the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I didn't do anything!

This is so cool. I was at English Fellowship tonight. A woman I know
from Japanese class came for the first time.

At the meal she asked me a million questions about Christianity. "Why do
you pray for other people?" "What is the meaning of Christianity?" "Why
can there be only one God?" "Why are you Christian?" "Can't people be
good by themselves?" "Why are Catholics and Protestants separate?"

Together with the pastor, I gave my testimony, shared all kinds of
Biblical truth. At the end I asked if she was interested in reading the
Bible. She said yes and I lent her my Bible.

I didn't do anything! She just came, sat down and asked me questions! I
was just there. "Always be ready to give a reason for the faith you have."

At the missionary meeting in Tokyo we were talking about tiring
ourselves out doing what we think God wants, but if we just sit and wait
- and keep our eyes open - God will give us something. I couldn't really
believe that's what I should be doing when I heard it, but it seems God
has a sense of humor.

These are the times I really love, because it makes me remember why I'm
in Japan.

As always, please pray for Japan.

Friday, April 11, 2008

the doors on the alter

In the front of the chapel, there's an alter. It has two big candles on
it, and in the middle is a big brass IHS cross. The alter is in an
alcove at the back of the stage, there are doors on it. At the end of
chapel, we extinguish the candles and close the doors. It seemed weird
to me, but I could never quite put my finger on why.

This week one of the English teachers explained the doors to me. The
doors are left over from pre-World War II.

During World War II, all Japanese public gathering places were required
to have a picture of the Emperor so that the entire country could
worship the Emperor together. If they didn't have this picture, the
building was closed to the public. Rather than close, the Japanese
churches choose (or rather complied) to having a picture of the Emperor
placed in their buildings. (It's important to note that because of the
war, all missionaries left Japan.) At Seiai, the picture of the Emperor
used to be in alcove. In fact, before the war, there was no alcove in
the back of the stage.

The fact that pre-war, mainline churches complied to this is often a
point the mainline churches fight about with the younger and more
evangelical post-war churches. Younger churches say the mainline
churches shouldn't have complied at all. They should have accepted
persecution. But the fact remains that the younger churches weren't
around then, and may have done the same thing had they been in that
circumstance.

In Shintoism, when you leave the room, the God leaves too. So when
people left the service, the doors of the alcove were closed because the
Emperor was no longer there. This also keeps the god clean.

The cross now stands where the Emperor's picture once was. But our God
is still here! His Spirit is always with us! He doesn't leave at the end
of the service. He doesn't leave if you close the door.

When we were cleaning up after the service (putting a cover on the
pulpit, putting the big Bible away, extinguishing the candles), I told
the chaplain we don't need to close the door because God is still here.
She smiled and closed the door.

I think there are many things in Japanese church that have been adopted
from Japanese culture. Some things, like the pulpit cover, are good. It
really does keep the pulpit clean. But there are things like the alcove
doors. Those things are not Christianity at all. They reflect other
beliefs and values that we don't believe.

This is what I was thinking as I went back to the office and tried to
get ready for my next lesson. As I thought about it, I couldn't stand
it. I ran back downstairs and opened the alcove doors. I thought about
putting a big stick at the bottom of the doors so no one can close them
anymore. But I think I better clear that with the chaplain first. :)

In some ways, it really doesn't matter. But in some ways, it really does.

...A little yeast works through the whole dough.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I hate global warming

So, cherry blossom time is the best time in Japan. Everyone has picnics
and there are lots of festivals. Everyone makes time for it, so everyone
is generally free. I see people I haven't had a chance to see all year.
It's big deal.

But this year the cherry blossoms are supposed to bloom about 2 or 3
weeks early - next week!

I have a freshman retreat that weekend so I'll be working! I love the
retreat and working with my students, but I wish global warming would
back off a bit so I could enjoy both my work and my friends.

To help stop global warming you can:
- start riding your bike to work or take public transit
- try to create less waste
- turn or lights and appliances (like iPod chargers) you aren't using

a typical Japanese Christian story

This morning it was my turn to do the bike parking check, and I got to talk with one of my Christian English teachers.

Church came up and I got to hear her story. She's been a Christian for some time. She was on the religion department for over ten years. She's a member of the church in the town where she lives, but she hasn't been there in years. She says she doesn't go because she is the only Christian in her family and it's hard.

We didn't have much time to talk, so I assumed the rest:

- She married a non-Christian.
- Without two believers, the kids didn't have good examples to follow and didn't become believers.
- She got tired of going to an old boring church by herself and decided spending time with her kids was a better use of her time.

Many Japanese Christians are married like this - many also must choose to stay single their whole lives. Like I said, this isn't the first time I've heard a story like this in Japan. So I assumed the rest, but I'll defiantly talk to her about it again later.

She's a great woman of faith, and I could see a difference in her when I first got here. But she always kept her distance. This is probably why. I don't blame her for her choices. It is hard being a Christian in Japan - especially when you're Japanese.

I just thought I'd give you readers a window into Japan. Please pray for Japan, the Japanese church and Japanese Christians. We covet your prayers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mission Trip: VBS in Yokohama (Tokyo)

Some of my fellow missionaries are having a summer VBS program (in English) in Yokohama. That's suburban Tokyo for those of you who don't know. They're expecting over 100 students ages 4-9.

But they're short staffed. They need team leaders and other general help for the program. It's about a week long, from August 11-15th, and it would make a great short-term missions trip. If you're interested, click the picture for more info.