Almost three years ago I came to Japan on a short term mission trip. When I first got here, my brain could not take in everything, Japanese people's faces all looked the same, places melded into each other, my senses were overstimulated. Against this backdrop of blur, I went to a homeless mission meeting, with Dan the missionary man, and two Korean Pastors from California. They were thinking about bringing a short term team here and were scouting things out. We arrived on the train and then headed to the outside of the loop line (and because of my ineptness here is the picture that goes with it). In Osaka, in spite of what the maps tell you, the inside of the loop is Osaka but the outside of the loop is something else. Amongst the blur, I did happen to notice several things. I vividly recall the long lineup of homeless people waiting at a large building. I also noticed a youngish man in expensive black clothes standing next to his black Mercedes with black tinted windows, waiting for something. I saw him at least once or twice more, though we never went that way again. There was also a very old gentleman dressed in what looked to be towels and rags that in the way they were arranged could have been construed (with the right tweak of your imagination) to look like a dress. He seemed very happy to see me, took hold of me and with a big smile, exuberantly expressed to me in what I assumed to be Japanese, his greetings. After being rescued from his grasp I has informed by the more fluent of our group that he really liked me, and wanted to take me home. Being naive, I still haven't come to grips with the reason, but I'm sure the dress was a clue. So with out much incident we arrived at the place where the meeting was being held. it looked very "inner cityish" to me. The proceedings started with a continuation from the week before of the movie Titanic which was interrupted just as the boat was about to sink, to be continued the week there after. (I recall being amused how the "aww" of disappointed viewers, sounds the same in Japan as it does in Canada). The main part of the meeting consisted of a time of singing, a recital of the apostles creed, a message, prayer and then dinner. The last thing that I remember striking me was how well organized and orderly all these homeless people were, patiently waiting in lines and easily working together to see that everyone got food in an expedient manner.
Fast forwarding through a couple or three years and here I go again, my triumphant return to the scene of the crime. Michael phoned me up and said he wanted to go to the homeless mission and invited me along. We agreed to meet at the closest train station, we were going to walk together to Pastor So's residence to meet with him at about four in the afternoon. The over stimulation blur has gradually become more focused for me and I notice many more and different things nowadays. As I was waiting at the train station, I had a sense that the people seemed different to me, carried themselves differently. I should probably chalk it up to my imagination, as it was on the edges of reality, more of an intangible than noticed facts. After Michael arrived we hustled off toward our destination, neither of us knew where it was but Michael was confident he would recognize how to get there. Although I did not notice any Yakuza or see my old friend, the same long line of homeless people were still there, and looking none-the worse-for-wear (as far as homeless people can look non-the-worse-for-wear) and I hoped that they weren't too tired from standing there for the past few years. We purposely wandered around, conspicuous. The things that stood out for me this time were the perpetual garage sale items displayed all along the streets wherever there was a free spot that didn't involve taking someone else's frontage. The friendly salesman with a big smile who helpfully directed us toward the station (where we had come from) (assuming of course that we were not in the neighbourhood because we wanted to be). We asked him about the meeting in broken Japanese, bending and stressing if not breaking all our Japanese abilities. He helpfully directed us in the right direction. We purposefully wandered some more. We asked more questions. I was struck by the plywood and sawhorse tables, shiny and polished with use, surrounded by serious faced gamblers throwing out thousand yen bills. We were directed to a church building of some kind that many of the neighbourhood folk seemed to agree was where we needed to go, but was not. We continued our purposeful wandering. We came by the friendly salesman yet again. Smiled and nodded. We eventually happened upon Pastor So's house but by this time he had left and there was no one there. I know the area well now, and can take anyone interested on a tour, pointing out the sights and attractions. Eventually we ended up at the building where the meeting was to take place, across the street from the gaming tables. It was ten after six, we were late and Pastor So was waiting for us. The meeting went ahead in a similar fashion as before with the exception of the movie, but then again we were late so it may have finished by the time we got there. Since we were visitors we were expected to say a little something after the message. I had spent time in the morning preparing a little something. I had decided to read Romans 10 vs. 8-13 and I wanted to emphasize the everyone in verse thirteen. When it came to me, I jumped up brimming with confidence. I opened my little Japanese bible and launched into the reading with gusto. Not long into said reading I came to the realization that I had forgotten to pre-read this text. Not a big deal for me in English but another matter entirely in Japanese. I came to this realization as I got bogged down in drifts of Kanji the way my little Volkswagen used to, in drifts of Canadian snow. My knees were quivering, perhaps my vocal chords too. I ploughed through and managed to get to the other side. My confidence battered, bruised and shaken. I hastily made my one little point.