As Iva, our eldest, had a grand time and a lot of positive feedback from helping out at the two previous English camps of Tokyo Life Church (TLC), we wanted our three-year-old Uri to follow as well. So, we thought we’d sign the kids up for another English camp that, this time, would be held at Odawara. Besides, the camp seemed a good opportunity to teach the kids about ministry, while being able to spend time away from our usual routine and bond as a family. “We’re telling Japanese kids about Jesus,” I even remembered Iva saying after we told them the news.
Knowing that this time, the English camp would be an outreach that TLC would be spearheading, Regina and I understood that we’d have to help in some capacity. My idea of helping, however, was working in the sidelines, like being the runner for emergency purchases or looking scary so the kids would pay attention and participate in the activities. But God had other plans. I found myself being asked to head the Games Station, which was one of the four main stations of the camp. Despite my reservations, I felt God telling me to “just be available.” Besides, having two kids to my belt, I thought to myself, “I guess I could do this.” And so I said “yes,” and afterwards began preparing for the lessons, and practicing the camp songs with the kids, who would later be known as among the Worship Dancers.
But even when the camp was still a way off, feelings of anxiety and inadequacy kept circling in my head. I struggled with things like: “Other than my own kids, who are basically afraid of me, I’m not sure if I could deal with 20+ more kids, especially with a wide age variation.” Or: “I’m gonna bore the competitiveness of the kids with my serious personality!” Or: “What if Uri starts getting cranky and grumpy at the camp, and Regina – who was to lead another station herself – and I were busy?”
“Just be available,” I was reminded again.
Still, things kept getting worse and worse as the camp drew closer.
A side story: Two years ago, my wife got a job offer to teach in Japan. We prayed for God’s leading and found ourselves on a plane to start a new life here. But this meant that I had to quit my job and take care of the kids. This April, as they will both be in youchien already, I thought that I could begin working again. However, despite asking for prayers from friends, I have not gotten any favorable response from a couple of teaching-related job interviews that I went to the past weeks. I wanted to tell God “Why would you want me to teach at the camp, when I’m not even confident that I can teach at all!”
As we headed into the final week of preparation, the kids even started getting fever-sick from coughing and sneezing. Come Sunday, the day we were heading to Odawara, I also started having colds and began feeling feverish, with my left eye becoming bloodshot red with allergy. It literally felt like a sick joke for me as I said to myself, “Really! My confidence is close to none, and I can’t even look decent and normal teaching at the camp?”
“Just be available.”
And so it was, Day 1 happened, and amid the little stoic and apprehensive faces that I was seeing for the first time at the camp, I got inspiration from the joyful and energetic performances of our smallest contingent: the Worship Dancers. The schedule was tough, as we were squeezing a five-day program to three days, but by the time Day 1 was over, we managed to see the faces of the kids beginning to light up, and we started getting settled with them.
While every day, all throughout the three-day English camp, we were faced with different challenges, we saw the hand of God in everything, who provided the solutions at just the perfect time every time.
It was such a blessing also that, at the perfect time that the sakuras in the area were in full bloom, we got to visit some of the attractions at the place, which were not very far. Regina even got her wish of visiting the beach since coming to Japan, even if – heading into the outreach – we had no idea that Odawara was a seaside community. The house where we were staying was literally a minute away from the shore. “Wow God,” to borrow the camp’s shout out phrase!
Many times in the Christian life, we will feel like five shy loaves of bread and two skinny fish tasked to be offered to five thousand. But let us not forget that these are also the times when we are really able to see our great God at work, and that He is the one who enables and empowers us to do His will. He only asks us to be willing and available to be used for His glory.
All praise, glory and honor to our risen savior – Jesus Christ!