The Nail that Sticks Up…

There is a saying in Japan: 出る釘は打たれる deru kugi wa utareru – it is generally translated as “The nail that sticks up, will be hammered down.” If you are a carpenter building a house, this makes sense – nails that stick out are dangerous, causing injury or damage to various things that can get snagged. We expect a carpenter to pound in that protruding nail. But this saying is referring to people. It means that people who stand out – because of their behavior, their looks, their academic performance (not only falling behind, but even being too far ahead) – need to be made to conform.

One of the most extreme examples I have heard of recently has to do with hair. Many schools have a rule that students are forbidden to dye their hair. Now, in the history of strict school rules, this doesn’t seem that bad. It may prevent some kids from expressing themselves as they would like, but it is not unheard of. Many schools, in America as well,  find extreme hair cuts and dye jobs to be a distraction to their mission of education.

But here is where it gets strange. Japanese people generally have black hair. So how is the “no hair-dyeing” rule applied to people that don’t fit the norm – foreigners, children of  multi-racial parents, or the rare Japanese person with lighter brown hair? Those students are required to dye their hair black.

In order to enforce a “no hair-dyeing” rule, some children are forced to dye their hair.

There is currently a court case in Osaka Prefecture brought by a Japanese high school student over the mental anguish she has suffered from being forced to dye her naturally brown hair black (Link to BBC Article). She claims that teachers told her, “If you don’t dye your hair black, then don’t bother coming to school.” She says her situation has caused her to be ridiculed by other students and the frequent dyeing has caused damage to her hair and the development of a rash on her scalp.

Some schools avoid this requirement by maintaining a “light-colored-hair registry” (Link to Asahi Shimbun article). Students who have non-black hair are given a form to fill out attesting to its natural color. Parents must provide their seal on this form, and are sometimes required to provide pictures of their child as an infant for proof. Students with curly hair are also required to submit proof that it is naturally occurring.

One would think that parents would give a lot of pushback against these rules, but schools actually consider them to be a benefit. With the shrinking population, competition for students at the various private and public schools has grown. Strict discipline is an important selling point.

We often tell people that the best thing that helped our family’s transition to Japan was CCSI – Covenant Community School International. CCSI is a dual-track (Japanese and English) Christian school that was started by our team initially to provide schooling for missionary children. Over the years it has grown to around 60 kids, not only from missionary families, but Japanese and international children as well. We are truly thankful to be able to send our kids to a school that is focused on the worship of Christ, not on an idol of conformity.

As missionaries, we take the “long view.” Japan has been some of the rockiest soil for the spread of the Gospel. But I truly believe that the work we do with our school – helping to raise up a generation of Christ-centered kids in Japan (most of whom are fluently bilingual) will bear great fruit in the decades to come.

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Global Missions Conference 2017

img_1503Tom, Kylie and I went to Dallas, Tx this past weekend for the PCA Global Missions Conference (GMC). It was a sweet time of reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in a while (people from Japan and also fellow missionaries that we had gone though training with before we left for the field).  It was also a really good time of meeting new people and talking about the ministry opportunities in Japan and the need for workers.  There were over 2000 people in attendance….2000 people…a mix of missionaries, ministry leaders in the states who have a heart for promoting missions in their churches, men and women who are interested in missions and exploring the possibility of moving overseas to minister.  What a blessing to be a part of this gathering!  Please join us in praying for the fruit of this conference, especially for the Lord to raise up new workers for the field!

 

Interns

One of the joys of serving in Japan has been working with and mentoring interns. Our interns are usually young men and women who are taking time off from school or jobs to serve in their first cross-cutural mission experience. Some come for two months over the summer, others come for up to 11 months.

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Our summer interns help with the end of the school year at CCSI (which runs into early July), then help with programs over the summer, like our annual English Camp/VBS

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The interns who come for 3-11 months usually come during the school year and serve as teachers at CCSI.

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During their time in Japan, Karen and I have the opportunity to spend time with and mentor the interns.

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We frequently have them in our home for hospitality, fellowship and Bible studies.

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I even got to marry a couple of them when we returned to the States! (though technically speaking, interns are NOT ALLOWED TO DATE during their internships)

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I can’t guarantee interns will meet their future spouses, but I still highly recommend this program for young people (we actually have had retired couples serve as interns as well) who are considering a future in missions, or who just want the chance to serve Christ, to grow in their faith, and to gain a new perspective beyond the shores of America.

If you want more information, this is a link to MTW’s Japan internship page.

Snow in November 

It snowed here in Japan last week.  Our first real snow since we moved here.  The kids got to get out of school early and we enjoyed a snow day inside keeping warm from the cold.  Just a couple pictures from our neighborhood….our house sits on a corner and we have an incredible walking path right outside our door.   The snow basically melted by the next day…it was fun while it lasted!  🙂

November 2016 already?

The bilingual congregation that we are a part of moved this past summer from 11:00am worship at one location to 3:00pm worship at another (larger) location.  One of the things that we are trying (for building community) is hospitality meals in church members homes.  We really enjoyed having these three families over to share a meal with us…it was good practice for our Japanese language learning and such a blessing to just laugh and talk and get to know each other.  Please pray for good community within our church…and that these meals would be a catalyst for depth in our relationships.  Check out our church website (Alive International) with some information about what we are doing!   


Our kids continue to be blessed at CCSI.   This is a picture taken during their middle/high school fall costume party.  Many families benefit greatly from having an English speaking option for schooling through CCSI.  Please pray that new teachers and interns would be raised up to join our team here….

April 2016

Spring in Japan has been beautiful….


One of the highlights of our time in Japan is the relationships we have with the interns that come through. We have been blessed with being able to come alongside these young adults and live in community with them here.   

We just said goodbye to a 4 month intern and are preparing to say goodbye to a 8 month one….saying goodbye is hard. But there’s a beauty in the sadness. Will you especially pray for my little kids as they prepare to say goodbye to an intern they have grown close to in two weeks?   

Check out this Vlogzilla episode that they worked on this spring together.  🙂