I'm not usually inclined to quote the King James Version, but this somehow asks to be quoted in stately English: "Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children! And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us! And establish thou the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work or our hands establish thou it." - Psalms 90:16-17
In my last "Christianity and Modern Thought" class at Kanto Gakuin University, we talked about Christianity and its relationship to other world religions. The timing couldn't have been better. Many of you have been keeping up with the news concerning the recent popular demonstrations against the military regime in Myanmar. Personally speaking, I was deeply interested in this because I've often preached at Tokyo Peace Church--one of our most interesting Japan Baptist Union churches.
This church has three different "congregations"--a Japanese congregation, an English-speaking congregation, and a Kachin congregation. Kachins are a minority group who have traditionally lived in and around the mountainous regions of northern Myanmar. Many of the Kachins are Christian, and I came to understand that many of the Kachin members of the TPC congregation were forced to leave Myanmar because of pressure from the military government. Even today, I remain friends with many Kachin members of that congregation, and have been prayerful along with them, that these demonstrations will lead to a better Myanmar in years to come.
In any case, you might recall that the recent demonstrations in Rangoon were set off by a coalition of Buddhist monks. This fact, in and of itself, was quite moving to me. As we were discussing the demonstrations in last week's "Christianity and Modern Thought" class, I brought up the fact that faith could be a major component in one's commitment to work for justice in society. We went on to discuss how these monks had moral authority in their society because of their faith and their lifestyle commitments.
Interestingly, after class, one of the students stayed behind and talked for a while. In the conversation, he said something like, "Well, the Buddhist priests in Myanmar are probably a little different than the ones here. When I think of Buddhist priests, I think of German luxury cars and expensive funerals."
When I heard that, I was a little dumbfounded. I know a few Buddhist priests here in Japan, and the ones I know personally are quite devout--so I think the student was being a bit unfair. But I suppose that this student's impression is not so uncommon in Japan. A widespread perception seems to be that many Buddhist priests here are making a good living for themselves doing funerals.
The student's comment immediately made me wonder, "Are we Christians perceived as having moral authority? What could we be doing to jeopardize our moral authority? What ought we be doing to use the authority we have?"
Please pray for college students in Japan. Many young people I meet are quite interested in coming to understand more about a life of faith--and many are interested in Jesus and his Way. But pray for those of us who are leaders, too. We need to commit, and to recommit ourselves to lives which shine forth with moral authority. And this can only come from (as the Psalm above says) "the beauty of the Lord our God" being upon us, and upon God's "establishing our work."
As for the events of the summer, we've had many reasons to smile! In August, a group from Kanto Gakuin's sister church, First Baptist of Boulder, CO, came and visited us for a little over a week. In addition to building friendships across borders, we also took the time to compare our churches' ministries and intentionally tried to do some learning from each other.
One of the members of that delegation, Kerry Hassler, a long-time supporter of mission at Kanto Gakuin, also surprised us with an offer to build a new webpage for us. We've still got a little ways to go, but it's ready for viewing, so please take a moment if you're interested, and visit: www.davidsonjapan.org You'll notice that there are pictures on the site of a number of other recent events.
The Kanto Gakuin "Fellowship" group, which I've been co-leading with a Japanese colleague, Rev. Hogari, has been a matter of concern for about a year. We began the year with only four students, and no baptized Christians. Now, we have ten coming regularly--one of them a committed Christian who's been helping out with music and programming quite a bit. This has been another confirmation that we need to rely on God to "establish the work of our hands!" Please continue to keep this group in your prayers.
Also this summer, we've been blessed by the ministry of Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., and First Baptist Church in Newton, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. A group of students from Kanto Gakuin went to visit the US for two weeks at the beginning of September, and both of these churches went out of their way to expose our students to powerful ministries they were doing in their neighborhoods. Rev. Charley Eastman of FBC, Newton Centre took our kids to downtown Boston to participate in a service project for the homeless, and Rev. Amy Butler and Rev. Eric Bebber worked together to arrange a bus tour for our students, showing them the various sites around the city where Calvary, Washington D.C. does its neighborhood ministries. Our students came back deeply moved and excited about church ministry in America.
As always during the World Mission Offering season, we want to mention that we are deeply grateful for your prayers and continued financial support. It's only because of your giving that we can continue to work in mission on your behalf here in Japan. You will notice that we have posted a list of all our contributing churches (from September, 2006-September, 2007) on our website. If you or your church would like to be a part of this "Missionary Partnership Network," please contact me or our MPT convener, Bev Keyse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You all enjoy some pumpkin pie for us this fall, OK? And may God bless you and establish your work in Christ,
Dwight & Kari Davidson