Saturday, June 7, 2014

EDUC 505: A Window's View

I have just started my online education courses for the summer.  For EDUC 505, which is about inclusion of students with special needs in the classroom, we were asked to introduce ourselves by talking about a view from a window that is special to us.  Using a word-picture, we were asked to share a bit about ourselves.  Here's what I wrote:


I've tried to count the buildings. Tried, I say, because I've never succeeded. Somewhere along the way, I always lose count: "Did I already count that short skyscraper?" "Is that just one building with two towers, or two separate buildings?" "I don't think I can even distinguish individual buildings on the horizon."

The city-scape stretches all around me in a dazzling panorama of office windows, pinprick taillights and headlights, radio towers and neon signs. This is what I see from the living room of the 22nd floor apartment where my wife, Tomomi, lived before we got married in December. After our wedding, she moved into my apartment in Higashi Kurume, the quiet Tokyo suburb, which is home to the Christian Academy in Japan, the international school where I've taught high school English and History for five years. Higashi Kurume is about an hour's train ride away from the Tokyo waterfront, where Tomomi had been house-sitting for some missionaries from our church, while they were on home-assignment in America. In Higashi Kurume, it's easy to forget that I am living in the biggest city in the world, but in Tsukishima, the evidence is always there, just outside the living room window.

The view is an odd mixture of tranquility and bustling activity. Tranquility, because 22 floors up, very little noise from the street level reaches the balcony. The twinkling city lights and their shimmery twins reflected in the bay may as well be stars in a vast night sky--endless, uncountable, and silent. Yet the view is also bustling, because the reality is that inside each of those illuminated windows are offices full of salary men and women working late. Behind those neon signs are clubs and bars where the night has only just begun. The pointillist painting of taillights and headlights indicate cars, taxis and buses filled with commuters. Within my range of vision, millions upon millions of people are living their lives.

I'm so far from the kitchen window of the home I grew up in just outside of Lynden, Washington, with our old red barn, the fields where my family's horses are grazing, and snow-capped Mount Baker watching vigilantly, a silent sentinel.

I miss the countryside sometimes. Yet as I look out over Tokyo, I know I am where I need to be. This is a nation in need. Less than 1% of the population identify as Christian, and of that number, only a small percentage regularly attend a church. The city lights remind me of the many people in Tokyo who are lonely, hopeless and lost. In 2012, over 27,000 Japanese people took their own lives. Somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million young people have withdrawn from society altogether, rarely leaving their parents' homes or even their bedroom. The city lights remind me of the tremendous devastation of the 2011 triple-disaster in which thousands died, and thousands more lost their homes and livelihood. I'm just a country boy. My time at Dordt, living in North Hall, Covenant Hall and finally Southview represented the most populous community I'd lived in up until that point. On paper, I do not seem a likely candidate to live and work in Tokyo. Yet, God uses us despite our weakness. He alone gives us strength, and that strength is always sufficient for the work He calls us to. I sigh as I look out over the vast city that has become my home. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would live here.

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