A friend who was at the retreat with me last week asked me yesterday how I knew so many of these ladies. It is true, I know many of these ladies by name.
- 12 of them are with OMF, our mission. Many of those I met in Hokkaido, but are now working in Honshu. Some have known us since we arrived in December 2000.
- Linda I also met in Hokkaido, she is not with our mission, but the mission pool is tiny up there and we encountered her family on several occasions.
- Probably more than 15 of these ladies I've met through CAJ. They either have children there or used to. Many I've worked with at Thrift Shop, or prayed with at the class and school-wide prayer meetings. I've even been to a class sleep-over with one. I shared a room with Christy in Korea just last month and we've cheered our boys on at many wrestling and track events. Susan, Alison, Maki, and I are all OMFers and current CAJ mums.
- Erica used to be a mum at CAJ, but has moved to Osaka, it was fabulous to see her again.
- Barbara is the wife of my magazine boss, she's also participated in one of the writing workshops I ran last term, as has Edie.
- Ruth and Jean used to teach one or more of my boys. Rachel is married to a teacher who has taught all three of my boys.
- Roberta I've met in various situations, most recently we've been exercising together at the gym (though not recent enough...wrestling got my boys fit but it wrecked havoc on my own exercise routine).
- Some of these ladies I've shared an onsen with. Yes. Naked communal bathing!
- Five of them are Aussies. I met Kay through this blog, I think, and Melissa via her husband writing for the magazine. Naomi and Ruth are OMFers.
- Jennifer I met through sharing a room with her at a retreat in 2011. I can't remember when I first met Sue, maybe at the same retreat, though she has also written for Japan Harvest.
- Some of them I first met through transporting them in my van to JEMA women in ministry (WIM) events, though time now blurs my memory and I can't remember which of them exactly.*
- Edie, Helen, Dee, Judy, Ann, Hazel, and Hazel, and several others I have gotten to know through attending these JEMA events for nearly 10 years now.
- Stacey I met through WIM events, though we have another connection through a mutual Australian teacher-friend who works in Cambodia.
I think that is what marks an event like this, a gathering of cross-cultural women, is that I can have deep conversations with many of these ladies. We don't spend much time talking about surface topics, conversations often tend to run deep and vulnerable. These kinds of gatherings are soul refreshing. They are also one of the things about Japan that I really miss in Australia.
My only regret is that I don't have such a rich swathe of Japanese friends. I can blame my poor language skills and the fact that my job is English-based and largely at home (rather than in a church or other Japanese environment). However I do believe that God has called me (David and I both, actually) to support ministries, which means supporting those who are on the front-line. So I try to be a friend to cross-cultural women. I pray that God would allow me to be an encouragement to them.
*JEMA = Japan Evangelical Missionary Association, the group that publishes Japan Harvest magazine. OMF is a member of this organisation.