Last Saturday was lunch with M-san, the first person I met in Japan. Msan, longtime friend of our team leader, was our guide when the BJU mission team arrived back in 2012. She safely navigated 14 jet-lagged team members through the spaghetti-like train system from Narita to Narashino. She showed us the local sites and taught us new phrases. Laughed at our jokes and helped us with anything we needed. We only spent one week out of six under M-san’s care, but she left a great impression. Reminiscing with her that day made the four years since our parting seem like very little time, indeed!
My own memory is faulty and full of holes, M-san’s is flawless I think. Thankfully, the typical way of Japanese speaker’s English is to provide a recap before adding a question or giving comment. “Four years ago you painted a picture for us, do you paint pictures like that now?” “Four years ago you mentioned you were once in a car accident. I wondered that was about,” “Four years ago, we said you reminded us of our friend, Ms. C. Do you remember that?” And, surprisingly, I found that I did. So much and so little can change in four years! Many of our team members are now married or have children, or have moved off to interesting places and done interesting things. M-san herself has been fighting cancer for the last few years. Yet she is the same hopeful, joyful person I knew then, though perhaps more mellow. Perhaps she’s more solid in her hope for having trials to prove it against.
We had a pleasant time reminiscing and agreed to meet again in July if at all possible. Strange that you can spend so relatively short a time with a person and yet feel that you know and value them as if you’ve been together so much more. This is not an uncommon sensation when spending time with Japanese believers. There is a hope we hold in common that is deeper than our words. A hope that defies the language and culture barrier.