Thursday, September 1, 2011

What I am doing in Japan

A few Sundays ago, as I was visiting a church downtown for the first time, someone asked "what are you doing in Japan?" What am I doing, indeed! Traditionally, whenever I've been asked this question, I have the tendency to feel a little embarrassed by the fact that I'm not planting churches, working for a relief organization, or directly relating to my Japanese neighbors on a day-to-day basis. Somehow, letting people know that I teach at a Christian international school always seemed anti-climactic, a bit disappointing.

I may not be doing any of the cool stuff that I listed above (actions that are often associated with the title of "missionary") but I am increasingly realizing that I, too, have a mission here, and that I can serve Japan in what I do.

I'm a teacher. I work with a wide variety of kids. Some are MKs who need guidance to know how to take ownership of their faith and possibly even embrace their parents' calling as their own. Some are Christians who have grown up in Japan, but have always focused their energy and attention inward, at themselves, or perhaps at their classmates. Some are not even Christian, and are either hostile or (perhaps worse) apathetic to the Christian faith. My responsibility is to strive to live a Godly life as these kids' teacher, and to try and equip them to engage the world around them--to challenge, to serve, to love their neighbors and surrounding culture.

Change in Japan will start with the younger generations, and the effects will spread upwards over time, slowly but surely. To reach the younger generations here, I must encourage the young people who I see in my classroom each day. They are in the best position to reach out to Japanese young people--chatting with them at the eki, playing with and against them in sports, inviting them to HiBA and even just living in such a way that the young people of this country take notice. Most of my students even speak Japanese (granted, some more fluently than others), so language should not be a barrier to the development of these relationships. Yet, oftentimes, there's a large gulf between our young people at CAJ and the young people of the broader Japanese community.

I want my students to know that they are players on the stage of history and active participants in the story of the world--I want to reinforce this time and again with examples from history and literature. Ultimately, I want my students to leave the halls of CAJ and put into practice what they've learned, taking this responsibility to the world and to each other seriously. I'm there to help my students, to support them, to challenge them and to create so many opportunities for practice. This is my mission... it's a beautiful mission and I am so grateful that this is what God has called me to.

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