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Re-examining (and challenging) myself.

When I was a Freshman and Sophomore, I was fairly prideful about the fact that I had a sense of direction in life. The university I was aiming for was decided, as well as my major there. However, in light of more recent events, I’m finding the need to re-evaluate the plans I have for my future not because they’re bad plans, but because there are so many uncertainties it is confusing me.

A year ago, I wanted to go to LeTourneau University, a small Christian university specializing in computer science and engineering (especially aviation), topics that I find great interest in. There, I was going to take their “Aircraft Systems Computer Science Concentration” course. Ever since going on GT last summer, though, my desire for Christian ministry has been realized even more. I am really lost at what I want to do, in addition to satisfying my parent’s desires for myself. No matter how much I want to respect my father’s wishes, it seems like he wants me to live a linear, impactless life of graduating high school, going straight to get a Bachelor’s, then getting some sort of job where I’d wither and die after working for 50 years. I know it’s a generational thing where his generation wants to provide a future for their children, while my generation regards rebellion and independence as virtues.

In examining my current situation, I find that I’ve been spending more time on consumption rather than production. I’m consuming TV episodes like a flame consuming kerosene-soaked cloth. I’m endlessly reblogging on Tumblr. I enjoy doing things like cooking, writing, and knitting, more than consuming, yet I’m spending more time consuming than producing because it’s so much easier that way. Ironically needed, my school’s theme this year is “Do Hard Things,” taken from the identically titled book. I’ve learned that by challenging myself, I’ve increased my writing ability by blogging and discovered new, yet enjoyable, skills like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator editing and knitting.

In absent-mindedly consuming (reading is active-minded) I quickly lose time and essentially tie my own noose because of procrastination. From what I learned over the summer, I believed that this year would be a year of restoration/healing. I’ve seen relationships that have been broken between myself and others being rebuilt, and there is still some way to go. But this next semester, I want to start challenging myself in more ways than I have before, including touching the guitar that’s sitting in the corner of my room, playing more than an Em chord.

This next semester, but also starting now, is going to be full of new challenges. I’ll be taking a Digital Photography and Graphic Design class that’ll teach me better photography and framing techniques and polishing the Illustrator, Photoshop skills that I’ve started working on. I’ll commit myself to reading at least three chapters of my Bible per week, as I’ve severely lacked devotional time.

Challenges, challenges…

There is something seriously flawed with our educational model.

In Japan where I live, there are two kinds of students: “maths-sciences” types and “language-history [liberal arts]” types. When asked about what I intend to study, these two phrases commonly fly around.

The problem is, as each individual is unique, it’s hard to fit into a set model of study. While I consider myself to be more maths-sciences leaning, I definitely have a gift for language from God. And I have a terrible time with math, although the sciences I’m taking and intending to take rely heavily on math, like Chemistry and Physics.

Moreover, the class I struggle in most is history or social studies. I just can’t memorize facts. I apply concepts rather than spit out what I memorize onto paper. I guess it also has to do with my more programmer-like nature.

All in all, since each person is unique, so is their learning style, and I”m not talking about interpersonal vs. intrapersonal here.

For me, I can successfully have a passion to learn subjects that I’m not too fond of when science is integrated. For example, take this video:

It integrates the study of numbers with neurology and/or psychology. It’s fascinating. I’d love to be able to rapidly see the connections of numbers, including their factors, by just reading a number. Alas, it comes with practice, which I do not do enough of.

What about history, then? I haven’t found a very viable method of integrating science with history, no matter how interweaved they are. The date of a scientific discovery is often irrelevant, and even more so compared to the order of discoveries. As the saying goes, one “stands on the shoulders of giants.” Dates do not matter as long as the order of said discoveries allow for greater application.

Still, I’m pressing myself to study history. I do not want to become part of

“Those who cannot remember the past [who] are condemned to repeat it.”—George Santayana

and it’s not because of all the terrible things that have happened in the past. It’s because it’s a repeating cycle without any progress, much like an Ouroboros:

Endlessly creating and eating its tail, the sad Ouroboros.

If you can come up with a way for me to enjoy learning history and myself integrating other subjects into it, leave me a comment.

If God is good and He is all-powerful, why does evil still exist?

I have believed for a while that by writing, I straighten out my thought process. Recently, I’ve been assigned a project in Bible class that involves the post title. So here goes nothing that is possibly everything.

The question “If God is all-powerful and all-good, why is evil allowed to exist in the world?” has been asked countless times throughout history. The question is typically answered so:

Either

a. God is all-powerful but not all-good, allowing evil to occur. 

or

b. God is all-good but powerless to stop evil. Therefore, He is not all-powerful.

This argument actually seems plausible. Our assurance of God’s all-everything (minus evil 😛 ) is not so assured any more.

Now, there’s an easy counter-argument to the above statements. The account of Noah and his ark show that God cannot tolerate evil—He actually wiped out everything but animals (which are assumed to be sinless) and the “best in His eyes” Noah and his family. After the Flood, God vowed to never destroy the earth in a flood again. That’s when the rainbow was born. Now, that would mean that the nature of water changed to account for the splitting of the visible spectrum, but that’s for another post. What’s important is that God has proven that He can’t stand evil and has the power to wipe it out—although, sadly, it surfaced again soon after the Flood.

Fast forward to Jesus. Jesus came to remove enslavement from sin, yet even the most committed Christians sin. The whole concept of enslavement to sin is still another post, but the point of this is that Jesus didn’t remove man’s sinful nature.

Revelation tells of the coming judgement from God to purge all evil, this time with various things like disease, earthquakes, and fire. Hey, the promise about floods is still kept ;)… am I supposed to be winking?

Alright, so what are we supposed to do in this in-between time? There are humans whose hearts beat for the sole purpose of causing others suffering. It is a natural result of the availability of free choice. Ever since Adam and Eve, free choice has been a factor in every person’s downfall (be it their own choice or another’s). So, if God really wanted to remove all sin, He’d take away man’s ability of free will. Free will, however, also comes with something else: willful worship and love of God. God is completely capable of removing our free will; He’d be left with robots, though, speaking empty words of praise and love with empty, automated acts of service. And unless you’re really messed up in your head, even humans don’t want robot-like love. How much higher would be God’s standards?

The question about the existence of evil and God encompasses so many theological concepts widely and deeply, requiring much more than a simple (is it?) blog post, or even large book, to explain. All I know is that God, who’s been pretty faithful pertaining to His own promises, will eventually purge all evil, but just not yet. It doesn’t help those who are in need and being oppressed by evil, so that’s why Christians are needed in such an in-between period; we are to be God’s agents of prevention of evil and restoration of harmony while spreading His Gospel.

Honestly, the answers seem so simple that I’m lost as to the validity of what I’ve come up with. How easily will a skeptic dismantle my counter-argument, as the whole point of this project is to provide counter-arguments to skeptics?

Music is not one of my talents

I, like many other humans, enjoy music. I just don’t have any skills in reproducing it in any way, shape, or form.

So, the reason why I decided to pick up a guitar last year was simple: the ladies. My school, populated with highly musical and attractive females, presented a perfect chance to test the waters with music! I convinced my parents to buy this nice guitar.

Thus began my evil plan to use music as bait for my very altruistic personality… *coughcough* NOT.

And that quest has been unsuccessful. The evil conspiring thing isn’t me, and it didn’t take off.

Now that I’m a JAM leader and actively participate in my high school youth group, I’ve decided to do something else: rededicate my guitar and fingers to God.

It’s interesting how being a part of these groups has forced me, in some ways, to take on roles I’ve never thought of doing before.

Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be able to play a majority of JAM worship songs 🙂

And why did I write about this? Because if I make something public, I try to make a commitment to it.

 

 

GT 2012 overview/reflections

My Gospel Team experience, although different from many others, was great!

I know that I’ve grown both spiritually and intellectually. However, what’s most important: I have a sense of love and understanding for the lost people of Japan.

Overview

Day 1-3

GT training camp at hi-b.a.’s campgrounds focused mainly on how to communicate with Japanese high-schoolers and practicing games and songs. However, it wasn’t structured as an “educational camp;” rather, it was centered around having fun and sometimes competition between groups. On day 3, we travelled to Tohoku.

Day 4 & 5

We worked with Samaritan’s Purse to remove debris from the home of the Takahashis to be later rebuilt by a professional organization.

Day 6-11

During this period, we reached out to high-schoolers and pre-school/kindergarteners through music and food, then reaching out to others through service like cutting the grass that grew on the foundation of a home swept away by the tsunami and making other Christian facilities available for more volunteers to reach out.

Day 12 & 13

Travel days. We headed back south to Shibuya to make it in time for the GT Final.

Passing out tracts for the GT Final was a little depressing. I couldn’t get any students to take tracts (and it was my first time tracting in Tokyo, where people are so used to advertisements that you get the cold shoulder) but had a good discussion time with those interested in following Christ after the rally, then reporting to all interested parties how our team did in Tohoku. We later travelled home.

Conclusion

As part of the only GT team that went to Tohoku, our mission was fundamentally different from other GT teams; minister through service to mainly non-high-schoolers in the area. I believe it was the best team I could have been in because I was so numb to the tragic effects of the tsunami and hearing stories of lack of hope and loss in person impacted me hard. God gave me a love for the Japanese people that I still can’t explain 3 months later. GT has given me an even stronger feeling for wanting to live my life in ministry.

Long time, no see.

Wow, I haven’t written in a long time, considering that I believe that writing is a way for me to relax and let my feelings out.

Recently, my life has been marked with procrastination, both academically and personally. I have to redesign the main landing page. I have to unify the appearance of the WordPress blog and my “normal” website, write a report to the CAJ PTA about my GT experience… the list seems to go on forever.

I guess I have to examine the reasons for my procrastination.

First of all, my life seems to be picking up so much fun and work and it’s easy to get lost in all I do at school. CAJ is such an academically demanding environment, yet offers so many extra-curricular activities that I am sometimes marveled at students’ ability to juggle so many things.

Second, just like any other human, I love entertainment. I’m being unproductive if Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, or reddit are open in my browser. And I basically put off homework until the night it’s due because I could just be entertained instead of working ahead on any assignments.

Here’s the killer: classes aren’t integrated. At all. This totally kills my desire to do any homework. I love seeing connections between various topics/subjects. Bible, PreCalculus, English, US History are all pretty much connection-less. This would have been availed by taking Humanities (done by my favorite teacher!) but I can’t because PreCalculus pushes it  off of my possible class list.

No matter how much I manage my time, if I never get the desire to do my assignments, I’d lose purpose in managing my time. Even if I forced myself to make unrelated connections it would be purposeless because I hate forcing things.

I guess that’s all for now. Great, isn’t it? I broke my writing hiatus by complaining. Marvelous.

GT day 9—hoikuen visit/grass-cutting

Normal morning, but ran out of bread and yogurt.

I had QT with Paul, talked about the importance of reading the Bible cover-to-cover.

We visited a preschool! Ohmygosh those kids are so adorable!

We sang/danced “praise” and “head boulders knees and toes” with them. After that, we played duck duck goose and “the flower game”

To finish off, we performed “God bless you” and gave the kids and teacher crosses made by people in Hawaii.

The kids responded with their own program–singing 3 songs and giving us sunflower origami necklaces! So. Cute.

We got lunch at the local—and only—supermarket. We ate it at a park. There were zip-lines and they were fun!

We met up with Mike who had already begun cutting weeds at the Okaichis’ property—their house was right by the ocean and was wiped out.

With 2 metal-blade weed-whackers and 11 people working, the general work was done in 1 hour. We continued pulling weeds at their roots and taking together the weeds for a couple more hours.

3 of the girls went to temporary housing while we stayed behind and worked more. They were tracting for Thursday’s (day 11) craft activities at temporary housing. According to Misha, some were reluctant to use the word “living” in temporary housing—maybe it sounds too permanent.

Our daly bath was free today. The sento we went to was run by an NPO. It had an outdoor bath, which yesterday’s bath sento didn’t have. I say it’s one of the best sentos we went to because it was free and had an outdoor bath. The only thing that could make not better is a cold water bath We also ate dinner there. The food was cheap. We also it to watch TV and get updates about typhoon #4. Tomorrow’s gonna be bad. The ladies selling the food wanted us to come back. 8 people’s worth of food plus 4 things of soft cream—they sure loved our business.

Debriefed in the car and got donuts on the way home because we went way under on the budget.

Worship at the end of the day, then we watched a movie.

Night-night.

GT day 8—day off/practice activities for preschool

Morning/early afternoon

We woke up to a strong earthquake at 5:30–no danger of a tsunami. The shaking in my dazed state was actually quite nice.
I went back to sleep and got up again at 9:45.
I made eggs for myself, all the girls, and Paul. Used 9 eggs in total.
I had QT with the other Chris. We both found some deep things; I mean, what isn’t deep in the Bible?
He read the last part of Philippians and the beginning of Corinthians. I read Matthew 10.
What I got out of my reading was that I need to let the Holy Spirit work in me when I don’t know what to do and hat I need to take psychology next year to learn to manipulate people—it says it right there in Matthew 10:16 XD
We practiced for tomorrow’s preschool (hoikuen) visit with games and songs.

Lunch

At 2 PM we went to eat lunch. Swapped budget with supper again. It had all-you-can-eat rice, curry, and soup, so I guess it was worth it.

Beach

After that we headed for the beach. I was able to use Paul’s DSLR to take a lot of photos—man I love manual focus!
All of us skipped rocks at one point because the beach was made up of flat rocks. Hannah’s first throw went way off and hit me in the head while I was leaning down to get another rock. I’m fine. I actually regret not falling to the ground and making her more concerned—she’s apologizing so much even now, when I’m about to go to bed.
The water was really clear and beautiful.
Some rails to prevent people from falling into the ocean were missing. Instead, there were bolted-on stakes of wood with rope through them instead. The rails were wiped out by the tsunami.

Sento

We took a bath at an overpriced sento. It had way less baths than we’d had before and if we felt like it we could have actually talked to people of the opposite sex across walls—even though they were twice as tall as any of us. Paul did describe our team as being “GT heaven” and I’ve heard stories where there are sentos where you could literally pull yourself over he dousing wall—not too comforting of a thought, especially for girls. Anyway, all of us were out early—even the girls, who are usually late by 10 minutes at any sento—I guess because of the limited selections of baths and that we couldn’t go outside even though it was beautiful.

Supper

Supper was kombini food. Selection at kombinis aren’t too limited and the flavor isn’t bad either.
Katie strummed on the guitar that we brought and we just listened. It was so relaxing and a good way to finish off the day.

Debriefing/briefing

Debrief of today (did we even need one?) and briefing for tomorrow was good. Katie played guitar (until now it was Paul) for our time of worship. We partnered up for prayer and prayed various things.

Prayer

  1. Strength for tomorrow, where we’ll be working with little kids and cutting grass on two lots of land
  2. For us to feel the Spirit’s presence so that we’ll always be reminded that we’re doing what we do for God

GT day 7—”Church day”/another barbecue

Car ride and arrival to Ippo-Ippo

Our car ride on the way to Ippo-Ippo was relatively quiet.

One girl, Kasumi, came at about 10:30 to come and help set up—we had to ask her to come  back around 1.

We immediately set up the tent, then went inside to begin our “church service.”

“Church”

We hosted a fellowship for the missionaries in Yamada—worship, Bible study, and prayer.

Paul talking about Hebrews 12:1-2 at Ippo-Ippo Yamada
Paul talking about Hebrews 12:1-2 at Ippo-Ippo Yamada

Mike McGinty said that the barbecue later in the day was “a faith venture.”

Mike McGinty
Mike McGinty briefing us about today’s work

Another barbecue

We had a barbecue only two days after a previous one. Of course, food for ministry I’ll accept any time!

2 male students, 2 female students, 2 parents and their 4-year-old daughter Ayana, and Kasumi came to the barbecue/rally.

Us eating at a barbecue... what else?
2 male students and Kasumi.

Ayana instantly took a liking to Misha and the other Chris!

Misha and Ayana
Ayana’s a little shy with the camera!

We also did a skit using two tennis rackets and read from Psalm 139:13-14 about it—only God knows our true purpose because we’re made by Him. He’ll show us the way to be most efficient, the way we were made by Him to be.

Scratching your back doesn’t work so well with a tennis racket!

The skit got people curious about Christianity and asked if it was a religion—at least in my individual talks, I stated that no, Christianity isn’t a religion, but rather a relationship. That God made you and wants to have an active relationship with you.

A few manga Bible story series were lent out, others vowed to come back, and Ayana cried as she walked home.

The Ippo-Ippo in Yamada, where our work is this week.

Chillax by the ocean

I was quite exhausted by the entire interchange with people at the barbecue—even though I’m slightly more extroverted than introverted, I was also working to translate a lot of communication.

Yes, that says “LOVE!” Paul, at the far right, is an exclamation mark.

Being by the ocean was refreshing—I felt like there were many amazing things. The ocean was beautiful, crazy that there were these huge man-made objects by and on the ocean, and how the tsunami wiped out things that theoretically should have been safe. Not so in practice.

I took a lot of photos, one way for me to relax, and just lay on my back on top of a concrete wall, staring at the sky. I talked to my parents like that and wished my dad a happy Father’s Day.

Relax!
My place of relaxation and meditation…

Prayer

  1. Growth of the seeds planted today
  2. Rest even though our “relax” day with nothing scheduled is tomorrow
  3. Lack of conflict because when we’re tired we tend to lash out more at each other
  4. Continued love for the people of Tohoku

GT day 6—travel to Iwate/tracting in Yamada

Our last day with the Barkmans, we left around 7:45 AM to head to Iwate’s OMF bases.
We played Telephone Pictionary and 20 Questions in the car and stopped at a temporary restaurant in Kamaishi and ate pork cutlet or spaghetti—other items were too expensive. In fact, the meals were so expensive that we had to swap our lunch budget with our dinner budget. Now, we have 650 yen for dinner. If it’s at a kombini, it should be enough.
The nature on the car ride was beautiful. I have lots of pictures—I’ll update this with photos once I get a chance.
We got to Yamada-machi’s Ippo-Ippo (meaning step-by-step), a place to hang out for the people of the town, run by OMF, at 1:30 PM.
We had about 5 and a half hours in the car.
After a brief orientation, we took a look around the town while tracting to students that could come to our barbecue tomorrow.
Again, many photos were taken.
The devastation in the town was amazing. Everything was wiped out. The only things that have changed since the tsunami are the clearing of the rubble.
Yamada-machi is in the no-rebuild zone mandated by the Japanese government, so no non-temporary buildings are going to be built. It’s funny that so many things are without the title “temporary,” yet nothing material is permanent.
We had dinner at a place called Marumatsu—it was cheap and good. We actually ended up within the budget because the food was so cheap. Averaged out, we didn’t spend more than 650 yen per person.
I went kinda crazy after the food and was doing sit-ups, push-ups, and dead-lifts on Daniel and Chris. Oh, and crazy dancing, singing, and just being weird/myself.
We practiced songs for tomorrow’s church service, which we’ll have before the barbecue with the neighborhood’s youth.
Lights out is at 11—it’s already past that. Katie is going crazy with laughter relating to the lack of privacy in this place. A girl didn’t close the curtain to the girls’ area and Katie somehow found that funny. No, none of us guys saw.
Now all of the girl are laughing. It’s good that they’re enjoying themselves. This team has a phenomenal amount of laughter—it’s awesome!!!
Prayer:

  1. Kids to come to the barbecue tomorrow.
  2. Rest. The hard physical work is over—now we had hard mental and the spiritual work is about to get harder.
  3. The work of the McGintys, the OMF missionaries who have put Ippo-Ippo together and are currently managing a majority of the operation.
  4. Continued wisdom in doing what we do. We’re so-called “experiments” at Ippo-Ippo. It’s been only a week since it opened. If we fail, we severely impact the McGintys’ ministry negatively. If we succeed, it’ll prosper their ministry. So, I guess we also need
  5. Guidance from the Holy Spirit in general, but especially in interpersonal relations.