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!

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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

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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

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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

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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!

John