The following reflection by Dana Dutcher, an ELCA missionary serving in Japan, is drawn from one of her blog posts. Participate in Operation Thanks-Giving and offer ELCA missionaries like Dana encouraging and sustaining support.–Sue
Since I have taken residence in Japan I have been struggling with being disconnected from people. With the exception of a few friends, I feel as though I’ve been cut off from everyone and thrown into a land where relationships are prohibited by an ever-pervasive language barrier. I understand that with time this barrier will slowly dissipate, but for the moment it is a bit daunting. These severed relationships not only stem from moving away from Rogers, Arkansas, but also from leaving my last home, Valparaiso University. I never realized how nourished my spiritual life was there or how strong my relationships were until they were not physically present everyday.
That said, last night we visited the Lutheran Seminary here in Tokyo for an evening prayer service. I asked various questions about what the service would entail. Would it be in English? Who would be there? How long would it last?
Then someone told me in was the Holden Evening Prayer service, “do you know it?” they asked. I almost had tears in my eyes when I replied yes. Something I once took for granted has come to mean more to me than I can verbalize. This prayer service has been my weekly routine for the past four years. At Valparaiso every Sunday night at 10 pm we have our Candlelight service, which is the Holden Evening Prayer. This service became tradition throughout college, something that has been fulfilling for me spiritually, something that connected us as a campus and something to begin our week.
As I sang loudly (the hymns were in English!) I realized that although I may be 7,000 miles away from home, I am still connected.
To all my Valparaiso kin, know that next time you are at Candlelight service, I very well may be participating in the same service thousands of miles away. Whenever we feel as though we are separated from everything and everyone we know and love, take a breath and realize it’s all the same…just a different location. This really has put some situations in perspective for me; it was just what I needed. No matter how disconnected I may feel from someone or my “homeland” God gives me those reminders…you are still home. —Dana Dutcher is an ELCA missionary serving in Japan