A reflection from Emily…

In these days following our return, we will be sharing initial reflections from each participant, written as our team traveled home. Thank you to each one who supported our group financially, in prayer, or in any other form along the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to ask questions about this team and our time in Japan, or to inquire about future opportunities. – John

Last semester, I took an English composition class. Towards the beginning of the class, I was assigned an essay with the writing prompt, ‘what trait do you want to cultivate this semester?’. I chose integrity – and I have been thinking about cultivating integrity ever since that class. One of the dictionary definitions of integrity is “the quality of being honest; sincere”. I believe that integrity is very important to our faith: to keep our faith growing, we must be honest with ourselves and with God; in order to spread our faith, we must be honest with others. We must be sincere and able to admit that we don’t know everything – and able to move forward with that understanding.

I was continuing to think about all of these thing while I was in Japan, and I observed integrity in many forms at Menno Village. I saw it in the sincerity of communication – the willingness and eagerness in our conversations, despite the language barrier and cultural differences. I saw it in the relationships between our hosts – they all treated each other with respect and extreme kindness and patience.  I saw it in the purity of their farming: in the effort that all of our hosts put toward keeping everything as local and organic as possible. It was obvious, even after just the first day that we stayed there, that all of our hosts were extremely passionate about their work, and they seemed to have relationships with their customers that went beyond just selling their produce.

Another definition of integrity is “the state of being whole and undivided”. I saw this in Menno Village, especially in the community and willingness of the work being done. All of our hosts were so enthusiastic – even with the small things like potatoes. I especially saw this with Aki and her organic rice fields. I saw how passionate she was about keeping the fields weeded, and the wonderful attitude she had about it – even though weeding rice fields is a very long and difficult task. In prioritizing staying local and organic, I see Menno Village living out the ‘whole and undivided’ definition of integrity. They seek to keep their crops growing as nature intended them to; and they are very purposeful about knowing who their customers are and where they come from. Menno Village creates community by being sure to stay connected with their customers and neighbors, and they keep the land whole by staying conscious about their effect on the environment. I want to thank Ray and Aki and the rest of Menno Village for giving me the opportunity to stay with them and learn a bit about Japan and the work that they do there.

– Emily

*my apologies to Emily for not hitting “publish” on this post over the weekend!

A reflection from James

In these days following our return, we will be sharing initial reflections from each participant, written as our team traveled home. Thank you to each one who supported our group financially, in prayer, or in any other form along the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to ask questions about this team and our time in Japan, or to inquire about future opportunities. – John

In our nightly meetings during our time at Menno Village we would always go around to each Youth Venture member and share a “Pow” and a “Wow” (aka: high and low) as well as where we saw God on that particular day. Despite the simplicity of each question, each of us was able to use these to reflect deeply on the day. With the trip all but two plane rides from being over I can now begin to look back on these daily reflections and wonder how my views might have changed over my time in Japan.

The question that I wrestled with the most would always be wondering where I saw God. Was it fair of me to pin point one particular instance at the risk of excluding others? What if I did not have a clear answer? What did that say about me? Maybe on those days I was not as present as I should have been. If it came down to it I would settle for a safe or ambiguous answer that would pass for a “God Moment.” But then what is a “God Moment,” and what is everything else? Is such a separation possible?

As the days passed I became more familiar with the question and more present or aware, looking for “God Moments.” Over the relatively short trip, it is clear to me that my image of God or how I see God has changed. Prior to the trip I had set expectations for myself and God and when these were not fulfilled I would become frustrated. I did not ask myself how I saw God but rather confined the Spirit to act in certain facets of my life.

As I wrestled with the ambiguity of the question each day I broaden and began to get rid of my expectations of “God Moments.” They were not all “Divine Intervention,” profound insights, revolutionary chains of thoughts. Sometimes these God Moments were rather negative, appearing in the day’s low point. I had previously been trying to shape my image of God.

As the trip closes I hope to continue to lose expectations of God and rather remain present and open-minded, seeing God in any portion of the day. As I was able to let go of my control and expectations of myself, they day, or God, I became more surprised and excited about my waking hours. The familiar became more unfamiliar and nuanced. The mundane contained lessons on life.

On returning home I will regain the ability to maintain schedules, control, and expectations but I hope to resist this and live outside these confinements.

– James



A reflection from Lauren

In these days following our return, we will be sharing initial reflections from each participant, written as our team traveled home. Thank you to each one who supported our group financially, in prayer, or in any other form along the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to ask questions about this team and our time in Japan, or to inquire about future opportunities. – John

As I reflect on this journey I think to myself first what is home? I believe home is a place where people come together to find a sense of community and love. I definitely think I have multiple homes and Menno Village has definitely become one of them.

During my two weeks which felt like 15 minutes, I found community everywhere I looked. An example of that was helping make dinner where we would all pitch in doing small things to make a bigger thing happen. There was purpose to everything we were doing there even when we couldn’t quite see the bigger picture at times and we had to remind ourselves what Brother Laurence would have done in that same situation making it easier to accomplish.

Even looking back at things I may not have liked the most, whilst doing I can see it as a puzzle and we were putting pieces together to make this beautiful picture that Ray, Aki and there family had imagined happen and that is so amazing.

It’s great to think that you we were a part of something that was bigger than ourselves and truly affected other people’s life’s making this missionary work a true mission that I am so thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of.

– Lauren


A Reflection from Selah

Over the next few days we will be sharing initial reflections from each participant, written as our team traveled home. Thank you to each one who supported our group financially, in prayer, or in any other form along the way. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to ask questions about this team and our time in Japan, or to inquire about future opportunities. – John

As my trip to Japan is closing, I want to enter into my regular life with three intentions: Number one, I want to be mindful and participate in sustainability and locality in my community. Number two, keep on thinking and processing the questions that this trip has provoked. And lastly, remember the love and kindness shown to me. The work and dedication and passion.

I want to find that one thing that I am passionate about and pursue it. Menno Village and the people who run it renewed my hope that you can do what you are passionate about.

Ray and Aki will always hold a place in my heart. When we left, Aki told us that we had become her family, that “no pinprick in her heart was relieved” that we were leaving. You do not find that kind of love everywhere, and I am so appreciative that I found it so young, in such a memorable place.

Note: [These are] only initial thoughts on the trip, there will be lots to come…

– Selah

The Longest Day

And so begins the journey home. We left Menno Village a little after 9am following a final morning meeting and prayer time. It was quite a moving time together, a bit of reflection, a challenge to continue telling the story and to engage in the world with curiosity.

After we said our goodbyes and took a final group photo, the van was loaded and we took off for the airport. Our first flight to Osaka pushed back a little after 12 noon on Wednesday July 11 – we’re currently sitting at our gate, about to board our 5:25pm flight which will arrive in LA a bit after 12 noon on, you guessed it, Wednesday July 11. Funny how flying over the date line works…

We are grateful to be heading back to our home communities to start finding ways to live some of our experiences here. And, we are sad to be leaving. Words can’t express our gratitude, this was sacred time together. Thanks to everyone we encountered.

– John

Group Photo

Our Last Day at Menno Village

Today was our final day at Menno Village before returning home. We met together in the morning before breaking out into our various tasks. Some of us collected eggs, fed, and watered the chickens, others continued sorting and packing potatoes. Unfortunately, the rain continued, preventing additional outdoor projects.

We enjoyed delicious Ramen for lunch, made our last trip to the grocery store for some “souvenirs” to bring back…(mostly candy), and made a final ice cream run. The matcha and strawberry ice cream flavors will definitely be missed. The afternoon provided some space for reflection and packing. We had a wonderful supper of homemade “gyoza” followed by all of us hanging out and discussing our time together.

Needless to say, with the time spent in reflection, packing, cleaning and lingering dinner conversations, we’re all properly exhausted. This will be all for tonight, especially with the long July 11th we’ll all be experiencing tomorrow. In the next few days look for posts of our reflections from our time here at Menno Village. Tomorrow morning we will head to the airport after the community meeting.

It’s difficult to put this experience into words. We will continue to process all that we’ve learned and the ways we’ve grown as we head back home. One thing I can say is that Menno Village, Ray, Aki, Kazu, Mai, Toshi, and Rio…they feel like family. We will miss them and this place.

– Denay

The Last Monday…

Another good day at Menno Village has come to an end, and as has become our rhythm, a post must be shared. Our nights continue to get a bit later – and as we prepare to head back across the dateline, we’re noticing a bit more of a shared desire for individual rest and reflection time. So, it’ll be a short one, but reflections are to come – and we (John and Denay) are grateful for a group that is engaging so deeply here.

Our day started off with a very engaging group check-in and conversation about the weekend’s events and the Sermon from Sunday. Then, slipping back into the routine this morning, we gathered with the entire Menno Village community for our morning meeting. Emily shared this morning and reflected on the theme of “integrity” and how her perception of it has been affected during our time here.

Work assignments today were grain dryer assembly for James and John, and taking care of chickens and weeding rice fields for Emily, Lauren, Selah and Denay. The grain bins were a part of a longer project James and John had been a part of since their first day pouring concrete.

The rice field working was something the group had been keenly anticipating – and the experience definitely shaped their understanding of the rice harvest! Growing organic rice means no pesticides OR herbicides… and no herbicides means, as the women found out, a lot of hard labor. We continue to find new appreciation for our food!

The evening, as mentioned before, was a bit more low-key tonight with a few feeling so inclined as to opt out of the onsen with the rest of the crew. It’s been interesting to me, seeing how each individual has started to process our time here – and I look forward to the continued conversations.

One more full day tomorrow (Tuesday) and then Wednesday mornings we head back to the airport to begin The Longest Day on our journey home.

Thanks all for continuing to keep us in thought and prayer – and for those wondering, while it’s been very very wet and rainy here, we are pretty far away from the major flooding and mudslides happening in other parts of the country.

Hope your Monday treats you well!


A Day of Rest

After a full week of work, two wonderful nights of community time, and a big day on Saturday – our bodies and minds are full. We welcomed the sabbath with open arms. Sundays at Menno Village mean two things, 1) an extra hour for sleep or free time, and 2) pancakes.

One of the benefits of being here is that much of what we eat comes from the farm, and that means that not only do Sunday mornings bring pancakes, but they’re made from scratch with freshly milled buckwheat. Ray is famous for these, and nobody complains. We have absolutely loved all of the wonderful food we’ve encountered this trip, but there’s just something about Sunday morning pancakes that brings a smile to everyone’s face.

In addition to celebrating the sabbath – we also woke to see blue skies! With the clear weather we left the house a bit early on our way to Sapporo for church in order to take in the view from the ski hill. What a wonderful way to start the day.

After enjoying the service and community at church last week, our group was anticipating a return to the little house church that meets in a third floor apartment. Last week, we outnumbered the regular attenders 6 to 4, but this week there were a few new and different faces – which was fun! We are able to sing familiar hymns – or at least hum along while they’re sung in Japanese – and follow along with the scripture readings with our own English translations. And, we are also very grateful for Ray and Aki’s willingness to translate for us. I won’t say too much about the sermon here in hopes that it will come out in some upcoming reflections from students. 🙂

After a light carry-in lunch with the church community and our goodbyes, the group was off to downtown Sapporo for some downtime and souvenir shopping for any that wanted it.

The big finale for the day: Sushi! Yes, for all those who asked each one of us as we were preparing for this trip: Of course we’re going to get sushi and it’s going to be fresh and fabulous. Ray, Aki, Toshi, Kazu and Mai all took us to their favorite sushi restaurant in a nearby town. It was incredible. Fresh is, of course, always better. The easiest way to describe the sushi is to say we are finding out that simpler preparation is better. No California rolls here!

Today ended a bit differently, some stoped to get ice cream and a few of us joined Kazu and Mai for an evening trip to the Onsen before bed. Going our separate ways meant some personal reflection and downtime. I’m looking forward to our check-in tomorrow morning before the community meeting, especially as it is begging to dawn on us that we only have two more full days here.

Looking forward to jumping back into a workday tomorrow!

– John


We woke up bright and early this morning to leave for Otaru. Since it was Saturday we took off work on the farm to experience a day of culture. Otaru is a port city on the South coast – relatively near Sapporo. It was a beautiful ride, with a great view of the sea. We needed to take three trains to get there, and it was interesting to experience the etiquette involved in navigating the trains. We spent the the whole afternoon in the city, and the first thing we did was hike up a slope called ‘Foreigners Hill’, where there was a wonderful view of the entire city. On top of the hill there was a shrine, and it was a great moment for people to self reflect. Selah requested me to say we did some awesome boomerlicious Boomerangs.

After this we went to lunch, at O-Nigeri – seafood restaurant. Many people experimented with raw fish and discovered that they liked it. Between our group, we averaged about 15 ice cream cones over the course of our visit. The group as a whole was disappointed by the overall quality of the shops on the streets that we visited, but welcomed the time to bond with each other.

After our time in Otaru, we retuned to the station to get a train back to Sapporo. We rode the subway to the Japanese Mennonite center, where we had made plans to meet with the youth group that meets monthly. We prepared and shared dinner, and then we discussed a Bible passage about the crucifixion of Jesus. This was one of the stand out moments for our group during this day. It was wonderful to take the time to patiently listen and account for the translation process.

Overall, we had a busy, yet relatively restful day experiencing varied culture and community; among our group and the other people we came across during the day.

– Selah and Emily

A wonderful Friday – and Happy Birthday James!

This morning started like every other – except that we had sunshine! Really though, it was wonderful to see the sun after 6 straight days of clouds. For some in the group, this meant an extra spring in the step for morning walks/runs – for others, the warmth of the sun through the windows.

Selah shared this morning, continuing the positive trend by sharing her reflections on the relationship between Harry Potter and the Bible – interesting conversation to give us things to think on and talk about throughout the day…

…a day which was concerned with one primary task: take advantage of the sunshine and start moving and cleaning pieces of the currently disassembled grain dryers back into the shed. They had been removed while the floor was replaced, and need to be fully reassembled by the end of the month in time for harvest.

The highlight of the evening though was, without a doubt, the bar-b-que in the newly-floored machine shed. In addition to our number, Ray and Aki had invited the Cross family, and Denay and I have friends traveling through the area who joined us for the night. It was an absolute treat to experience a bar-b-que in a new culture with new norms – AND to, as always try new foods 🙂

The grills were set in the middle of the group and our seats were fashioned around them. Unlike bar-b-ques back home where the cook is often separated from the group, here they sit with us and prepare food on an “as it’s ready” basis. We all loved it, AND this was unanimously named as a way in which each of us experienced God today.

As the evening came to a close, we had birthday cake for James, roasted marshmallows, and had some fireworks! We enjoyed this time together so much – and are grateful to Ray and Aki for hosting it!

In place of the standard wrap-up note here at the end, talking about our group meeting before bed and such – I want to express for myself how impressed I am with this group. Each one has taken on the relationships around them in a unique way, engaged in new conversations and ideas, and wrestled with how to apply them in our lives back home.

Even in the menial work Denay talked about in yesterday’s post, the work Bother Lawrence was talking about. These functions serve a purpose, and help us to ask, how else can work to change this situation for the better. I’ve been very proud of the level of depth in conversation the students have engaged in – and am glad that it’s not over yet!

Tomorrow we will travel with Kazu and Mai to Otaru, a port city, via a coastal train. It will be a wonderful day of seeing another important place on Hokkaido, and then in the evening will be with the area’s Mennonite youth gathering. We are looking forward to a full, and yet hopefully restful day!

– John