I recently got the opportunity to take pictures of stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies via the network of telescopes operated by UNC. Seeing the photos of the planets and galaxy reminded me of why I started to love the stars.
Right after high school, I didn't want to go straight to university. I’m prone to explore, and I felt that funneling from high school to university wouldn’t give me the perspective I wanted. My family heard about a program called Youth With a Mission (YWAM) from some friends at church, and we investigated. YWAM, a non-profit Christian Bible school with a focus on missions, turned out to be perfect for me. At 18 years old, I set off for Herrnhut, Germany all by myself. I learned a lot from my time with YWAM. Some fun lessons (like how to cook for 300+ people with a crew of 5), and some more difficult lessons. One of the more difficult lessons happened while I was on outreach in Iwaizumi, Japan.
Iwaizumi was one of the places hit hard by the 2011 natural disasters and again in 2016 (after I had left). The population was largely older people because many young people worked in big cities or died in the disasters. Because many homes were still not rebuilt, there was a multitude of small gatherings of mobile homes. Japan is a very private society and many people in the temporary housing became shut-ins. My group was working with a missionary who had lived there for many years to build the community up again. While it was very rewarding, the progress was slow and could be a bit frustrating.
After a particularly long day, one of the Japanese workers and I got into a conversation about the stars. She loved the night sky and drew me a map of the stars you could see in the Iwate prefecture. She particularly loved Cassiopeia- a W shaped constellation I can still see in the US.
I have been very blessed to have friends and family all over the world; because of my parents, I have been to 12 countries other than the US. However, it can be a bit lonely when your friends + family are spread over the world. There’s something comforting about knowing that the stars above also see your loved ones, wherever they are. In the past 5 years, I have spent a great deal of time away from my family, but I always felt comforted when I looked at the stars. I never spoke to that lady again, but I feel that she watches the same stars I do.