Who Are My Neighbors?

As I sat down to the large banquet table, I began to quietly inspect the food sitting in front of me. I’m still learning about traditional, formal Japanese meals, and I wanted to prepare myself for what I would be partaking. I studied the small crab, bowl of soup, and some mysterious appetizers at my place setting.

Carson and I had been invited to our neighborhood’s New Year’s party, an invitation that left us feeling a bit nervous. A few months earlier we had met a few of our neighbors to bring them gifts, as is custom in Japan for new neighborhood arrivals. We distributed loaves of homemade pumpkin bread at Christmas, and of course brief greetings are always given as we all come to and from our houses. But we knew this kind of party would stretch us in using our limited Japanese in trying to connect better with those who live near us. At the same time, we quickly realized the significant opportunity to be able to move beyond the “mysterious Americans who live in the old health drink shop building.”

The party was held at a restaurant within walking distance, and we walked over with a couple our age who lives to our right. As we checked in, we received a list of everyone’s name in the neighborhood. To our delightful surprise, the neighborhood president had kindly made the list in both Japanese and with the English translation. We entered the banquet room with about fifty people inside, mostly senior citizens. Although all the couples had separated with women at one table and men at the other, we and our younger neighbors chose to sit together, at the men’s table.

Course upon course was served and we enjoyed talking to the gentlemen in front us, mostly in broken Japanese and a few English words here and there. There was laughter, merriment, and the perpetual guessing of what we were actually eating. I finally drew the line on the squid on a skewer.

The neighborhood president, in his opening remarks, referred the party as now an international one, and we were introduced and warmly welcomed. We played a few rounds of bingo (a great way for us to practice our numbers) and then they brought out the karaoke machine. We were summoned to sing, and a list of about 200 English songs was presented to us. I’m proud to say that we led this group of senior adults in our song and dance rendition of the YMCA.

We could not have imagined having as much fun as we did, and we could not have felt more welcomed into the neighborhood. It had been easy for us to keep our neighbors at a distance. I especially have not been confident in my Japanese speaking skills, and our church has been our built-in community since we have been here. Up until last week, we didn’t need our neighbors and they didn‘t need us. Perhaps that is still the case, but I believe these relationships will continue to be formed. Through sharing a meal and just having fun together, we probably all became a little less scary to one another.

Who are my neighbors that Jesus calls me to love and serve? Well, for starters, the people in my neighborhood.

Carson_Laura_Foushee_c_sm_for webCarson and Laura Foushee are Cooperative Baptist Field Personnel living in Kanazawa, Japan. Both natives of North Carolina, Carson and Laura met at McAfee School of Theology after graduating from Elon University (Carson) and N.C. State University (Laura). Carson’s passion for global missions and Laura’s passion for the local church have blended together as they serve in Japan through English language education and through Kanazawa Baptist Church as co-pastors of its international congregation.

They can be reached by email at clfoushee@thefellowship.info. Feel free to also to check out their website and the Kanazawa International Baptist Church website.

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