For the past five years Christine Eige has been an ELCA missionary teaching English as a second language in Japan. That journey is now ending, and she will return to life in the U.S. In this entry from her blog, “Musings of a Dawn Treader,” she reflects on the difficulty of that change. To support a missionary in Japan, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
In less than a week I will be leaving Japan, and it’s hard to explain how truly difficult this is for me. In total, I’ve lived in Japan for five years. I’ve lived in Kumamoto for four years, longer than I’ve lived in any other one place since graduating from college. I’ve met so many amazing people in Japan, and they have become like family to me. I might be an American, but Kumamoto and Japan are truly my home.
When I moved here, I made a very dangerous prayer. I told God, “I know that I will be here for a short time, but I pray that when I leave, I will be sad to go and other people will be sad to see me leave.” God definitely answered that prayer. At times it feels like my heart is being ripped apart: part of my heart staying with the people I care about in Japan and part going back to America with me. As hard as this is for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This painful separation means that I truly shared my heart with others and them with me.
I know that my transition back to the U.S. will be challenging and difficult at times. Sometimes I’ll cry because I miss my friends and Japan so much. Other times I’ll get so frustrated with American culture and manners that I’ll probably scream. Of course, I’ll have lots of stories to share about my experiences here too. I apologize in advance to my family and friends in the U.S. for having to watch this emotional roller coaster and for my occasional outbursts, but please be patient with me through this process.
As one chapter of my life comes to an end and another begins, I’m holding on to one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from my time in Japan — to persevere through the challenging times. One of my favorite Japanese words is 頑張る (がんばる, pronounced “ganbaru”). It means to persevere. Often I hear people using a form of this word to say, “I’ll do my best” or “I’ll persevere.” My students, co-workers and I often say this when we face challenges or difficult situations. People also use it to say, “Good luck!” “Fight!” “You can do it!” We use it to encourage one another to keep trying, to show our support, or let someone know that we believe in them. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, all of Japan united in telling the survivors, “がんばって！” I’m not entirely sure where the road ahead will take me; in fact, I have lots of questions about my future. But, I do know that God will be with me every step of the way. 頑張ります! (I’ll do my best and persevere!)