I really like our church here in Japan. We’ve attended Life Chapel International for about 18 months now. The first time I came, Chris was deployed and the Scoop and I sought it out on our own. This was a risky endeavor. I’d emailed the pastor’s wife to ask what time the service started and she responded promptly and kindly, but other than that I was going in pretty blind. I sat toward the back and sang along as we sang familiar worship songs—first in English, then in Japanese, or the other way around. Pastor Paul preached in Japanese and his wife or worship leader fluidly translated to English. They (all Japanese) speak excellent English, and afterwards said hello, as did many other members of the very friendly congregation. I felt comfortable and welcome, but most importantly, I felt like I’d really been to church for the first time in Japan! It’s a great size at about 50 members, with enough Americans that I don’t stand out. I love that we sing in Japanese and English, and there’s always a translation and pronunciation guide for whoever’s not singing in their native language. Pastor Paul preaches right out of the Bible; I always learn something, and I don’t have to constantly have my mental crap filter on and engaged like I did at some other Japanese churches.
For example, I attended a crazy service where the (American) preacher said, by way of explanation for some other outlandish point, “Well, all you women have to turn into men before you get to Heaven.” (pause for translation…pause while everyone frowns at each other wondering if that was translated incorrectly). The preacher faltered, “Don’t get mad at me, that’s what the Bible says.” (no it doesn’t) He continued, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about women or children in Heaven, so you have to become a man before you can go.” Aaaaand that’s the last time I went there. I mean seriously, if you’re basing your theology on what the Bible doesn’t say, you will have some cracked out theories.
Anyway, here at Life Chapel the preaching is Bible-based and totally normal. Chris and I asked if we could go door-to-door caroling together for Christmas. The pastor laughed and said they tried that one year but it startled the neighbors and someone called the police. We were, however, called upon to read the English translation of the Christmas story, interspersed with my favorite carols! I love how Pastor Paul started the sermon: “Christ’s birth was about 2000 years ago, during Japan’s Yayoi era (300 BC to AD 300).” Everyone murmured assent. I thought that was cool. As an American, I have no personal reference for other stuff going on around Christ’s birth, obviously, since Christ’s birth is how we measure years! ha ha ha.
Our Christmas service was December 26, so Chris and I stretched the day into a second Christmas, enjoying a nice multi-course meal with sparkling French cider and, of course, Japanese Christmas Cake from our favorite bakery! Christmas Day proper was spent lazing around the Christmas tree opening presents, playing wii and skyping with family before having a delicious turkey dinner with our friends the Foxes. I like how in Japan we can skip the post-Christmas blues because everything is just gearing up for New Years (Japan’s biggest family holiday). So Merry Christmas for the last time this year, and Happy New Year!