While studying abroad in Japan, I make it a point to attend the same church I used to go to back in the US every weekend. The wonderful thing is that my church has branches all around the world. Although it takes me a total of two hours to get there by train and walking, I don’t mind the journey. I attend worship services on both Saturdays and Sundays, so I can save time and money by staying over on Saturday nights instead of returning to my university dorm.
Every time I visit, there’s a warm and welcoming family that graciously allows me to stay with them. To show my appreciation, I make sure to bring gifts for their adorable three-year-old and four-year-old girls, which I usually pick up from the convenience store or supermarket.
After church, we engage in different fun activities each week. Whether it’s a cooking challenge, a walk in the park, a game of badminton, or even a piano lesson led by me, there’s always something exciting going on. What’s more, there’s always someone kind enough to offer me a ride back to the train station. Some generous souls even provide me with snacks for my journey home and everyday essentials like soap and shampoo.
Among the friends I’ve made, a few of them happen to take the same train as me. While we wait for our train to arrive, they show me the various shops and eateries around the station. Occasionally, we’ll stop by a restaurant or café, and they insist on treating me, hoping to alleviate any homesickness I might feel. One of the groceries had this giant bear and a friend took my photo for me. They’re so kind!
Despite being far from my home country, I feel incredibly welcomed here. I truly wish I could do more for them in return. As a student studying abroad, it can be challenging, but I hope they can sense my deep appreciation.
Although I engage in similar activities with my church back home, the experience here is different as Japanese is the predominant language. It’s an opportunity for me to learn new words and phrases from them, and in turn, they learn from me. They often joke that their noses are bleeding, a Filipino slang indicating their slight struggle with conversing in English. But, of course, it’s all in good fun, fostering a delightful and playful interaction.
The majority of people at my church aren’t originally from Japan, so we all come together, working as a team to create a new home away from home for each other.