“Wow” “Wonderful” “That’s great.”
These are just a few meanings of the Japanese word すごい (Sugoi)
While on a short-term mission trip, one of the learning curves is the local language. While in Japan, the team and I worked to learn common words and greetings to help engage in conversation and immerse ourselves in the culture. Of this new vocabulary, the word “Sugoi” has been the one that has stayed with me the most. The beauty and complexity of this word is that it implies more of one’s feelings in a situation over the words being expressed. For example, in English, to convey happiness or joy, you could say, “That’s wonderful,” or “Awesome,” or “I’m so happy for you”. But the word Sugoi encompasses all these phrases and emphasizes the feelings over the phrase. This is why I enjoy this word; the expression of emotions matters more than the exact word(s) being expressed.
On our next to last night, the team went to dinner with Lee Ann and Gordon to reflect on the previous eight days and share one last meal as a team. While there, Gordon asked the team: “How would you describe your time in Japan?”. I struggled to find the right words to describe my time serving in Japan, from working on the campgrounds, painting, cleaning, refreshing this beautiful space, preparing food for church events, celebrating with the church community, and engaging in wonderful conversations. In addition, our time diving into the culture of Japan, visiting Matsushima Island, watching the beautiful waves crash upon the rocks, and then visiting a 3:11 Disaster Memorial Site for the Tsunami, and learning how those beautiful waves can turn dangerous in a matter of minutes.
Sitting in that restaurant with my team and Lee Ann and Gordon, none of the words seemed fitting. The words that came to mind did not seem to encompass all I felt. But now, about a week later, at 5 am, because my body is still not sure which time zone it would like to be in. God used this restless night to bring new meaning and insight to my experience. So, when people ask me about my time in Japan, I want to not only tell them about all the incredible work that my team and I did, but I also want to express my emotions that come with this work.
After the church service, the team and I served lunch to about 20 members of the community. During this time, we were able to sit with these people and talk to them about their lives. How it was to be Christian in Japan, the type of work they did, their schooling, our likes and dislikes; and at my table, they asked about the preconceptions another team member, and I had about Japan. It was a wonderful couple of hours and the best way to start our time working with the community.
Sogui: This is wonderful!
On this day the team went to visit the Nozomi Project. This project was created after the disaster of the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake. The women who work there are all mothers. This community of women not only work together as co-workers, but they work together to support one another. If one of the women needs to stay home and care for their family, the others step up to help cover her work while she is away. They expressed to the team that they are not only co-workers, but they are a family. These women went around after the disaster in 2011 and collected broken pottery. They then took these pieces and made beautiful jewelry with them. Over the last 12 years, the women have continued to grow and refine their skills. They are now able to make more integral pieces of jewelry and use pottery that is collected after all disasters and everyday mishaps around the house.
Sogui: Beautiful and heartbreaking
On our last day in Japan, we had the honor of witnessing two young adults being baptized. We had spent some time with these two young men over the nine days, and it was a blessing to be with them during this part of their journey. The night before the service, church leadership gathered and prepare the church for this special service. During this time, we all stopped and prayed over the church, the service, Japan, and these two young boys. It was one of the highlights of this trip.
How would you describe your time in Japan?