TCK art and a blessing of HMA…

HMA (home ministry assignment) has been hard on our kids. This picture really expresses well the struggle of being a TCK (third culture kid). There is beauty in both worlds that we are part of. Two worlds that we call home but both of which aren’t fully home to us anymore. No matter which world we are in we are always longing for and missing a piece of the other world. The feelings are especially strong as we prepare to drop Kylie off at college in August and then hopefully return to Japan in September. Would you pray for us as we prepare for that? Would you also pray for the remaining 30% of monthly pledges to be raised by September??

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with these dear college friends. I’m always struck (when we get together) by the fact that the 8 of us all have brothers and no sisters. God has been gracious to provide these sisters in Christ to connect with since our JMU InterVarsity days. This is a blessing of HMA.

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Reaching the World by Welcoming Students

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This is a recent article about international student ministry from our denomination’s magazine, By Faith. The article states that with over one million international students learning on campuses in the United States, “(w)e can reach the world, not only by ‘going,’ but also by ‘welcoming.'”.

This is really true. And as missionaries we get to see the other side of this partnership: Students who have lived overseas, and then return to their home countries – in our case, to Japan. One of the ministry focuses of the congregation we worked with, Alive International, is to minister to “returnees”- Japanese who have lived overseas, either as exchange students, or for work. It makes sense that a young person is far more likely to be exposed to the church and Christianity while attending college in America, than they ever would be while living in the unreached nation of Japan (estimated at 0.4% evangelical Christian).

Did you know that Toyota has manufacturing plants in Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama and West Virginia? Or that Honda has plants in Ohio, Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, North and South Carolina?

Do you have Japanese living for a season in your community? The article goes on to say, “God commands all to ‘practice hospitality’ (Romans 12:13). The New Testament word is philoxenia, grace that transforms strangers into friends. Hospitality means we love strangers and welcome them as Christ welcomed us. Biblical hospitality may be the church’s most countercultural practice.”

One Japanese Christian in our church lived in the US for a number of years while her husband taught at a University. She met many Christians and got involved in a Bible study. Although she didn’t become a Christian while in the US, she began to believe in a creator God. Later when she returned to Japan she got involved with our church and became a Christian. But she points to her time in the States as the starting point for her conversion.

You can support the work of missions by reaching out to foreigners right where you live. And when they are ready to return to their home countries, help put them in touch with the missionaries serving there so that we can connect them with local churches.

The Nail that Sticks Up…

Nail that sticks upThere 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.

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!  🙂