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The Storms of Life

One thing is for sure about life: there are sure to be storms. Storms of all sorts of shapes and sizes come into life, and often without much warning (if any at all). The amount that a storm disrupts your life depends on the size and scope of the storm. And I’m talking not just about bad weather here, but all the bad news that life throws your way: the doctor said “cancer,” the boss said “you’re fired,” the teacher said “you didn’t pass.” Sometimes we tragically lose someone we love or find out that someone we trusted betrayed us. The thing about storms is that, if you knew what was going to come, you would prepare yourself for the storm to minimize the damage.

People sell insurance to minimize the risk for physical storms, accidents or mishaps. But is there such a thing as storm insurance for life? And if so, wouldn’t it be worth securing? Jesus Himself talked about the storms of life. In what may be his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, 6 and 7, he teaches about all areas of life. How to be blessed, life right, fulfill the law of God, anger, lust, divorce, our words, our actions, our thoughts, our neighbors. He teaches about giving to the poor, prayer, fasting, true wealth, worry, jealousy, receiving from God and distinguishing true men of God. Then at the very end, he ends with this story:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

Did you catch the difference between the person who was ready for life’s storm and the one who wasn’t? Are you ready for life’s storm? You never know when it may come or how fierce it will be, but blessed is the person who is ready for it!

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Navigating Japan’s Healthcare System

Joshua having an accident and getting 2nd degree burns all down his left arm while we were camping on vacation was certainly not in our list of things to do. It’s hard enough to know what to do in a situation like that if you’re in your home country, but we were figuring it all out in a foreign language and country whose healthcare system is not familiar. Many thing Americans are used in the USA are not available anywhere else in the world, and we soon found out that’s true for Japan as well.

We were glad that Japan’s emergency response was really good, that made a big difference of getting Joshua’s burn under control. But if you know anything about burns, you know the treatment that one receives can make the difference in avoiding future scarring or even surgery. We certainly didn’t want that for Joshua. The poor guy had suffered enough.

Trying to navigate the waters of the Japanese healthcare system was honestly a bit overwhelming. The first day after Joshua’s accident, we went to the local hospital to get treatment, and they did their best to change his bandages, but honestly the treatment left us feeling uneasy. We soon found out why.

One of our friends from church heard about Joshua’s situation, and as a professional in a medical field, he began to research the best burn treatment in our area. He understands the Japanese medical system and knew that hospitals cannot advertise their expertise in certain fields. It was up to an individual to find that out! We as foreigners would have very little hope of figuring it out, but he went to battle for us.

Turns out that our local hospital didn’t have a single burn specialist on staff. Not only that, but the leading children’s hospital in Japan didn’t even have one on staff! Things we really looking bleak.

He continued to call around until he came upon a local clinic of a plastic surgeon whose doctor specialized in burns. He called the receptionist and found out the doctor was not taking any new patients. The doctor just happened to be overhearing the conversation and asked to speak to our friend, who explained Joshua’s situation. The doctor said “I’ll make space, bring Joshua in right away.”

So we went, and the doctor treated Joshua so well that he didn’t even scream when they changed his bandage and cleaned his wound. Immediately our hearts were at ease — this was the treatment that would help him recover. Until then the doctors had been talking about possible skin grafts and were only changing his bandages every other day, but the specialist seemed to think that with proper care and changing the bandages everyday the skin should heal without any issues.

We certainly would not want to pass through that experience again. But having passed through it, we can offer this helpful insight for those who may have to do the same thing in the future. Here is what we learned from navigating Japan’s medical system.

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We Test Japan’s Emergency Response

If you’ve been alive long enough to have a conscious thought, you know that life doesn’t always go as planned. Recently we planned a 3-night camping trip in the mountains near Nikko, but on the very first morning of the trip Joshua fell and flipped boiling-hot water all over his arm. As he was screaming, I quickly ran him over to a chilly pond and dunked his arm in the water. We removed his pajama top and to my horror his arm was badly burned (I’ll spare the gory details — it wasn’t pretty).

Our friend John was with us and quickly called the emergency number of Japan, 119, and within a couple short minutes an ambulance was there. What was supposed to be a fun couple days of camping vacation turned into a ride in an ambulance to get treated for 1st and 2nd degree burns.

After Joshua’s arm was treated, he was ready for more camping, but for his sake, we decided to pack up and go home so we could help him heal 100%. Now that he’s had a little time to heal, he’s going to make a full recovery (and that story will be told next week). Until then, please enjoy the fun we did have until the accident (and even some of the fun we were able to have afterwards). This wasn’t we planned, but this is life in Japan as it happened!

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Why We YouTube

Many times along life’s journey, I thought it would be cool to YouTube. I’m trained in engineering but studied music, so I can nerd with the best of them. Or if you prefer the Japanese word, otaku. I also did web design years ago and learned photography out of necessity. But soon it became a passion, and along with it, the beautiful digital video that DSLRs can create.

Even before there was YouTube, my siblings and friends would make short videos with a VHS video camera (I’m showing my age here). We did all kinds of videos with terrible acting, but hey — it was fun! So when YouTube came along, a number of times I thought it would be fun to give it a shot, but always stopped short, not really sure what the direction of the channel should be.

When we moved to Japan, I started making short videos for our friends and family back in America. I made some simple vlogs and emailed the links to them. The response was great, but I never did it with a bigger audience in mind. It was just a tool to help them feel connected to us in a bigger way. Then as life got busy, the videos stopped.

Years later, my brother-in-law Bruno said “Nate, I think you should start your own YouTube channel.” At that point I thought That’s too much work. But we had an extended time of prayer at church, and to my absolute astonishment I sensed God telling me to start a YouTube channel. Once I realized that God really wanted me to do it (which is a strong thing for anyone to sense or even verbalize), I thought what would the channel be about? Immediately the thought came back from God “About your family and life in Japan.” So the channel was born.

After a slow first year, the channel started to get traction outside of our friends and family. Our first video to really take off was about Tokyo Skytree Tower. I remember as the numbers just kept going up and up, in disbelief. It was a thrill.

Not our first video, but our first video to go big

After that we had a number of big videos. Comments, likes and subscriptions came pouring in. Monetization came — a crazy thought to me that I might actually get a little bit of money out of all of the blood, sweat and tears already invested. I thought God, I had no idea this was going to happen! Thank you!

People on the street began to recognize us and stop us and say “Are you the Reutters from YouTube?” It was strange getting used to the fact that wherever we went in Japan, people probably knew us (and earlier this year, in America as well). With the spotlight, I really began to pray for God’s protection over our family.

Since then, we’ve had a video get over a million views and another video about to hit a million. Many other videos have hundreds of thousands of views. The exposure for our church and work in Japan has been fantastic, and our subscriber base has become rock solid.

But I’ve also felt all the stress and pressure that comes with producing YouTube videos and working full-time as well. Many times I’ve thought of throwing in the towel and having a simpler, easier life in Japan. So why do we keep on producing videos week in, week out? What continues to motivate us past all of the YouTube creator blues?

In short, the answer is you. Yes, you are the reason that I can’t imagine stopping this. When I think of what God has done through this channel, and all the people it has helped feel encouraged, hopeful and cognizant of the church in Japan and the hope that there is in Jesus for happy families full of life, I get happy and excited. I love reading the comments, interacting with everyone and inviting them to meet us at Paz Coffee Shop.

There may come a day that God says to stop, or for our own sanity and health we need to stop, but until then, this is the ride of a lifetime — the ride of Life in Japan.

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Quarantined

In the last couple of months, several words have taken on a new meaning. Corona used to mean a certain type of Mexican beer. Now it means a terrible virus that has shut down the world. Social distance used to refer to the space that an unfriendly or awkward person created between themselves and others. Now it means physically spacing yourself from others. And another word that has changed meaning is quarantine.

Quarantine by definition is a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that may have been exposed to infectious disease are placed. However, just like the words above, definitions have morphed and changed. It is still a period of isolation, but it now applies to those who are suspicious of being exposed to a disease. It is not just a reactive state of quarantine, but a preventative state of quarantine. (People now quarantine themselves to prevent exposure.)

And if you’re returning to Japan in 2021, then prepare yourself: you will be quarantined. But it doesn’t have to be a bad time — in fact, it can be a positive experience if you look at it that way. And that’s just how we approached it.