Walking Epiphany: encountering Christ in Tokyo

The Pousseur Family: Chris, Tracy, Ella & Jemma

Higashikurume-shi, Tokyo, Japan

 

I'm excited to share with you the third in a in a series of guest posts to celebrate the liturgical season of Epiphany. I've asked a few friends who live around the world to take a walk through their neighborhoods, and share some of the ways they encounter and exhibit the presence of Christ. The Pousseurs have been the kind of friends that have walked through so many of seasons of life with us, we've kind of lost track of when we first hung out together.  We have walked through thick and thin, celebrated and been celebrated by them.  They prayed with us and worked with us through some major transitions in our own family, and I'm somewhat sad that we had to watch their own major life transitions from so far away.  I say 'somewhat' because it's hard to be too sad when we can see plainly how God has led them and provided for them in every way. The other emotion that comes to mind is pride.  Brian and I read their updates and say to each other, "We are so proud of them! They persevered at a level so few are able, and look what God is doing!"  Although they've only been on the ground in Japan for just over a month, Chris and Tracy graciously took out time from unpacking boxes to contribute some photos and stories from their new neighborhood.  

Before we totally heart Japan with the Pousseurs, here's a brief summary of Epiphany, in case you're not sure.

What is Epiphany?

 Throughout the daily readings in the Epiphany lectionary, we follow the early life and ministry of Jesus as He is revealed as the Son of God, appearing as light to a dark world. He is the very God shining forth, manifesting the glory of God. Oftentimes the accounts are private affairs (Transfiguration), other times public (Wedding at Cana, Baptism).  All of them take place, though, in the places Jesus lived and worked, within the context of his relationships of family, friends, and followers -- the sick, possessed, poor, celebrating, drinking, seeking, religious, fearful, apathetic, discouraged neighbors.  

Walking EPIPHANY blog series

Each of the friends contributing to the series this year has selected from a variety of thoughtful prompts (collected from my subscription to these excellent daily readings) to consider the ways the Light has moved into their neighborhoods. 

Will you join us?

p.s., Don't miss the opportunity to engage with thought-provoking questions for your own neighborhood, listed following each prompt.


Prompt: Local ground

The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself, with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.

Scott Russell Sanders, Staying Put: Making A Home In A Restless World

If I walked around the block in your neighborhood, what would I see (hear, smell, etc.)?

What are some of the “creeks and rivers, weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, plants and animals” that share your neighborhood?

Put another way: If you were asked to coordinate a walking or biking tour of your neighborhood, what would you include in the tour? Also, how would the season of the year affect your itinerary?
A typical view of Mt. Fuji from our bus. It hasn't lost its wonder!

A typical view of Mt. Fuji from our bus. It hasn't lost its wonder!


Prompt: What is important

The availability of places where we are invited to stop and enjoy our rest provides a tacit reminder of what is important. If these places invite us to stay because we are consumers or producers, we will learn to see ourselves as valuable only insofar as we contribute to the economy. If our public spaces are ugly or inconvenient, we learn tacitly that our value as human beings is minimal.

Eric Jacobsen, The Space Between: A Christian Engagement With the Built Environment

What sort of public ‘rest stops’ are available in your neighborhood? Are they used well or barely noticed?
This beautiful wood-panelled subway, modeled after a famous movie train, made me want to stay on well past my stop

This beautiful wood-panelled subway, modeled after a famous movie train, made me want to stay on well past my stop


Prompt: God's household

Life, breath, food, companionship -- every good thing is a gift from the abundant providence of God. The kingdom of God, this great economy, is embodied in the world when God's people respond to God's provision with gratitude, sharing God's gifts generously with others. The word economy reminds us again that creation is God's household; we are tasked with sustaining it and keeping it in the order God intended. It should be a place where all humans and all creatures are loved and honored and where generosity is commonplace.

C. Christopher Smith & John Pattison, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

What are some ways you see the economy of God’s household, not only in the natural beauty of your neighborhood, but also in your fellow neighbors?
Carp swimming in the river next to our home in Tokyo

Carp swimming in the river next to our home in Tokyo

This is the moment. The moment I was struggling to take a photo of this bird with my phone (and failing) when a man came beside me and joined in admiring the beauty of God's creation. Then he spoke to me. He said something jovial, something warm and inviting. Something I didn't understand. God, use these moments to encourage me through the language learning process. I will see you again, my nature loving friend, and we will talk!

This is the moment. The moment I was struggling to take a photo of this bird with my phone (and failing) when a man came beside me and joined in admiring the beauty of God's creation. Then he spoke to me. He said something jovial, something warm and inviting. Something I didn't understand. God, use these moments to encourage me through the language learning process. I will see you again, my nature loving friend, and we will talk!


Prompt: Practice resurrection

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

Wendell Berry, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage

Are there any cultural practices in place so that your neighbors are able to get to know each other?  (associations, community centers, annual block parties, newsletters) 

Do you live in a neighborhood where neighbors naturally get to know each other?
Even in 30° weather, neighbors get together to share morning coffee. Still unsure why they don't do it inside.

Even in 30° weather, neighbors get together to share morning coffee. Still unsure why they don't do it inside.


Prompt: Homegrown economy

Losing local businesses to national chains stores is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the growth of chain stores has been aided in no small part by public policy. Land use rules have all too often ignored the needs of communities and undermined the stability of existing business districts. Development incentives frequently favor national corporations over locally owned businesses. Increasing numbers of communities are rewriting the rules around a different set of priorities that encourage a homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses.... Active decision making at the local level and a creative approach to zoning can provide a powerful arsenal for defending community.

Stacy Mitchell, The Home Town Advantage

Are there are any signs of a ‘homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses’ in your neighborhood?
Tasty, tasty tako. Looks pretty gorgeous as well! We love exploring our local grocery stores.

Tasty, tasty tako. Looks pretty gorgeous as well! We love exploring our local grocery stores.


Prompt: Life on foot

Walking is the beginning, the starting point. Man was created to walk, and all of life's events large and small develop when we walk among other people. Life in all its diversity unfolds before us when we are on foot. In lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities, the prerequisite for city life is good walking opportunities. However, the wider perspective is that a multitude of valuable social and recreational opportunities naturally emerge when you reinforce life on foot.

Jan Gehl, Cities for People

What are some different methods of transportation your neighbors use? 

What would be needed for more people to be able to enjoy your neighborhood on foot (or bike)?
Only a fraction of the bicycles parked at our small train station.

Only a fraction of the bicycles parked at our small train station.


We are a young family from Upstate New York with a passion for culture, and seeing the world from God's perspective. 
Chris (husband, father, artist, and foodie), Tracy (wife, mother, crafter, and party-planner-extraordinaire), Ella (daughter, creative fashionista, and too smart for her own good) and Jemma (daughter, budding ninja piano player, and tiny bundle of joy). We comprise the Pousseur family.
We are partnering long term with TEAM and our local church to help create culturally relevant churches in Japan. We hope to use our gifts in the arts and our creativity to reach out and share the gospel, and to build discipleship groups to train strong Japanese Christians with a heart for spreading the kingdom of God.
(Note from Tamara: You can partner with the Pousseur family, to help reach a new generation of Japanese with the love of Christ by clicking on the DONATE tab on their website.)

IMAGE: TRAMPOLINES BY BRIAN KERSHISNIK (SOURCE)

IMAGE: TRAMPOLINES BY BRIAN KERSHISNIK (SOURCE)

p.s. The affiliate links in this post are to help me be a good steward. When you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism, my family gets a little pocket change. Thanks!