We often rightly exclaim that God's mission happens "to, from and among all the world's peoples." In Japan, for instance, American Baptists work with the Japan Baptist Union, a group with a 130 year history in ministry. In 1884, a Baptist theological seminary was opened in Yokohama, a major port just south of Tokyo. Over the course of the last 120 years, what began as that one-room seminary has grown into Kanto Gakuin---an educational organization which serves over 15,000 students annually.
Recently, Christian leaders at Kanto Gakuin have been encouraging students and faculty to put the school's Christian convictions to work through volunteerism and service-learning. In the late 1990s, Kanto Gakuin Mutsuura Elementary School partnered with Japan Baptist Union and American Baptist missionaries serving in Northern Thailand, as well as local village leaders, to begin a number of development projects among the Karen people living in the remote "Golden Triangle." Many of the villages in this area can only be accessed by road four months out of the year. Most of the villages are without potable water, adequate sewage systems, and electrical power. Most disturbing is the fact that most of the Karen-speaking children in these villages don't have access to the Thai formal education system. This means that they often don't learn Thai, and can't become income-earning members of Thai society.
Recognizing this need, the students and faculty of Kanto Gakuin Mutsuura Elementary School, in consultation with their Thai partners, collected enough money in 2003 to build a dormitory to house Karen children at a base camp, where they could study in Thai for part of the year. This dorm is currently over capacity, serving more than 150 Karen children.
Kanto Gakuin University is also participating. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Makito Morishima, university students have been going to the Akha villages in another area of Thailand to volunteer their time and engage in service-learning every year since 2004. A church has been built in one village at the request of village leaders and a water purification system is currently in the process of being installed. This winter, Kanto Gakuin dedicated a new building at the base camp—the Kanto Gakuin Service Learning Center. This center will serve as an accessible station for students traveling up into more remote villages for development projects in years to come.
The pain of war lasts longer than we sometimes realize. In Southeast Asia, there is still a considerable feeling of resentment toward Japanese due to the Japanese occupation during World War II. In that context, it's truly a wonderful testament to God's healing grace to see Japanese Christians serving hand in hand with their brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia. This is truly a sign to the nations of God's reconciling power. Thanks be to God who honors all those who work patiently for the harvest!
- Please continue to keep your brothers and sisters in the Japan Baptist Union, and at Kanto Gakuin in your prayers as they engage in mission "to, from and among all the world's peoples."
Grace & Peace,
Kanto Gakuin University