me, streaming a Laura Hackett set from the KC-Prayer-Room. To say it’s not even 9am yet, it’s been a truly-lovely morning. Unhurried time in the Word, prayer at my church, the space to hear God speak in the stillness. I have a few hours of study ahead of me before I start teaching at lunch time.

Actually, for those people wondering what my schedule is like just now, that’s pretty much the norm. I’m trying to study for 2 – 3 hours each morning (a combination of Japanese, research meetings, interviews and dissertation write up), and then I tend to work at my school from lunchtime and teach 5 or 6 classes every afternoon and early evening. The aim is to pretty much have my dissertation complete by the end of this year so that next year I can study EVEN MORE Japanese. Like, A LOT! Every-single-morning-and-spare-hour-a-lot.

In between study and work I hang out with people. A lot of people. Friends. Becoming-friends. People who need a friend. People who don’t know they need a friend. And talk. And drink tea. And laugh. And eat cake. And pray. And worship. And play music. And paint. And drink more tea. In coffee shops. In my house. In bars. Wherever really.

Life is full and beautiful and I. Am. Blessed. Beyond. Words.

It’s a beautiful kind of real.

There are many individuals and issues in Japan that are on my heart, especially as I take the time to revisit a year’s worth of research and re-live and remember those experiences in more detail.

Today one particular conversation is in my mind.

Last summer I spent a couple of weeks in Tokyo on my pretty-epic-Honshu-research-trip. I visited a number of projects, but the one that was most comparable to my own in the UK worked with young people leaving large children’s homes in the Tokyo-area. Japan’s care system has recently hit the headlines again because the bulk of children here live in large-scale institutions rather than smaller home-style-accomodation or foster placements. It’s a different landscape here completely. The culture, the policies and the funding model are just so different. However, although there are many challenges unique to Japan, after 10 years of working with care leavers in the UK, I see more common barriers for young people leaving the care system than I do differences. Issues such as non-school attendance, higher drug and alcohol usage, higher rates of unemployment, unstable housing, crime… The list goes on. These are common themes. In Japan. In the UK.

And this project worked with young people aged 15 – 24, aiming to support them with the transition into healthy adulthood. I spent a day with a key projects worker and interviewed her at length about the work of the NPO.

And one particular description still marks me. Because I could see it so clearly.

She said,

‘Young people leaving care here make up a rough pyramid shape. Those at the top of the pyramid are fewest. They tend to have healthy transitions, and go onto university and work despite having been in the care system. They don’t need much support, but more help to access opportunities. In the middle of the triangle there’s this group of young people who have some barriers to overcome. They need some support, but there are lots of programs we can offer and with a project worker helping them, they can often go on and access housing and employment. It can be a turbulent journey, but most of them get there with some help along the way.

These two groups are the ones that our organisation can work with because of our funding and resources.

At the bottom of the triangle there’s the biggest group of young people leaving care here. These are the young people who disengage and don’t want to come into support services. They need follow up in their communities. They need to be found. They need to be followed up. But these are the young people who right now, are not making positive transitions. They are stuck in cycles. And they are very, very vulnerable’

I asked her who was working with this bottom group.

She said right now, no one.

There just aren’t enough resources.

I remember sitting in a meeting the following week with a member of Japan’s Network Against Human Trafficking and hearing more statistics about the exploitation of the vulnerable. Connecting the dots as I realised the very real situation that a number of those in the ‘bottom of the triangle’ ended up caught in because there wasn’t anyone to go and help them become found.

So people often ask me what I want to do long-term in Japan. After the MTh dissertation is complete and into next year and those that follow.

And I guess it’s to go and find those in the bottom of the triangle.

I mean there’s more to it, but simply put, that’s the nutshell.

To find them.

One at a time.

Because it’s no good just knowing stuff and stuff and stuff and not ever doing anything.

This morning I left the house just after 6am to go and pray at my church. And because that’s a ridiculously-early-kind-of-anti-social-hour, I took a thermos of tea with me so that I could be caffeinated throughout the prayer-time (yes, caffeine and the Holy Spirit are honestly a great combination). Good idea, right? Until I tried to open my thermos. And realised that when I had put the lid on super-tight to stop risking any in-bag leakages… I had actually put it on so super-tight that I couldn’t actually open it to drink my tea.

Seriously.

The problems in my life are majorly profound… πŸ˜‰

But as I was walking home, thinking about my thermos full of hot tea that I couldn’t access and couldn’t drink, I was struck with how I really don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to have all this knowledge, and write a solid dissertation, and carry all these ideas and all this stuff inside of me, but be sealed so tight that I don’t actually do anything.

You know what I mean?

I love life.

I am so moved and blessed by Jesus in so many ways.

But there’s always a temptation to be comfortable. To seal up all the warmth and goodness that we’ve been given inside of us where it’s safe and risk free.

I don’t want to just live a normal life in Japan, in the same way that I don’t just want to live a normal life anywhere. Because I don’t think Jesus calls us to live a normal, comfortable life. He calls us to a journey of sacrifice and laying down and being poured out. He calls us to live with hearts wide open and eyes wide open and hands wide open.

He calls us to more than normal.

He calls us to be faithful.

And so, this morning I was challenged by my tea cup.

Which is a great way to be propelled into the day.

Oh, and yesterday I had two great deliveries: My new keyboard (paid for my Softbank as an apology for my 6 week internet wait!), and a new piece of jewellery by Miriam Designs (an ethical design company you employ women recovering from drug addiction… I love them!) And I’ve been painting again…

Enjoy some more pictures… πŸ™‚

(And also, thank you for your prayers! Please keep me in them! Especially as I write this dissertation, apply for a long term visa, have a girls night tomorrow, throw a party for my Japanese-Mum on Saturday, and generally keep doing life with people here :))

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