Hi there! My name is Alex Gray, and I’m 23 years old. I grew up in Kirkwood, MO (Pioneer Pride, everyone) and I’ve spent the last four wonderful years in Columbia at Mizzou. I graduated this past May with degrees in International Business and Spanish. It was at Mizzou that I became a Christian through a local church called The Crossing. Veritas, the church’s college ministry, changed not just my experience at Mizzou, but really my entire life.
I’ve always been interested in nonprofit organizations, but in becoming a Christian I realized that my desire was more closely tied with missions rather than philanthropy alone. Starting my sophomore year, I spent every spring break on a mission trip through Veritas to Harmons, Jamaica. An organization called Won by One works year-round to provide both physical needs and spiritual ministry to the people there, and they host groups of all ages to help do that. Harmons is my happy place. Everything about it makes me joyful. There, not only do I delight in the vibrant culture and the beautiful terrain, but I also get to serve by tangibly providing for people in a developing country.
So after my junior year, I surprised even myself when I decided to go with Veritas to Japan for the summer, seeing as it’s about as opposite as you can get from Jamaica. They both start with J, but that’s where the similarities end, maybe.
It turns out you can love two very different places in two very different ways. In Jamaica, I find peace and familiarity in the slow-paced, rural community and the lively, God-loving people. But over that summer I saw that even though it wasn’t always comfortable or easy like Jamaica, Japan was taking serious hold of my heart. The flashy, frantic feel of city life in Japan could not be more different than Harmons. The product of that busyness is a culture of mechanical efficiency and self-restraint, two descriptors that do not characterize Jamaica. Amidst all the busyness there is an overt emptiness present in people’s lives. It doesn’t have the dire physical need that I had been drawn to in the past. What it has instead is a great spiritual need, with less than 1% of the Japanese population professing to be Christians. This overwhelming need has been what’s led me to the decision of going back for a full year. I believe that the gospel fills the emptiness that Japan faces, and I hope this blog moves others to believe that as well. I invite you to join me as I experience the adventures and lessons of this upcoming mission!
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