The Wizard of Yen

A fact of life for every missionary at the beginning of their tenure is that “Everything takes longer”.  Most Americans are an impatient lot.  We are the microwave generation.  We wish that everything happens yesterday.  

We think that being in an airplane for ten and a half hour to get from Los Angeles to Japan is way too slow, forgetting that we just crossed the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean in less than half a day. Are we spoiled or what? 

Once we arrived, I learned that everything takes longer when in a foreign land.

For example, today, I wanted to exchange some dollars for yen. I was told that I could go up a certain street and do the transaction at a bank on said street. So, off I went.

I went into the first bank I saw as they were just opening their doors.  They politely spoke in their native tongue which is a foreign language to me.  They seemed to be telling me that I had to go to the bank up the street.

So, undeterred, I walked up the street another block or so and entered into a second bank.  They once again politely told me in the same foreign language that they didn’t exchange foreign currency and I would have to go to the bank up the street.

My journey continued.  I walked another block or two and entered a third bank where they spoke the same foreign language.  Again, no currency exchange and I would have to go to the bank up the street.

Out the door and up the street I went, I was beginning to feel like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Wizard of Yen.  If I came across a talking scarecrow, I was going back to the hotel.

I finally came to a huge bank building…but was it the home of the Wizard of Yen?

I take a number and sit down on a chair with my knees pointing upward.  I wait about ten minutes, which is but just a moment in time when you are about to meet the Wizard of Yen.  I get to the teller.  I am at the wrong window.  Oh yes, everything but the numbers are written in the same foreign language, which is also spoken by everyone at the home of the Wizard of Yen.

I get escorted upstairs by a bank employee and there, hidden in plain sight, is a sign that reads, “Foreign Currency Exchange”.  I am about to meet the Wizard of Yen.  I don’t want a trip back to Kansas.  I only want some yen and there is no way I am wearing those shoes (they look like red Tom’s with shiny sequins).

I finally get my yen and leave the home of the Wizard of Yen. 

As I walked back to my hotel, I counted seven banks along the way (all imposters).  I thought to myself, everything takes longer when you are in a foreign country, even finding the bank that exchanges foreign currency. 

Little wonder why we need to uphold our missionaries as they serve the Lord in a foreign land.  Nothing is easy.  Everything takes longer.

So let’s continue to live out what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he instructed us to “pray without ceasing”. 

Pray without ceasing for those who have been called to serve in Japan and other places away from home, remembering that for them, everything takes longer even finding the home of the Wizard of Yen.

Something to think about… 

Missions Comment: A consistent comment of missionaries who serve in a foreign land is that they are tired.  Fatigue is a greater issue than at home.  My experience in trying to acquire yen gave me a glimpse as to why missionaries suffer from chronic fatigue.  Everything takes longer and requires more effort… even the simple things in life that we take for granted.  It gets better the longer a missionary is in the field, but it doesn’t cease altogether.  This fact of life for missionaries gives us a way that we can support them in prayer daily.  If nothing else, pray for strength and endurance in the little things of life.