22 April 2010

Five years ago

I wrote this to a 'prayer list' almost  five years ago:
Friends:

It occurs to me that I haven't written this list in quite some time, not since the beginning of August, I think. I'm sorry I've been so lax in getting to you all. I also to me that this will be the one year anniversary of this letter and the two year anniversary of me being in Japan come the 19th. Conor Obrest sings, "How time can move both fast and slow amazes me," and I have to say that I agree with him whole-heartedly. Thanks for reading these last two years and thanks for your prayers.

On September 1st, I began my new job at Meikun High School, a private school of about 1,200 students in the neighborhood of Kameda in Niigata City. Quite simply, the move was wonderful for me in a lot of ways. First, the stress of working at Meikun is significantly less than my previous job. Now, instead of 6,000 students, I have less than 1,000. Instead of being responsible to create execute a curriculum without the support of teachers, I am a part of an English department which runs very precisely. Instead of singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” five times a day, I give lectures on grammar principles, American culture, and pronouns. So I am very happy with the move and happy to be making new friends at the school.

The new job also brought with it the need for me to teach several private classes. I now have 35 students that I teach in all sorts of capacities from one-on-one to large children's classes. These have been largely very good, except for several students who have been known to cancel and thus deprive me of getting paid on any given week week. When everyone is showing up, it’s a really good side gig, but it can be difficult keeping everything in mind and remembering where I have to be on any given afternoon.

On a more sober note, I have been seriously considering my role in leading the cell group Bible study and whether or not it may be time for me to either take a break from leadership or step down entirely. It dawned on me as I was "leading worship" last week that I have been only going through the motions of Christianity for the last year and a half and, when it comes down to the question of what I really believe, I don't think I have a good answer. For a while, I thought this is what the group needed (and maybe it is what it needs), but this week I realized that I can't keep going through the motions: I don't think I can sing another benign praise music lyric or ask the group to apply something from the text when I am disconnected from and don't really know if I believe it can be applied anyway. It's a terrible thing to ask others to go where you are not willing to go yourself.

I began my distance studies through the University of Birmingham (UK) this last week in applied linguistics and have been just amazed at how good and helpful it has been even this early on. The readings have really engaged me and got me writing again which is really fabulous. Linguistics has so many possibilities for literature, translation and translation theory, spirituality, English Language Teaching… The list goes on and on.

Lastly, on a very joyful note, I have been keeping a rather big secret for a couple of months now, but as it seems to not be going away, I thought I would share: I've been dating a woman from my church since the end of September. Her name is Yoko--she is a graduate student studying occupational therapy in Niigata. I could go on and on about how fabulous she is and how incredibly blessed I feel when I am with her, but I'll save you all that for now. As she speaks rather limited English, I feel like I have been in cross-cultural relationship boot camp, but it seems we are finding our way slowing and looking expectantly towards the future to see what path may unfurl for us.

This letter feels disjointed as I re-read it, with the highs and lows not connecting. But as things are that way now, I suppose it is an accurate representation of what has been happening and, thus, successful for the purposes of me writing to you. I hope it is readable…

Certainly, my love for you all has not diminished in the absence of this letter for the last two months. You are on my mind and my heart and I look forward daily to seeing you again.

Stephen

October 8, 2005

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