Outside the Fukuoka elementary school, I am
handing out flyers to children for an ice cream party–
I don’t know any of these kids. My Japanese pastor says
this is how most people find our church.
A girl in the window practices her flute. She looks
lonely, the only silhouette against an empty
playground. Does she want to be up there? Does she like
to play the flute? Years from now, will she still play it?
A group of boys run past us–orderly, bodies lined up
the way their teacher taught them. They say
no thank you to our flyers in English
while a couple girls accept (to be polite?),
gossiping about ice cream and English
on their way home. On our way home,
I imagine them all sitting cross-legged on the sanctuary
floor, ice-cream bowls in hand, chatting freely.
On Saturday, the church is empty except
for five white gallon buckets of ice cream.
Why am I surprised? I would never let
my kids go to a stranger’s party, at the top
of a quiet shopping center no less! How much stranger–
as foreigners–we must seem to them, our gospel
synonymous with whiteness, the west, gaijin.
We try to laugh: more ice cream for us then, chatting
with spoons hanging out of our mouths, the open
gallons hollow teeth in the mouth of the room.
Our pastor has lived in this city his whole life. He stands
at the window, watching Fukudai dori traffic:
two children walking home, hand in hand.
He watches them cross the street, shoulders tense,
as if they are his own children, relaxing only
when they get to the other side.