Day by day, we're getting more and more excited about ministry here in Yokohama.Every day, for the past two weeks or so, we've had around 20 kids gathering at our house after school to "hang out" and play with Adam.For some reason, most of these kids are sixth graders, but they play with Adam very carefully and we can tell they watch out for him at school.It's been fun to have them around, to get to practice our Japanese "street talk" after language classes, and to watch Adam making new friends.
The relationship between "sempai" (older, senior person) and "cohai" (lower, junior person) in Japan is really interesting.Cohai must always respect and defer to sempai, but sempai should always provide for cohai as if they were family.Watching these sixth graders (sempai) play with Adam (cohai) has been really instructive--watching them stop him from hurting himself when he's rolling down our little hillside, or watching them how they "ask" him for a drink (in the form of a command!).Every day we're reminded that, even though there's a strong veneer of westernism here, the Japanese operate under quite a different model of what a "relationship" entails.In any relationship, it seems that one person is usually understood as the "obeyer/deferer/weak person" and the other is the "commander/protector/strong person."Hmmm...
Speaking of relationships, this month, an area that some people call Tokyo's "red light district." Kari and I and the kids went there recently with some Korean friends from our language school.This area, in addition to being a little seedy, is also home to one of the biggest Korean populations in Tokyo (and is home to some great Korean food!).We learned quite a bit lately about the state of Asian peoples who have immigrated to Japan, and the history is sometimes quite disturbing.Japanese-born ethnic Koreans, for example, are still routinely fingerprinted and treated as "resident aliens" even after multiple generations in Japan.These people can't vote, often find that they can't rent apartments in "Japanese" neighborhoods, and find that certain jobs are off limits to them.On top of this, non-Japanese Asians make up a solid majority of the prostitute work force here.Definitely, in this "relationship," the Japanese leaders see themselves as the "strong" and the outsiders as the "weak."Please pray for the growing number of Asians who are migrating to Japan for a "better lifestyle."More money, as you know, doesn't necessarily mean a "better lifestyle," and often, the church is simply not around to express the new kind of life God has expressed in Jesus Christ.
This month, keep on praying for us that:
- We'll be able to keep on building strong relationships with teachers and students in the Kanto Gakuin school system, where we'll be focusing our student work next year.
- Also, we've become much more aware of the number of people interested in finding out more about Christianity, that it's been BLOWING US AWAY.In many ways, we're feeling blessed that we're not in a culture that thinks of itself as "Christian."Being here, where Christians make up only 1% of the population, and where we don't have to spend so much energy deconstructing people's stereotypes of what a "Christian" is, is really quite exciting!
- Pray for us that we'll know how to handle these situations with clarity and genuine spiritual care.Relationships being what they are in Japan, pray for us that we'll find ways to convey the very "strange" message of "power-through-the-abdication-of-power" which is at the root of the Christian faith.
"God's weakness is stronger than human strength..." I Cor. 1:25
Thanks for all your cards, prayers, and financial support!
Keep the faith,