By Tonya Cherry
I have never traveled anywhere far. I hate unfamiliar food and I have no gift at all for learning new languages. But last Summer in anticipation of my children both deserting me to go to college, I read in the our Chapelgate church bulletin that there was a mission trip to Japan and they specifically needed counselors to work with the missionary families serving there. I looked at my husband and completely out of character said, “I think I am going to Japan Joe”. I figured a trip completely outside my comfort zone would freak me out so bad and take so much preparation, that it would be a great distraction of missing my kids.
For those of you that don’t know much about Japan, let me tell you that it is beautiful. We were there in November and the autumn colors were the most vivid I had ever seen. The country is crazy clean and it is incredibly safe. There is hardly any crime since it is a shame based culture and to commit an offense would bring too much dishonor to the family. The people are gorgeous and very trendy. They have advanced technology and a phenomenal work ethic. They highly value education but what they don’t value is faith. Less than 1 percent of the country is churched. Between the fact that they work 80 hours a week, have no therapy, or depression meds, feel disgrace for any weakness, and have no faith; it often leaves them hopeless. They have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. This makes it a very needed and very tough mission field.
The things I was most excited about was meeting the missionaries and seeing Mt Fuji. I didn’t really care about the food or language or shopping or anime or Tokyo or technology, but I did care about meeting the people who endured so much for the Gospel. I wanted to hear their stories and be an encouragement to them. It was my first and only trip outside of my little world and I wanted to connect with the missionary families. AND of course…I wanted to see the world famous Mt Fuji. I didn’t want to climb it, or study it or photograph it. I just wanted to see it. I had read that it is so enormous that you could see it from Tokyo which was 60 miles away! I wanted to see this gorgeous powerful volcanic mountain that I had heard and read so much about. I had even done a report on this amazing creation as a child and so I had waited 40 years to see it!
Well, God allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people in the world. I worked with 6 gifted and compassionate biblical counselors. I counseled beautiful strong missionary families that I will never forget. Through them, I saw what it really meant to do kingdom work. I talked to college interns called to missions who were willing to give up so much to gain the joy of sharing the Good News. All of these special people lived in a way that reflected Christ and filled me with gratitude. I was in awe of the dedication they had in being the hands and feet of our Saviour. I am very thankful for these dear people who became my friends and showed me what it means to truly follow God.
But this blog isn’t about the people who blessed me in Japan although, I could go on with stories about them all day. This is about our big and faithful God and how he used the big and unmoving Mt Fuji to remind me that He is always there even when we don’t see Him.
The thing about Mt Fuji is that it is huge. I mean really really big. It shares the sky with the clouds and is often hidden which is kinda ironic because it is such a big thing but can be so hard to see.
I began looking for Fuji as soon as I stepped of the plane. We traveled to where we stayed in a small town called Lake Saiko. It was in a valley at the base of Fuji. I searched for Fuji every opportunity I got. It was the topic of many conversations and so I became quite frustrated as days went by and this great Japanese mountain did not reveal itself. The people kept telling us it stood behind the hills and filled the sky but I could not see an outline or even shadow of the thing! Day one… no Fuji. Day two …no Fuji. Day three, day four, day five, day six, still no Fuji. I began to wonder if it really was big enough to see from where we were. I told myself that there was no way something that large could be so hard to see.
It just seemed odd and hugely disappointing. I mean, we couldn’t even see a hint of the mountain, so I doubted its magnitude. There was just no way that it could be as tremendous as they said and not be visible in some way. I was, looking for an enormous mountain that everyone had told me would be seen and I was not seeing it. I was so disheartened. I searched the sky every chance I had. All I wanted was to see it so I could know it was there. I just really wanted to know that what I had been told was true so I could believe. I had seen the pictures and read the facts, but that it wasn’t the same as seeing it for myself. I felt like if Mt Fuji was really there in Japan, then I needed to see it and if I didn’t, then I would always doubt its breadth and loveliness.
On the day before we left, we all piled into a bus and headed towards a little village. On the bus ride there, we talked about how disappointing it had been to fly 16 hours and not get to see the famous mountain. We had all been so blessed on our trip but we struggled with leaving without having encountered the Mount. It was overcast as usual when we arrived at a little historical village situated on a beautiful hillside in another valley surrounding Mt Fuji. I saw Mt Fuji souvenirs everywhere but I humorously refused to pay money for a cookie with a fictitious mountain in it!
As we walked through the village we were all pretty quiet and moving slow. I guess because we were tired and sad to be leaving and still processing all the precious encounters we had that week. As we roamed up the trails on the side of the hills, the sun came out. As we watched the sky got bluer and brighter and we noticed the clouds floating across the sky. The horizon began to clear. By now all our eyes were looking upward. And then it happened. All of us on the little village foot path stopped and turned and looked towards the sky. At first we quieted as together we began to see a vast majestic mass of rock and snow. It was glorious. There it was, Mt Fuji. It was powerful and bold and stunning. Then in complete euphoria everyone began taking group pictures and selfies with Fuji. It was so extraordinary. It was so very worth the wait.
In that beautiful little village on the hill, on our last day as we thought about how God had changed our hearts, we realized Mt Fuji was there; right where everyone said it would be. It had been there all along and it was splendid. It revealed itself at a perfect time. Fuji was even lovelier than I had dreamed. I had such a tremendous sense of relief seeing it there and being in its presence. It was there. It had been there all along. It had revealed itself and it was breath-taking. I realized something that day, Mt Fuji is a lot like God. God is glorious and mighty and HE IS THERE.
When we are looking and searching and doubting our huge wonderful God, know that He is there. We may not see Him or feel Him or hear Him but He is there. Hurt and anger may cloud our view of Him but He is there. We need to keep searching through our doubt. He is lovely and He is there. We may be discouraged because God has not revealed himself to us in a way we want or in the time frame we desire. At times, He may not seem to be what others have said, but God is immense and grand and He is there. When we feel like He isn’t real, when we read scripture but struggle to believe, when others tell about their relationship with Him; Believe. Keep looking even when you’re tired of looking. Know that God is like Mt Fuji; He is astonishing, commanding and ever present. He is there for you even when you don’t see him. He is there for you even when you doubt. He is constant. He is always there and when you keep looking and finally see Him, it will be radiant.
Psalm 139:8 says- If I go up to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
His promise is to always be there. Had we seen Fuji that first day or even the second, I would have been impressed, I would have bought the cookies and posted pics, but I would have missed waiting on Fuji and the lesson he reminded me of about Our God.