“Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” – Proverbs 27:9 (NKJV)
I just came back from Japan where I lived for almost a year. Before I left Canada, a good friend challenged me with a question: “Would you be ready to die there? Away from family and friends?” I know Psalm 41 and 55 like the back of my hand (God is faithful–check ’em out!)–so after two long seconds I answered, “Yes”. My intention was to establish myself and make disciples. It was my second time in this country. (I spent the winter of 2016/2017 serving at Northstar in Nagano). But, I only had one contact–a snowboarder/surfer missionary named JP, in Hokkaido.
I studied the language over the summer in Sapporo. For work, I made beds at a hotel in the morning; for fun, I hung with the skaters at Odori park during the weekends. These skateboarders immediately welcomed me in, even though I can hardly skate and could barely remember their names. I would dig into their instagram to avoid the shame of not being able to reply properly each time they shouted my name with enthusiasm. I would go to the Sapporo International Church–but I had a hard time with my own theology then, and connecting with people took a lot of effort. I was inconsistent with reading my bible. Intentionally praying was rare other than lamenting over how boring my job was.
Although I was proficient at work and snowboarding was surreal (if we look at the stats, the average yearly snowfall of Copper Mountain is 8 meters, Kiroro is 21), I was not on top of my game spiritually. I even got to take a few laps and a couple drinks with Heiki Sorsa and Eero Ettala which added to my winter stokedness.
What I am realizing now is that I would rather do something I don’t like with friends than doing something I love alone. When I look back, the highlights of my time in Japan were the 4-5 moments I had with JP, moments in which we would pray, share the gospel, encourage one another with stories, laugh, have fun and just be real honest with our struggles. If there is one thing this trip to Japan taught me, it is that I fooled myself thinking I was strong enough in my faith to go alone. I need friends. I willfully put God on the back burner and got sucked up doing things I will later be judged for. My advice is this If your dreams do not involve your most valuable relationships, those dreams are most likely going to turn into nightmares.
To end on a good note, I do not regret going. Mercy triumph over judgement. God is not surprised and it is humbling to remember mistakes can be a part of being out of focus or just learning. Both are human. I am grateful that I still believe Jesus Christ is my savior and there is nothing that can separate me from His Love. Maybe one seed of the few I was able to sow will take root?
Take time to ask God:
1) Which are the most important relationships in your life?
2) What are you passionate about in life, aspirations, dreams?
3) Is there anything you can initiate or join that puts your answers from 1) and 2) together?
By Benjamin Poitras | Montreal, Quebec