Friday, November 15, 2019

Japanese Culture Series 25: Daijosai




Recently in Japan a new emperor succeeded the throne after the previous one abdicated. (Read about it here. ) To the Japanese, as well as other countries throughout the world, the royal family is an important part of their heritage. A lengthy process is involved for a heir to become the actual emperor of Japan which culminates after a series of ceremonies into the final event called 'Daijosai'. In this lengthy ceremony, which lasts for a whole night, the new emperor performs rituals, prayers, and offerings to the sun god. A simple description can be found here and a more complex explanation can be found here.

The emperor basically becomes the spiritual leader of the country by communing with the sun god. In one document he is said to be given a god spirit complete with special abilities. In the past before World War 2 the Japanese believed that their emperor was a god, although today the belief is marked with controversy. Whether or not the people believe him to be a god, the fact remains that the event is a highly spiritual Shinto ceremony in which the emperor is being given some kind of spirit along with authority over the country. In plain speech, the spiritual leader of this country is being led by the spirit of this world. In Japan each of the provinces contain many temples and shrines through which continual offerings and requests are made to various deities. Generally, most children are continually dedicated throughout their childhood to various deities in order to gain health and prosperity. It is then no wonder as to why this nation remains firm in its opposition to salvation through Christ. Please pray for this nation's half of a percent Christian population and those here seeking truth in this modern day Pergamos!


Friday, September 20, 2019

10 Year Anniversary in Japan

On top of  Mt. Fuji


Normally my husband is the writer of this blog, however he asked me if I would do a special post to commemorate my 10 year anniversary as a missionary in Japan. Much thanks to all those who have helped me make it! When I first came over as a single lady I went to language school while assisting churches for the first 5 years. This post is about some of the things I learned, but mainly I wish to write this to benefit people who are considering service as a missionary or in some other ministry capacity. Amazingly the points I wanted to write about came to me in alliterated form so...

DEAR FUTURE MISSIONARY, This is for you...

CALLING

Confirmation: I always advise new missionaries not only to ask God for a clear calling and confirmation for going into ministry, but also for choosing a certain field. Because tough times on the field are inevitable, knowing that you are called from God will help give real determination for your mission. I also strongly advise asking God to give a special confirmation verse that confirms His leading in your life.
Christ: Make sure your calling is from Christ and not just your own sense of adventure,
obligation, pride, emotion, or some other thing that you think is calling you to the field. Only Christ provides the power and long term incentive for keeping to your calling!
Count the Cost: Just as the passage in Luke 14 speaks of counting the cost before you begin
something, you must also do this with your life on the mission field before you go. Be aware that you are going to miss out on special family gatherings, weddings, funerals, friendships, and seeing family growing up. Sure, there will be short furloughs, but you can't go back home for everything. You have to be okay with this.

FAITH

While walking by faith is essential for any successful Christian life, there are 10 areas of faith that I believe are particularly important to have as you start your ministry journey and to develop as you serve.
Field: This goes back to the confirmation point as mentioned before. Having faith that the field you are going to or working on is correct is important. Can your field change? Sure it can. But make sure it is a step of faith and not based on feelings that you are in the right place.
Finances: If you can learn to trust God early with your finances the better off you will be for the
field. My best advice is DO NOT take out loans or go into debt for anything. Trust God to provide
for your needs and be patient for Him to do so. This may sound crazy by today's thinking, but that's
exactly what I did for all 4 years of college when neither I nor my parents could afford it. I was on
my knees every weekend begging God to provide for my next bill and He used it to teach me to trust
Him. Miraculously, He provided everything with no debt involved! That was just the preparation I needed for the field.
Family: You must trust God to take care of the family you are leaving, and the one you are taking
with you. Pray for their protection , needs, etc. I was single when I first came to Japan, so I
had to have faith God would send me a man also called to serve God in Japan, and He did!
Future: We have no idea what our future on the field will look like, or how long He will allow us
to be here. Many times missionaries can get discouraged because when their "future" arrives it
looks much different than they had envisioned it. But we shouldn't be discouraged—only trust God
and keep serving Him!
Friendships: Faith in friendships can be applied here in a couple of different ways. First it is
important to have faith that God is bringing friendships into your life for His purposes. There are
people He wants you to witness to as well as minister to that need you—and ultimately need Him. Also, you must use faith and seek God as to who you are to be partners to minister with. Do not just
assume you will fit with someone because it seems right. It is important to really seek God on these matters.
Fights: Yes, there will be fights on the field! Fights with Satanic forces, fights with those who
you are trying to minister to, and yes, fights or disagreements with co-ministers. The
number one reason missionaries leave the field is over disagreements with co-workers. During these
times it is important to seek God and make sure you are clear in your own conscience, gracious
and forgiving towards the other party, and in the end that you put your faith in God to keep going
even when things are looking down.
Feelings: We must realize we cannot rely on our feelings as a missionary. There will be good
times and bad times. It's important to keep our eyes on God during both times and seek Him for constant leading and direction rather than what we are feeling like doing. Be not weary in well doing!
Failures: There will be times when we fail. Our ministry isn't going to be perfect, but we must trust that God can still work in failures and have faith that He doesn't give up on us when we mess up!
Fruit: We must have faith that God brings the fruit! Some places like those in many Latin
American countries have fields that are ripe for harvest with many getting saved rather quickly. Others like Japan need a lot of watering or weeding before even one little plant sprouts up. Either way the fruit is from God in His timing. This doesn't negate our need for laboring for souls, nor does it mean we should be proud, thinking Salvation of a soul is all our doing. We labor, then trust
God for the increase.
 Fitness: One of the most common ways a missionary is tested on the field is through health concerns. Be it yourself, family back home, or your children—and believe me, nothing tests a missionary like having a child with health concerns on the field. Medical practices will be different and often the language is too. But again, each one must be given to the Lord as they come up—and often repeatedly. The other aspect of faith in fitness is taking care of our body as the Bible says to prevent health issues. Not being gluttonous, getting exercise, and taking care of our body as it is the temple of God. Even so there WILL be things that arise—accidents, sudden sickness, dental issues etc., but we must look at these things as a way to grow our trust and love for the Lord.

FLEXIBILITY

I could have put this point and the next under the Faith bullets and kept up with the alliteration, but I felt they were important enough to deserve their own sections. My college missions teacher used to say, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be easily bent out of shape.” This is a great point for missionaries to remember because there are many different kinds of demands on the field, and often when ministry opportunities arise it will be in an unexpected way. One veteran missionary told me to learn every skill I possibly could before coming to the field because God would use them all. I've found this to be true. Also, having enough time management skills in one's life to be able to minister to someone when the opportunity arises is a challenge for the busy missionary, but something to strive for!

FAITHFULNESS

One of the key characteristics of a successful missionary is faithfulness. Faithfulness is most often found in the private life where no one but God sees. Faithfulness in reading your Bible, faithfulness in prayer, faithfulness in witnessing, and since I became a wife I have added family and home duties to things to be faithful in. As I am naturally a more sporadic-type person, this has been an area that I've had to do some growing in—and I still have plenty of growing room! I must say I'm thankful for my husband's example in this way as he is a faithful, steady man if I ever met one! Even though I have been on the field 10 years now, there is still much for me to learn, from my husband who has been here less time than I, from others, and from God. Which brings me to one of my most important tips for missionaries: Never stop learning, but be faithful to always allow God to use your experiences, relationships, failures, and especially His Word and the Holy spirit to keep teaching you no matter how long you serve Him!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Japanese Cultural Series 24: Oyakōkō



In your mind, what is the most important thing in your life? In Western individualistic culture we are typically free to answer that question in any number of ways. However for many Asian group cultures that are based in Confucianism often the family takes precedent over everything else. This focus is known in Japan as oyakōkō, (filial piety) or the virtue of respect for parents, elders, and ancestors. A child is essentially obligated to obey their parents in all matters including who to marry, what career to get, and how to live life. This obligation often exists as long as parents are alive. Even after death many Asian cultures extend this obligation into the next life through ancestor worship and the consulting of their spirits. Even today a great majority of Japanese are expected to obey their parents in all matters. However, some modern trends are moving more toward loosening these obligations as long as no shame is not brought to the family. Why do many Asian cultures still strictly adhere to these principles? It appears that strict adherence to traditions, strong desire to avoid shame, strong desire for favor in the sight of others, and elevation of adhering to the past are among factors that these cultures hold in the highest regard. Some of the benefits of oyakōkō include high respect levels in society in daily interactions, low crime rates, preservation of traditions, and care for the elderly. To the western mind where our world is increasingly lacking any decency this kind of respect sounds refreshing, but it often comes at a cost.

What if a child does not want to be a doctor when they grow up? What if they do not want to follow their parent in continuing an ancient tradition, custom, or trade? What if someone wants to follow Jesus Christ instead of worshiping their ancestors? To the Japanese mind the individual is not important and must give up their personal desires for the sake of the group. This is learned from a very early age beginning in pre-school. This form of harmony for the sake of pleasing others comes at the cost of the individual's choice. For a Japanese Christian immersed in this world is it more important to be obedient to one's parents (Colossians 3:20) or forsake family for Christ? (Matthew 19:29) These are some of the dilemmas that people in Japan often face. So, a commitment to follow Christ or to get baptized often takes a long time as many factors are carefully considered. To go against the societal structure in this way is viewed as the worst of sins by society. So when a person does become a Christian they truly know what it is like to follow the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23-25:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?


In Western culture the closest example would be that of the Jehovah's Witnesses. If one within their ranks decides to become a Christian they will be disowned by their entire family, therefore the cost to them is greater. Please pray for the Japanese people and Japanese Christians!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Japan: Land of Contrasts



Recently, a visitor to Japan asked me why it is that Japanese people frequent temples and shrines, yet claim that they do not have any religious beliefs. In the west we consider this to be contradictory or hypocritical, however to Japanese people this is normal. In the Japanese way of thinking going to a temple is not necessarily a matter of belief or unbelief, but more of a sense of honoring the past, honoring ancient traditions, and being respectful to ancestors as well as Japan itself. Imagine a typical American atheist coming into a church and having his children partake in Sunday school out of respect for America's culture, traditions, and history while at the same time refusing to believe in God! Imagine if he asked the pastor to pray for him, while not believing in God at all! This is just one of many examples of how Japanese people live.

To the Japanese person it is important to focus on, uphold, and show respect for the past. Traditionally, to them the past is held in reverence and should be considered most important when considering future decision making. So, even though the average modern Japanese person does not claim to have any religious beliefs, they will take their child to a religious dedication ceremony because that is what the culture and tradition demands. They will perform prayers and ceremonies (or pay others to) for their dead ancestors at grave sites because that is what culture and tradition demands, not because that is what they actually believe in. In this way Japan is a land of contrasts. In the west we often boldly believe that we should move into the future with little if any regard for the past. This occurs to such an extent that increasingly few people know about history or care to know about history. Of course, there should be a balance.

In Japan this balance is increasingly difficult to find as there is a rapid push for globalization, a large number of Japanese people who have traveled and lived abroad, and a new generation that desires to leave behind the heavy burdens of the past. So, as long as these concepts remain in a flux, Japan remains a land of contradictions. Japanese people increasingly have to decide whether they will modernize while abandoning the past versus trying to modernize while preserving the past. I personally believe that a major part of the spiritual powers controlling Japanese thinking come from the power exerted over the Japanese people from the worship of the past. Any visitor will recognize that Japanese people go to great extends to preserve the past. Japanese people take great pride in their past. (As opposed to recent American thinking which takes pride in hating its past.)

Concerning the ministry here it would appear important to show respect for the past within reason while balancing a healthy outlook on the future with God's help. Once a person becomes a born-again believer in Christ there is a definite pattern to personal growth with having all things become new and moving in a future direction toward becoming more holy like God. This is in stark contrast to focusing on the past to the point of being the most important thing to revere. A real challenge is finding the balance between past, present, and future with God as our emphasis. Our American churches are currently dealing with this as well. Completely focusing on the past or completely rejecting the past are both negative extremes with their own consequences. Part of our faith is a healthy focus on the past while moving into the future knowing the hope that God is in control with a future plan for humanity.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Japan Culture Series 23: Danjyo Kankei



It is quite obvious from any outside observer that the Japanese way of life is quite different from that of anywhere else on earth. One of the areas in which this difference has been seen is in male-female relationships, otherwise known as Danjyo Kankei. Some research will yield that Japan was originally said to be a female dominated society, which later transitioned to a male dominated society when Confucianism was introduced through Chinese influences. This influence has existed up until after World War 2 in which the concept of equal rights as well as later feminism were introduced into Japan. However, despite these influences Japan still appears to be a more conservative male oriented society in general.

Japanese people typically do not date until later after high school years due to high educational pressures, and if they even marry will not typically do so until their early 30s. A culmination of cultural norms concerning communication, societal expectations (education, work), and familial pressures seem to make the whole process awkward. In recent times due to a lowering population, changed ideas about sexuality, as well as more women entering the work force, it appears that fewer people are getting married at all. It does not help that a group of men have been labeled as 'herbivore men' for not having any desire for any kind of relationship at all. For those who are interested in relationships often group dating, various dating services, or omiai are considered ways to initiate relationships.

When Japanese do get married the typical scenario is for the man to work many long hours while the woman essentially stays behind to raise children in an almost single-parent style setup. It is expected for the man work long hours, stay out late after work to maintain harmony with his co-workers, and come back very late (past 10pm) at night each day. Often times the woman takes care of the house, children, financial, and spiritual aspects of the home. She can also be expected to be somewhat subservient to her new mother and father-in-law. For these reasons relationships in Japan are often strained, which has led to lowered expectations, affairs, and more room-mate like conditions. Relationships here rarely express affection and often seem to be taken for granted. Perhaps we can now understand one of the reasons as to why the population may be decreasing!

What does this mean for ministry purposes? It seems that perhaps with such a low emphasis on relationships that some serious desires for meaning of life as well as reason for relationships ought to be explored in detail. In a materialistic society less emphasis seems to be placed on children or human value in general, while more seems to be placed on the self-fulfilling desires. The Bible gives the solution to the problems Japan is facing in providing a guideline for living, reason to exist, and blessings from God Himself to those willing to follow Him. We should pray for the salvation of the Japanese people as well as direction and purpose!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

2018: Year in Review



Well, it is that time again! How quickly the time flies! This April 2019 will mark our two year anniversary here! Looking back on the year it is apparent that we have gone through a lot of changes as we adopt to a new lifestyle in Japan. The theme for 2018 seems to follow closely with the following passage:

...For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” - Luke 12:48 KJV

The overall theme of the passage concerns a parable of Jesus talking of how various workers spent their time in service of their master. Living here as a missionary full time now for close to two years has made me understand the gravity the teachings of this parable. In light of the pressures to learn a complex language, the burden of seeing a great mass of lost souls, and the great resources invested into my family to do this work, I can with integrity say that our family has put forth an 'honest work for an honest wage' from our master. A year of work fruitful for the Lord has been far more enjoyable than other years of my life spent on my own foolish pursuits! The following information is for the purpose of understanding the situation here in Japan, so you can pray for it better!

Concerning the gospel tract ministry, in this last year, according to my records, a very conservative estimate of over 70,000 Japanese gospel tracts have been put out around the Tokyo area. Mostly we have been concentrating on apartment complexes as this is where most Japanese people live. Although it is legal to do this, it can seem like a risky venture at times. I have experienced some great protections from God to get into apartment complexes as well as having the exact number of tracts needed to completely cover an apartment complex without prior knowledge of an area on multiple occasions. I have also experienced a lot of hostility and even being yelled at a few times! 'Tracting' can be accomplished by taking about 30 to 45 minutes each day to put out about 250 to 500 tracts on my way to language school early each morning. Many thanks and support need to go to Chick Tracts and Fellowship Tract League for shipping these tracts free of charge. If you want to support a ministry that actually gets good gospel tracts to missionaries around the world for free, please support them! By teaming up with our Japanese friend, we have completed translating two of the Chick tracts relevant to Japan into Japanese. We really can't know what the full results of the tract distribution are, as it is by faith, but my statistics of website views indicate that about 1% to 5% of the tracts put out on any given week will yield a website view. This has also been a year that I have also purposefully focused on reaching English speakers, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Chinese through the use of gospel tracts and websites. Please pray for all these people to become born-again believers and connected to good Bible-believing churches and believers! 70,000 is nothing compared to the 38 million that live here in Tokyo. Please pray for more workers for the harvest!

Last January 2018 I was in the middle of a winter session of language school and have been continuing to consistently study ever since. I have gone from having a hard time understanding what was being said to me at all to being able to understand about 30% as well as a great majority of basic communication. Learning a language full-time has taken its toll on us as a family as I am often away studying. However, it is better to put the time in now early on with young children than to struggle later. I have easily put in over 1000 hours of language study this year in addition to the 500 hours from last year. I am in the intermediate level of understanding as of the writing of this blog post. According to some statistics it takes roughly 2200 classroom hours to learn Japanese! Please pray for me as well as my family during this time!

Part of a missionary life is being a host to many people. Over the last year we have had many people come visit us from the USA and elsewhere. However, most of our personal ministry also involves having Japanese people over to our house for meals, bible study, and fellowship in general. This includes our teachers, neighbors, classmates, and those we've met through church ministries. Even though the Japanese culture does not allow for an 'open-house policy' we have maintained our American sentiments by allowing our house to be open to visitors. We have also met with people in public places to discuss spiritual matters in the hope of leading to a Bible study. Much of my wife's ministry has been in meeting with people in public or having them over to the house. Generally we try to focus most of our energy and prayers intently on three main people each to keep matters simple. After reading Master Plan of Evangelism a few years ago we thought it wise to follow Jesus' model in spending most time with three closest disciples. In reality it is easier to focus energy on less people.

Over the last year we have been able to get to know people at the church very well. It has been nice to build relationships and gain insight into how a Japanese church operates. As I learn how to speak more it will be good to have this relationship when it comes time to do a new church. Some of the men have become eager to help me learn Japanese as well as knowing about how to help with a new church. The last time this church did a church plant was in 1990, and that church became self-supporting in 2004. My wife has been involved in helping to teach Sunday school as well as doing art projects for the church when needed. We also were asked to be the speakers for the Sunday School mission conference this last year and my wife will be in charge of directing it this year. In relation to the church we have traveled to a few other areas to encourage, as well as to speak and teach in a summer camp. We hope to be able to travel more to see this country in the future when necessary and to put out gospel tracts along the way!

I have spent a lot of time talking about 'doing tasks', but I also want to share about 'being'. We have been concentrating on doing daily devotionals whether that be reading/praying together daily or listening to devotionals done by others. This has also been a year of learning about God a lot as I have been able to read a lot on my 45 minute train trips in and out of Tokyo for school as well as watch sermons on the off time. The longer we are here we realize that there is a lot to receive in this humbling process of learning a new culture. We have been able to spend some time together as a family, which has been nice. Please pray for us to be strong as a family as we are finishing up year two. On average missionaries quit japan after about two years!

This year has been a good one and we thank first and foremost the Lord Jesus Christ followed by our supporters who have generously allowed us to be here to represent the Lord. We look forward to the next year as well as a new baby to be due in late June! We want to publicly thank everyone for their prayers, support, and encouragement! God Bless!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Pictures from around Tokyo

Many of you have not seen a lot of the pictures that we share on Facebook, so I decided to post some here. Please enjoy!

Asparagus Bun
This is an Asparagus Bun. The Japanese seem to like including things in their bread that we would consider to be odd in the USA. I often see some various vegetables, corn,
small fish, etc. included with bread. Some popular breads are also hotdogs and buns with spaghetti on them, which are both left out in the cold.














Shinkansen

This is one of the bullet trains that can be found around Tokyo. They travel at a top speed of about 200 miles per hour. On board it is a very smooth ride. They are about equal in price to a domestic airplane ticket.








Ema
This is an "Ema", or a Shinto prayer request poster. Basically people write their pray-requests on a piece of wood and hang it here in the hopes that a spirit will see and answer it. They are common around Shinto shrine areas.








Gacha Gacha Toy Machine

This is a Gacha Gacha toy machine. They are all around Japan because Japanese people love miniature things. Here is a detailed video on it: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b9xoU0cy28 ) Just like in many American grocery stores you can buy these cheap toys in a plastic bubble for anywhere from $1 to $5.








Mini Bike
Japanese people love miniature things. This was a miniature bike that I got permission to take a picture of. It was kind of funny seeing a tough guy with a cigarette and a tiny bike!












Pagoda
In Japan in special places Pagodas can often be found. This particular Pagoda was on top of a mountain in the Okutama City area. It was certainly unexpected. We basically came upon it at the last second on top of a mountain. I did not even know that it was going to be there. Japanese like to build shrines, temples, and pagodas on top of high places. In the Bible in the Old Testament when I think of 'high places' that were used to worship pagan gods, I often think of the same thing here in Japan in their high places.













Apartment Mailbox
This is an average apartment mailbox. Most Japanese people live in 'Mansion Apartments' which are huge flats with hundreds of rooms. This particular apartment had 500 separate rooms in it. Whenever I talk about putting out 250 gospel tracts a day, these are the types of places that I go. This particular apartment took me two separate trips to completely fill up. Tokyo has millions of people, so it is quite easy to put out hundreds of tracts each day. To day I have put out close to 70,000 tracts in apartments. (These don't count the ones that I hand out in person, or leave in places.) In Tokyo there are about 40 million people, so I have barely dented the population with basic gospel tract coverage. Usually about 1-5% of people will actually read the website on the back of the gospel tracts. The website has youtube videos and websites about Christianity, God, Salvation, Evolution, and good churches. Please pray for those people who are interested to be saved and connected with a good Bible believing church!









Salted Roasted Fish Stand
This was an unusual treat to see. These are salted roasted fish for about $3 to $5 dollars. A traditional Japanese snack indeed. Throughout Tokyo there are many traditional type foods and stands to sell to passersby. One of the neat things about being in a large city area is to see the great varieties of foods.



















Buddhist Shrine


This is a Buddhist shrine that is close to where we live. In Japan practically every street corner has some kind of a Buddhist or Shinto shrine. They are deeply embedded into the local culture. We often see people praying at this particular shrine in the morning. They will pray, ring a bell, and throw a coin in. Often times they pray for prosperity and health. Their idea of God is more of a mysterious energy, rather than a personal loving God. Most people do not actually believe in Buddhism or Shintoism when asked. They just follow these traditions because their ancestors followed these traditions. Nonetheless they are strongly influential upon their souls as they are dedicated multiple times in Shinto temples throughout their childhood.









Squatting Toilet
This is the famous "squatty potty". For the Westerner this is highly unusual. If you ever go to Asia you will see them. (Probably some ares in Europe too!) You basically stand and squat over the front part near the flushing handle. It requires a lot of balancing to do correctly. As Americans we could probably not imagine an older person trying this, but in Japan it is quite common as the people here are very limber.














Tanuki
This is a Tanuki. They are considered to be good luck animals that can also be mischievous. They are basically a unique raccoon - dog type animal that exists here in Japan. Often these little statues are seen outside of restaurants. Japanese people love to make small statues of various animals and people to place around gardens, houses, and public areas.





















Busy Tokyo Train
This is a typical shot of the morning Rush-Hour on the train in Tokyo. Usually the train capacity is two to three times its norm during this time. It is not uncommon to be crushed by a wave of people trying to get into the train in the morning. Usually Japanese people do not touch each other, however in the morning they have no problems with getting close and comfortable with each other on the train to work! Here is a typical video of such an occurance:( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7kor5nHtZQ )









Wheat Field
Finally, this is a picture of a wheat harvest happening right in the middle of an urban neighborhood. In Tokyo the Japanese people make the best use of the small bits of land that they have to plant various crops!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Japan Culture Series 22: Otogibanashi




Now in raising a child in Japan my wife and I have been exposed to various Japanese children's stories and books. This has led to our exposure to Otogibanashi, or Japanese Folk Tales. Each story can reveal the influences on the Japanese people from Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as other traditional thoughts. Often it is thought that a nations folk stories for children are meant to teach morals and values important to those people. What are the main differences between Japanese and Western stories?

If you read some of the Otogibanashi from the previously linked website, you will see some of these common themes: importance of the group, strong value of nature, and ideal morals to be practiced. For instance Japanese stories often focus on modesty as opposed to pride, inward beauty as opposed to outward beauty, dependence as opposed to independence, and acceptance as opposed to rejection. These values from the Otogibanashi reinforce what children learn from Japanese society as being either acceptable or unacceptable. If you are into reading manga or watching anime you will most certainly notice many Japanese cultural motifs that may influence you whether you notice it or not! This kind of cultural soft power has influenced many people around the world to be highly favorable toward Japan and to actually move here.

Although some of the values in folk tales are favorable, some of them are not. No matter which country we live in, we must be discerning of what exactly is being taught to our children. For instance, in America the mainstream entertainment industry specifically geared toward children always seems to influence thought based upon some kind of agenda. Often times those values are the opposite of Biblical values, and are therefore governed by the ways of the world. As is in the case of any type of media we consume, we must be highly discerning as to what is being taught to our children. Does it line up with Biblical values? Are you willing to see if your influences line up to the word of God? Please pray for us as we seek to find a balance between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable for raising children in this culture.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Japanologist




By now you probably realize that Japan is indeed a strange country when compared with most places around the world. With that being said there are many people who devote their lives trying to explain the culture here in understandable terms. We call these people Japanologists. To an extent a missionary must study Japanese culture to try to understand the heart of the people here. Think of the last time that someone from another country not only tried to learn your language, but also communicated a foreign concept to you as if it were of the utmost importance. Never had that happen before? That is the task of a missionary. Now that I have been here awhile I can better understand the task at hand and see the importance for having Japanologists. My wife and I have spent a lot of time over the past four years watching a documentary style TV show about Japan called “Begin Japanology”. This on-going TV show is broken up into short thirty minute segments about some various aspect of Japan. By watching this TV show we were able to understand a lot about Japan as well as carry on a conversation with just about anyone here about just about any aspect of Japan. Today I want to take the time to direct you to a website where you can watch episodes free and learn about Japan:


If that link does not work where you are at you can always try to look up “Begin Japanology” on YouTube. If you have the time, please watch some of these episodes to better understand Japan. By watching this TV show you will be able to better pray for the Japanese people as well as understand missionary work in this country!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Japan Culture Series 21: Kenkyo



In Japan high emphasis in daily life is traditionally placed upon the virtue of modesty. This concept is known as Kenkyo. Because Japan is a 'vertical society'  it is important to know what your role is and how it works out in society. An important way to demonstrate an understanding of society is by being careful in the use of communication with others. Hence, the importance of modesty! In the Japanese language a whole subset of special words as well as grammatical forms are employed for use when speaking with superiors to demonstrate modesty. This subset is known as Keigo and is used extensively in the business world as well as when speaking with one's elders! Knowing how to use the correct expressions in Japanese society becomes very important. To demonstrate ones modesty by downplaying compliments or deflecting conversations away from oneself becomes a carefully orchestrated “dance” here. In the West this may seem silly or really overdoing the formalities, but here in Japan it is seen as necessary to show humility. Interestingly enough, in Japan this kind of passive or overly polite behavior is seen as a great virtue. Those who are humble, quiet, obedient, unquestioning to authority, and compliant are greatly valued here. (Although that is changing somewhat with new generations.) Whereas in America the opposite is true! Can you see how politics or businesses would clash when East meets West?

How does this value impact ministry? Since Japanese people value great modesty they can appreciate that the same virtues are taught by Christianity in the Bible. For this reason many Japanese respect Christians even if they do not want to become a Christian. The great truth of Christianity is that God can transform the inner man through salvation, which leads to true humility. Inward humility from a sincere motive truly comes from God. Often times Japanese are taught to be humble outwardly because it is required of society lest they be shamed, however it does not necessarily mean that they are humble people in reality. Often times visitors become disappointed to find out that the humility here is just an act. As Christians we know that only the inward heart change can truly change a person. Once a Japanese person realizes that, they are free to 'be themselves'. In the West we have no idea how much pressure can be exerted on a person to act a certain way because society demands it since we are so used to freely being able to express ourselves. Unfortunately, in the West our freedom often leads to various sins and crimes. Although modesty is a great virtue practiced here in Japan, it comes at the cost of sincerity often times as it is the product of forced compliance from fear of shame or dishonor. Please pray that true freedom in Christ can be found by these people!