Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I received in the mail today my acceptance letter from MUPs.
On behalf of the Board, staff, and missionaries of Mission to Unreached Peoples, I want to take this opportunity to officially welcome you to this ministry. Your application, references, interview, and psychological profiles have been carefully reviewed, and we have agreed to accept you as approved Mission to Unreached Peoples personnel.
You are now officially ready to begin preparations for your anticipated ministry to serve in Japan. Your preparation for ministry and transitioning your life in Japan will be a team joint effort between yourself and the guidance provided for you from your field leadership.
Will, we are standing with you, asking God through the power of the Holy Spirit to help you. Getting ready to leave to do the work God has prepared for you is an exciting time, full of anticipation and hope. But it can also be a difficult period, one full of hectic activity, doubts and testing.
I encourage you to begin go over the information contained in this packet. You will need to know the information it contains, and we need to be able to rely on the fact that you've read, studied, and are acting on it. We will be contacting you shortly to personalize your preparation and departure paperwork. It is imperative you know the steps necessary to take in order to reach your ultimate goal of service in the Great Commission in the wisest and best-prepared manner possible. Kathy Cranston will be your Candidate Manager, and will be your primary contact here in the office. Please especially take the Planning Steps suggestion and establish a prayer support group now and begin meeting with them weekly.
In the interval between now and the time you leave, it will be important for us to build good personal relationships with each other. Whenever you have a question or a need, please contact the office. You are joining a fellowship of like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. We will be praying for you regularly and desire to stay in close touch with you.
You will need to begin to put together a mailing list and to think about sending out prayer letters for supporters and prayer partners now. It will be important to start to build this base of prayer and financial support and to keep your supporters informed about what's happening with your preparations.
It is important for you to know that, in accordance with IRS regulations, any funds sent on your behalf will be kept in an account in your name until you leave. Should you decide for any reason not to proceed with this ministry, the money received would then be channeled in consultation with you to other workers or projects. It normally cannot be returned.
Please also read through the Policy Manual carefully. We will contact you shortly to develop your personal budget and to finalize the Financial Agreement and Overseas Service Agreement.
I will be sending a letter, along with a copy of this letter, to your pastor telling him of your acceptance and suggesting ways in which we might work with your church and missions committee as they support you both with prayer, encouragement, and finances. We ask that you continue in discussion with your church about their involvement in your calling to this overseas ministry. This is a team effort, and we pray that your church will feel a part of this ministry in a vital way. We are available to help you with fundraising and with your relationship to your home church in any way that we can.
What an opportunity we have to be a part of the Great Commission and to work together to reach the unreached! Ahead of you is adventure, growth in faith, some setbacks and trials, but the Lord will be with you through it all. Remember, "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against authorities, against the powers of darkness, and against spiritual forces of evil... therefore put on the full armor of God." We are praying that our Father will be helping you as you prepare spiritually, materially, and financially for this new adventure of faith.
"Praise be to God and thanks be to Him who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing (II Corinthians 2:14-15)."
As always, should you ever have questions, concerns, or just want to discuss or pray about what is happening during the preparation process, don't hesitate to give me a call or to write. May our heavenly Father bless you with peace, joy, and power during this time as you rest in Him! (Philippians 4:19)
For the Kingdom,
Director of Mobilization
Monday, December 20, 2004
Authentic praise is heartfelt. Too often in the NA church the praise comes more in the form of rhetoric. I think there may be too much rhetoric in our churches today. But that aside; when we praise God in North America, culture, language, and our worldview all come very much into play. Our praise is generally offered in context of these things. We generally praise God in our own language, we use words that are meaningful to us based on our experiences with life as well as with church.
How does one offer authentic praise in Japan? What is authentic praise from a Japanese standpoint?
I suppose they might offer up or elevate values they hold near and dear to their own hearts, core values and transfer them to God? For an example I think a core value in the Japanese culture is honour. Being honourable is especially important to the average Japanese person. So if God was infinitely and perfectly honourable, honour personified, that would constitute mighty high praise indeed, in the eyes and heart and soul and mind of a Japanese person. Or as a second example loyalty. Loyalty is another core value I think. So if God were worshipped as being omnipotently loyal, that too would be beautiful in the estimation of a Japanese person.
In our culture (North American, European) we have developed a large body of music and songs, poetry and stories, pop culture and high culture, over the years in praise to God.
But in Japan the cultural legacy is one built without God. Can we export our resources into a Japanese culture very different from that of western culture and expect that to be meaningful? How is authentic praise being generated in Japan? How can it be developed? How can we help in developing it?
Can there be Japanese music that is Christian? Can there be Japanese Literature that is praiseworthy? How can we develop art that is glorifying to God in Japan?
As a rookie missionary I look with not a little trepidation at the mountain that needs to be moved. I need to learn not to focus on the mountain but on the Mover. That is key to success, and to my well being.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Robert Kushner (an artist and critic) has written:
The idea of forging a new kind of art, about hope, healing, redemption, refuge, while maintaining visual sophistication and intellectual integrity is a growing movement, one which finds Fujimura's work at the vanguard.
In the past I have wondered about Japan, it's lack of Christianity historically and the impact that has on art and music and culture in general. Conversely, how do we as Christians impact Japan with music, art, and culture.
I think it is a good thing to have people like Makoto sama in the world today, as we seek to proclaim the gospel in Japan.
Monday, November 29, 2004
After peace was restored to Europe, my Opa was called in 1946 to minister at a different church this time in the town of Driesum, where he stayed until he retired in the early 70's. He continued to actively preach however and for a time had his Sundays completely booked, up to two years in advance.
He went home in October of 1985.
Because of my Opa's position as a pastor of a church, it made for a natural fit into a resistance network. The privilege and prestige that came with being a minister, the already-in-place network of ministers and others throughout the towns and village of Holland made for a good starting point for an underground resistance.
As the war ended, there was suddenly a lack of governing structure, and the resistance members maintained some semblance of control. This arm band was worn by those in the resistance to identify them as someone in charge.
Normally everyone received advance warning of a sweep, were able to slip out the back and seek out a place of temporary refuge until they could return to their homes. This time was no exception. The trouble was my grandfather was quite sick and was not able on this occasion to make himself scarce. He had no alternative but to leave it in God's hands.
As the Germans finished up their sweep, there were three houses in a row between two bridges left unsearched, an oversight.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
In a similar albeit much less extreme vein of resistance to that of The White Rose and Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Dutch Churches felt they had to say something to the Nazi Government. This is a copy of the letter they sent. It is a good example of how one's faith demands action, especially in the face of tyranny. As we look back from our comfortable chairs, the events seem remote, tame and maybe even a little romantic. But if you ever have a chance to see either the movie The White Rose or Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace, you may be able to better appreciate the gravity of the situation. A gravity that caused lives to be sacrificed on both sides of the war.
The body of this letter is as follows (translated):
Dr. Seyss-Inquart, Federal Minister
Reichs Commissioner for the Dutch Occupied Territory, The Hague
The Christian churches in the Netherlands have already deemed it necessary to complain to your Excellency during the years of occupation, particularly in the matter of the Jewish citizens of our country, but there is something so terrible happening now that we cannot possibly refrain from addressing a word to your Excellency in the name of our Lord.
We have already deplored various acts of the occupying forces which are incompatible with the spiritual foundation of our people who, since their beginning have at least tried, with their Government, to live according to God's word.
In the last few weeks, a sterilization process has begun in so-called mixed marriages. God, however, who created heaven and earth and whose commandment applies to all people, and to whom your Excellency must also be accountable one day, has said to the people: Be
fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). Sterilization means a physical and spiritual mutilation, which is in direct opposition to the divine commandment that we shall not dishonour, hate, injure or kill our fellow man. Sterilization means a desecration of the divine commandment as well as human rights. It is the latest consequence of an anti-Christian and genocidal racial doctrine, an excessive presumption, a world and life philosophy which undermines a truly Christian and humane existence and, ultimately, renders it impossible.
You, Excellency, are currently the highest political authority in the Netherlands. You are entrusted, as the matter now lies, to maintain law and order in this land; entrusted not only by the leader of the German Reich, but also by God, through an inviolable dispensation as proclaimed by the Christian church in this world. The commandments of this God and Ruler of the entire world apply to you, as to all people, but to you especially, because you have accepted this high position.
Therefore, in the name of God, and based on His word,' the Christian churches in the Netherlands say to your Excellency: It is the duty of your Excellency to prevent this despicable sterilization procedure.
We have no illusions. We know full well that we can hardly expect that your Excellency will heed the voice of the church, meaning the voice of the Gospel, meaning the voice of God. But that which one cannot expect as a human being, one may hope for in the Christian faith. The living God has the power to bend even your Excellency's heart to conversion and obedience. We therefore ask God to bless your Excellency and our suffering people.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
This is a permit allowing the council of my Opa's church to meet during weekday evenings. The council was responsible for overseeing the church operation. The permit allows for meetings on church related matters, but meetings could not go longer than 11pm and political topics were not to be discussed.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Because of his position as a pastor the Nazi Government also allowed my Opa to keep his bicycle. Most bicycles were confiscated for Germans to use, unless they were well hidden. The permit shown above was the official paper granting him the privilege to be able to keep his bike.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Grandfather in Dutch is 'Opa', consequently I had an Opa rather than a grandpa. Since my Opa lived all his life in Holland, and I have lived most of mine in Canada, I only met him a few times when either he was visiting Canada or I was visiting Holland.
My Opa was born in Den Haag on the 2nd of December 1902. He attended the Free University of Amsterdam and after graduating was ordained as a pastor in the Gereformeerde Kerk (Reformed Church) of Achlum, a small village in the province of Friesland in 1930. He spent the years of World War II in that village.
Pictured here is his permit from the Nazi Government allowing him to continue working as a pastor in Holland. As the war progressed, every able bodied male in Holland was required to go to Germany to work in aid of the German war effort.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
As a Canadian and as a Son of Dutch parents who were children during World War II, I have instilled in me a very base honour for the Canadians who participated in liberating Holland. The few times I have visited Holland I was taken aback by the deep respect I felt from Dutch strangers when they realized I was Canadian.
I pray thanks for soldiers everywhere, but also to all those who have fought injustice, who fought and continue to fight in ways other than as soldiers. Over the next few posts I would like to share a few mementos from my maternal grandfather, a member of the resistance in Holland during WWII.
Lastly I as a proud Canadian, I leave you with but one word. Vimy
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
While I was in Japan, the movie The Passion of the Christ made a smallish splash. There was talk about it, people had questions about it. There was literature available in Japanese about the movie, and the Grapevine Cell Church received a stack of little booklets that could be handed out. One day Dan and I went out and about (I said that with my Canadian accent) stuffing mailboxes with these booklets and an invitation to the next Alpha course starting in the neighborhood. We planned carefully where to hand these out, and ended up distributing these upstream (as far as traffic flow) from the Abeno Room, which was where the Alpha was going to be held. As we were walking the back streets and stuffing mailboxes we occasionally met people and personally handed one to them as well (if they wanted one). The procedure, a slight bow of the head and a spoken 'Doozo'. Doozo has a kind of broad 'please' interpretation. Because of the population density of the Abeno area, we handed out about 1000 booklets (all we had) and never really got more than about a 10 minute walk from out starting point.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
We had a large quantity of high quality people teaching us and leading us. Some were my fellow learners, others were staff of Mission to Unreached People and others were experts in their field. They gave us a lot of material and a foundation of knowledge in their areas of expertise. Miriam Addeny, a doctor of anthropology who teaches at both Seattle Pacific University and Regent College, gave us a little expertise in culture acquisition. We were taught by Ellen Errigton of Wycliffe Bible translators (she is currently teaching at Trinity Western University) who taught us about language and cultural acquisition. These are a few examples of about 10 or so instructors who came to equip us with some of the things we will need. With only a few exceptions, all of our instructors have spent significant time overseas and speak to us not only with wisdom and knowledge but with the practicality that comes from experience.
The Suffering Father
Scripture Luke 15:11-32
Text: Romans 11:11-12
For the sermon this evening I will attempt to keep in mind two distinct cultures. The North American Culture we live in and the Japanese culture I served in. I will try to look at the parable through both sets of eyes and come to a cross culture conclusion. Unfortunately I know much less about Japanese than North American culture, but Ill do my best to try a bring across a taste of the Japanese worldview.
Let me begin by saying that it is often a good idea to let a story stand on its own. To let the listener or reader ponder it and feel how it fits them. As an example, when we tell a joke and someone doesnt get the joke, we have to go through a long explanation, and the joke loses its funniness. Rather a good story is like a painting left for us to take in and interpret for ourselves.
Well I will try not to explain the story, but I will try to help you to understand it. I will try my best to provide you with important background information and insight into the parable. In this way we get a better picture of the story.
The story starts out in verse 11 with: there was a father who had two sons. This is an important line, There was a father who had two sons.
Right off the bat in verse 12 we have the younger son asking for his share of the estate. To the original listeners this would be an appalling thing to say, it would be a grievous request. Unheard of. Woo the audacity of that punk kid.
According to Deuteronomy the inheritance would be 1/3 of the fathers estate. The Law also mandated that the father would retain control of the land. The father was not to sell it, but neither was the heir.
Next in verse 13, we pick up with the younger son getting together all he had to set off for a far away place where he lived fast and loose.
We see that the younger son did sell the land he was not supposed to sell, compounding the insult against his father. He first insulted the father by asking for his inheritance and then he has the gall to sell that inheritance.
Verse 14 and 15 find the young son alone and penniless, reduced to the lowly task of feeding pigs. This is especially insulting to Jewish ears who realize that feeding pigs is against the law, further reinforcing their disdain of the lad.
The young son separated himself from his father. He wanted freedom, thinking that freedom was to be independent.
He finally comes to the conclusion in vs. 17 that freedom is really found with his father and decides to head back home in hopes of becoming a hired hand.
We pick up in verse 20b.
But while he was still a long way off, the father saw him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The father was waiting. The father (an oldish man) ran to his son.
This is a point that oriental people will understand better than North Americans. A man over the age of thirty would not run. It would be a most undignified thing for a man of status to do. Even if he was in a great hurry, he should carry on in a sedate and stately manner. You can just see the inhabitants of the village shaking their heads yet again at the odd things that happen in this family.
But the father runs.
Even before the son has time to tell his father about the plans he has been thinking about since he started back home, the father throws his arms around his returning son.
The son manages to get in that he is no longer worthy to be called a son, but the father responds with action.
He commands his servants to bring out his best robe to put on his son. He has a ring put on his sons finger and sandals on his feet. The fattened calf is prepared for a big to do.
Killing the fattened calf means that the whole village would be invited to the party. The calf is too large to be eaten by just the family and since the meat would spoil quickly, it all had to be eaten.
The robe would most likely be the robe the father wore on grand occasions, this is another point that the oriental listener or reader would assume. As the villagers came to the party they would see the newly returned son wearing the robe. The robe would be a symbol of acceptance to the father and because of that there would be reconciliation between the son and the people of the village.
The ring would be the family signet ring, the ring with which documents were signed. In North America we always use our signature as our mark, but in the oriental world everyone uses a specialized seal. In Japan they are finely carved and great care goes into choosing just the right marks for the seal.
The son also gets a pair of sandals, and these set him apart from the slaves, because sons wore something on their feet while slaves went barefoot.
The celebration commences. Can you imagine. The whole village has turned out for the party. It is the place to be. Everyone is enjoying the plentiful food, enjoying the atmosphere, the hospitality of the host, People are making music, and others are dancing. It would be grand to join in and share in the merriment.
But now the older son turns up. He has been working in the fields, and didnt yet know about his brothers return. He turns up at the party wondering what is going on, and asks a servant to find out what is going on. He finds out that his kid brother had the nerve to turn up at the family home. The older sons heart becomes angry and he refuses to join the party.
It would have been the custom, that the older son would not only join the party but take charge of the party, greeting guests, making sure everyone has food and wine, he would show joy at his brothers return and treat him as the guest of honour.
But; the father is insulted yet again.
For the second time that day the father humiliates himself in front of the villagers and pleads with his older son to come in and join the party.
The father could have coerced the older son. He could have reminded the older son of his social obligations, he could have given him a lecture about his duty. This would be just the right button to push for an oldest Japanese son. Appealing to his sense of duty and honour.
But what would the father gain? He wants his son not a servant.
The story ends with the father talking to the oldest son, we are left hanging. Does the older son return to the party? Or does he leave in a huff.
Quite often when we read a good story we tend to identify with one of the characters in the story. It is not necessarily the same story character for each reader, sometimes there are several characters with which we can identify. I think the same holds true with this story. I would say there are three main characters in this story to identify with. There may be one or two of you in the crowd this evening who identify with the pig farmer, but we will leave him for another day. In the meantime the three main players/characters are the younger son, the older son and the father. Most of us will have some empathy for each of the three characters, we can see their point of view, but when we look at this story in its context of the bible we usually empathize with one character most of all.
Taking the story at face value there may be Christian parents who worry about their children and identify with the father. Digging a little deeper many of us will identify with the younger son, having experienced the state of once being lost and now being found. In Japan I found out that most people identify with the older son. They can relate to his unquestioning loyalty and duty, the way he always stuck by the family. They can relate to him being ticked off by the younger brother leaving, shirking his responsibilities, and they can relate to the way the older son felt when his younger brother returned home and was welcomed straightaway back into the family.
The older sons refusal to join the celebration however results in another break of relationship with the father that is almost as great as the break in relationship we saw at the beginning of the story.
The central part of this story is neither of the sons but rather the father. The father suffered while his young son went astray. He watched and waited for him, and was so ready to receive him that he knew his son was coming back while still a long way off. The father suffered the loss of his young son until he came back, but the older son was also lost. And now the father is out watching and waiting. Suffering again while he awaits the return of the older son.
What do the robe, the ring, the sandals and the fattened calf mean? The father is celebrating the restoration of a broken relationship. He was not suffering all those days because of the loss of 1/3 of his estate. For that the son could have made restitution over a period of time. But a new relationship cannot be earned. It can only come as a free gift from the father.
The son could not become a servant. That would imply that he could earn his way back into his fathers good graces.
As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.
Just by looking at the traditional name of this parable the prodigal son we can gain an insight to the use of this parable. Too often preaching on this parable (probably the best known of all the parables) focuses on the negative, on the lost ness of the son rather than on the shining nugget of grace that is central to the story.
We can understand from this parable that the father is God our heavenly father. His two sons are Israel and the Gentiles. The older son is Israel and God pleads with him to accept his younger brother. The younger son is the Gentile Christians. These are Gods two sons, and in Jesus parable we see how God approaches them. He loves them both, he does not favour one over the other. The actions of the two sons cause the father to suffer, but he waits full of grace for them to return of their own free will.
This story is about the grace of God. For us as the younger son we were saved by Gods grace through faith and it is extended for all who have not yet come to know Christ. Our father was waiting with open arms for the first son to come home and is now waiting for the second son to come home.
With this in mind we must graciously proclaim the gospel to all cultures and peoples, weather in North America or Japan. God will be faithful in making the seeds grow. The grace of God transcends all cultures and God is sovereign over all cultures. We can rely upon him to be waiting with open arms.
Monday, October 18, 2004
This is a picture of The Turning Point, a retreat center in Snohomish Washington. This is where I have been holed up for the last two weeks. Following this post is a virtual explosion (not a real explosion) of blogging. Some I had written in the last two weeks, some I wrote today while awaiting my flight. (And you can read more about that as well).
Sunday, October 17, 2004
I get annoyed every time I pass by gate A6. That is the one my flight left from. Right by this gate there is an interesting piece of mechanical art, which normally would really capture my interest and attention. But it is very annoying because it is in a state of extremely poor working order, and only the stupid annoying bell is working, so every time I hear the bell I get annoyed. And every time I hear the lady announce the names for the people who have not checked into their flight, or any other announcement for that matter, I get annoyed because I don't think they called my name. These things all remind me of how stupid I was and it makes me really annoyed. I would love to take a hammer to that stupid bell and put it out of its misery. That would be quite satisfying although probably only until the stupid lady made another stupid announcement. How annoying.
How long are you going for?
What are going to be doing?
I am going to be doing some training.
Where do you live?
Training for what?
I'm going to be training to be a missionary.
Where are you going to be going?
Really? Two weeks? That's not very long to become a missionary.
Well I suppose that's not all the training there is to it.
Have you read the book Shogun?
Yes I have.
That's good then you know how they treat missionaries over there. Have a good trip.
Two nuggets of wisdom in that exchange of words in my humble estimation. Being a missionary is more than two weeks of training and it is more than ten years of training. It is a daily commitment to training. Reading and studying God's word everyday is necessary to being a successful missionary. It is quite possibly the only necessary ingredient to being a successful missionary. Everything else grows on that foundation. Second, when a missionary is on the front lines of the battle, it is fraught with danger. But that holds true whether we engage in a missional way of life anywhere in the world, including our home.
Friday, October 08, 2004
Friday, October 01, 2004
One of the churches I frequented on Sunday mornings while I was in Japan was Jhouse. Jhouse is a church which is Pentecostal in the nature of it's worship and who's demographic is very young. I always felt quite old when I was at the service. It was a real joy to see so many young Japanese church goers because in many cases the general church goer is on the older side of 35. Jhouse runs their services mostly in Japanese, but simultaneous interpretation into English is offered via earphone. In this manner I was still able to glean something of the sermons.
Friday, September 24, 2004
"when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves."Augustine of Hippo.
"What do you love?" It is in that question and the spiritual dynamics implicit in its answer that belief and behavior are woven together.Steven Garber ("Fabric of Faithfulness, p. 22).
A few years ago I audited a course at ICS called Worldview Foundations. My professor was Gideon Strauss. On his blog of Sept 13, he references my list of things I love.
The list was written in 2002 and I would like to amend the list, but only slightly. There are definitely a few things and someone that I need to add.
Some of the things I love in no particular order
Aukje, learning, people, tools, woodworking, my family, Nuevo Suyapa, San Salvador, God, 7th Heaven (the ski runs at Blackcomb), books, of all sorts, especially by CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, William Gibson, Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy trilogy of five books, and Tom Clancy, computers, sailing and sailboats, creating things, imagination, Playa La Zunganera, paintings, sketching, adventures, the sound of children playing on the playground, fall rains, trees, the stillness of newly falling snow, the smell of a bakery, cars - particularly Vdubs, soccer (the beautiful game), standing on top of a mountain, making others happy, The Simpsons, all my friends, parts of Osaka especially the castle, Berlin, Vancouver, the harbour in Rotterdam, machines (especially big powerful ones, and simple effective ones), movies, especially The Matrix, and The Fifth Element, sculpture, the Group of 7, fixing things, the sound of babbling brooks, Georgian Bay (especially around Tobermory), the kingdom of God, canoeing, Algonquin Park, moose, Africa, music of all sorts except Country and Western, watching people create/perform live, art galleries, Science Fiction, Jackie Chan's hokey martial arts movies, history, teaching, the students I get to know through teaching, the Bible, Fernie, the tingling of the spine you get when something youve created is so obviously great, MC Escher, cycling, camping, hiking, Star Trek, the vastness of the ocean, good humour and laughing, thunder storms, pond hockey, the beauty of the woods, driving, helping others, spring breezes and last and what should be least chocolate.
Monday, September 20, 2004
Just down the street, a 30 second walk from my pad, was this interesting little french restaurant. I walked by at least twice a day, and was always intiguided by it. Finally near the end of my stay they came out with a nice looking lunch special. I coerced my then future fiancee into going on a date with me to the Belle Epogue.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
No, Mos Burger. It sounds a little odd to Anglo ears, not quite so appetizing. I suppose it sounds good to Japanese ears though. It is billed as a healthy and better quality fast food, (as opposed to McDonald's). Aukje and I tested one out after church one Sunday afternoon. I was suitably impressed, it was quite good. We had a spot looking out the front window, watching the passers-by.
Friday, September 03, 2004
Coming out of the sekime-takadono subway station, exit number 2. This is the exit I took regularly as I left the subway for the one minute walk to my place of residence. It always struck me as I walked out of the underground back into the real world again. From this view it looks as though it could be from any english speaking country in the world, there is not much to distinguish it as particularly Japanese.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Monday, August 30, 2004
Today is the one year anniversary of the day we first met.
Yesterday, published simultaneously in our respective church bulletins was the public announcement of our engagement.
Hear ye, hear ye! Will Dykstra from Georgetown CRC and Aukje vandenBerg of Barrie First CRC are relieved to announce their engagement. It took some time for Sir William John to battle through the deep woods, but the knight in tarnished armour finally found his way to the fair Aukje.
It received good reviews.
Saturday, August 28, 2004
I regularly sighted groups of private school kids when I rode the tube. They can be distinguished by their matching uniforms and often their fairly bright colours. In the wild they often have a look of inquisitiveness, and tend to be fairly sociable within the pack but tend to be intrigued by yet wary of gaijin (foreigners).
Monday, August 23, 2004
His August 22nd entry is based on Proverbs 21:13, If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
In his devotional for the day he talks about how we should reflect God's grace and His attitude toward the oppressed. Chris says we should be intentional about seeking out the poor and the oppressed. God often meets people's needs through us.
All too often the evangelical worldview trivializes the plight of the poor and the oppressed, focusing only on the fact that they need to be born again, but I think that salvation is holistic involving body, mind, heart and soul, so all of these need to be addressed by us as witnesses of Christ's love.
This is one of the nagging items in the back of my mind about Japan. Every cross-cultural mission field I've ever been to involved the meeting of physical need as well as spiritual need, but in Japan physical need is largely taken care of. Perhaps it is one of the obstacles to spreading the gospel.
In my lifetime thus far I have been blessed to be able to go to the poor to help, being God's hands and feet in places like Honduras, El Salvador, Toronto or Mississippi, that really need help. So often when meeting these physical needs the spiritual side grows (both the giver and receiver) and even afterward continues to bloom.
In Japan the gulf between being poor in spirit and having material wealth is larger than any I've ever encountered.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
April 13, 2004
Today Cherry Blossoms at the mint. The mint you say? During the Meiji reign the person in charge of the mint thought it might be nice to have cherry blossoming trees lining the street in front of the mint so it would be a nice place.
Culture in the carnival like walkway near the mint, since everybody from Osaka comes down to enjoy the week of blossom viewing, it is handy to have all those stalls nearby so they can hawk their octopus laden snacks, octopus being the signature food for Osakaians. I tried some octopus balls, ( somewhat like chicken balls) and something which would best be compared to omelette with octopus strips and onions and green pepper like strips fried into it. Not bad. Later a tiny orange that had been soaked in sugar. Hmm sweet. Back to the base for some Hiragana study.
A Kawasaki Ninja. A nice machine (from my perspective as a machine designer). Nuff said.
Well perhaps not. Motorcycles are plentiful in Japan, and there are many motorcycle enthusiasts to go along with them. This particular machine was often parked outside of the Pizza place. I think it belonged to one of the pizza delivery scooter drivers.
Friday, August 06, 2004
I was talking with my good friends Angela and Gideon and their daughters Summer and Shimmer. We were chatting about the funny english Japanese people come up with. Sometimes I wonder are they so good at it that they are doing it on purpose or is it always accidental? This is a picture of an actual t-shirt in Japan, straight from Aaron's k-tai (cell phone), (Aaron is busy trying to plant a new church in Osaka) to you via this blog. The website www.engrish.com is a site dedicated to Japanese English, tis good for a chuckle.
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Name: Will Dykstra
Dates of Mission Trips: Apr. 9 - June 30, 2004
Location/Missionary Hosts: Osaka, Japan. Dan and Karen Ellrick, Aukje vandenBerg.
1. What was your missionary assignment while overseas?
Fairly loose. Personally, my objectives were to determine if long term missions was something I could do. Did I have the tools and skills? Did I have 'what it takes'? Is it something God wants me to do or not to do? As I was flying over to Japan I also felt a real call to treat the entire experience as 'learning'. So that was my attitude as I first set foot in Japan.
2. What were your general impressions about your short-term missions experience?
It was positive, wonderful excellent. A 'would like to still be there' sort of experience. Exciting. Enjoyable. Adventurous.
3. Have you had a chance to read Back to the Future and Extending Your Trip and answer the questions that go with them?
Yes. Yes, quite helpful. There are some excellent suggestions and insight from experienced short termers.
One of the things suggested was keeping a journal. It is helpful to be able to recall the many different experiences and reflect on them from more 'normal' environs. But it is something that should be communicated beforehand.
I did work at keeping a 'blog', which serves the purpose of journaling, and it is also an excellent way of keeping in touch with friends and family back home (well those with internet access anyway).
If you are interested the address is http://www.sekime-photolog.blogspot.com/. Scroll through the archives for the blogs I wrote while I was in Japan.
4. What was the best/most memorable part of your short-term mission trip? How did God use this experience to teach you, direct you etc?
The best things for me were simply (or perhaps not so simply) learning about Japanese culture. Trying to understand how Japanese people think, how they understand the world, their worldview. I enjoyed the culture.
I feel that God has been growing in me a passion for Japanese culture.
5. What was the worst/most discouraging or difficult part of your short term mission trip? How did God use this experience to teach you, direct you etc.
There were times when I was when I felt utterly and absolutely inadequate. It was very discouraging when that happened.
I think God was trying to teach me that my skills and talents don't matter. He is the one to lean on. I should not be leaning on my own understanding. I know it intellectually, but I haven't yet learned to do it.
6. How did you see God at work in the lives of individuals?
As a leader of an Alpha group it was wonderful to see how often God was at work in our group. It wasn't so much a matter of what I was doing but how God was meeting people were they needed to be met, using the group as a vehicle to achieve what He had in mind.
In Team Dynamics?
Meeting and supporting Aaron. It was very fulfilling to be able to feel that I was used by God to help Aaron in his efforts to start a Bible fellowship. Particularly the first time we met, we had a long conversation, a time of getting to know each other, but of more importance a time of encouragement.
Also at the weekly prayer meetings, these meetings always struck me as meetings of great importance, even though at times they seemed to be a great expense, from an energy and time available point of view.
He was very near to me as I went about the things of daily life in Japan. For an example, I was riding the subway and I accidentally dropped my subway card. As I was about to exit at the gate a lady ran up behind me to give me back my dropped card.
That was a little thing but a typical example of how God was looking after me while I was in Japan.
7. In what ways will you integrate what you have learned on your short-term trip into your life at home? How will you make this a long-term change or how will it influence your decisions for your future?
I am going to continue with my weblog, using it as a platform to explore Japanese culture and further reflect on my experiences. I shall endeavors to pray and encourage those whom I met in Japan, and who continue to work at missions in Japan, and I shall explore what God has in store for me and my future.
8. Did you receive enough information and support from out home office prior to your short-term trip?
I got a lot out of the information you sent me. The articles I was supposed to read in the five weeks prior to my departure were interesting and quite helpful. Even as a seasoned veteran of short term missions experiences, there was some great food for thought there.
9. What could we have done better to help you plan and prepare, logistically, spiritually or mentally?
I think a little more integration with the missionaries in the field would be helpful. I'm not sure how to accomplish that but it seemed to me to be somewhat disjointed from office to field.
10. Would you be interested in going on another short-term mission with Mission to Unreached Peoples? Why or why not?
Yes. No reason to stop now. Though I think maybe more of a long-term commitment may be in order.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
On the weekend I took in the movie Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi in Japanese). It is a Japanese Animation released by Disney in North America. It is a movie about a young girl who has to rescue her parents from the evil spirit in charge of a bath house for spirits.
The word ‘spirit’ in this case is translated from the Japanese Kami which means god. So the English has already been changed compared to the Japanese for this case, and I sure there are other such discrepancies as well.
Nevertheless it was an interesting look into a portion of the Japanese worldview, in particular the Shinto religion, and it’s many gods. I didn’t have an easy time understanding the movie, though it is entertaining on different levels.
There are quite a few concepts that a person without Japanese cultural background has difficulty picking up. After watching the movie I read a review of the movie at hollywoodjesus.com and while I did gain some valuable insight, I don’t think they can quite grasp the worldview behind the movie either. The author of the review has written the review from his own Christian worldview perspective.
I enjoyed the movie and it gave me some interesting food for thought.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Back to the mountain shrine of a few days ago...
This temple gate is close to that shrine. This temple takes up a significant amount of space on the mountain. This would be the destination of many of the climbers. Temples and shrines are often located on mountains and in out-of-the-way places.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
The real issue at Baylor is whether the price of academic respectability is the surrender of Christian identity. Is it true that “smart people outgrow God,” as secular critics insist? Or can Baylor provide an alternative, namely, a university that, in Dreher’s words, “can speak to the broader culture from an intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point”?
This strikes me today as a crucial issue for North American culture as we find it in our current day and age. If the "smart people outgrow God" forces win this battle and others like it then North America culture loses.
It definitely contrasts Japanese culture, where Christianity has very little influence and the Christian world view can be incomprehensible to the average person. The cultural basics that North American culture takes for granted, the underlying Christian ethics that the culture grew up on are still there.
In Japan that Christian basis does not exist, so explaining concepts such as good and evil becomes very difficult. It cause the newly landed missionary in Japan to completely rethink how to go about doing missions. It causes frustration at how little progress seems to be made. Japan needs to be redeemed. It is crying out to be redeemed. A lot of work needs to be done however at the very basis of its culture.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
The hours are long, typically these hairdressers work all day and then after the place closes there is practice lasting as late as eleven or twelve o'clock. It seems implausible for them to carry on with such a pace day in and day out, but after having seen the Japanese work ethic, it doesn't seem so implausible to me anymore. On the occasions when a shop is not busy, and the hairdressers have nothing to do, they are required to stand in a designated spot near their work area.
I can vividly recall walking along the street in the early evening, and looking into a brightly lit but inactive shop and seeing four hairdressers lined up in perfect array chatting with each other.
Even so hairdressing remains a popular profession with at least as many males as females going to school to get into the industry.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Most mountain trails involve shrines and temples. Before hiking through the bamboo forest we happened across a temple and several smaller shrines. Shown hereis a torii (the concrete gate) with a small bridge and a small shrine on the other side. Shrines can be put nearly anywhere. The small ones like this often invlove worship of a rock or something similar, and usually there is a traditional story or some folklore associated with it.
If you live in Japan and go home you would step into the door entryway, take off your shoes (without getting your feet dirty in the entryway) and step into a pair of slippers. The slippers are worn throughout the lower areas of the house. However if you step up into the rooms that have tatami (straw mats) then you leave your slippers and walk around in your bare or sock feet. As you go back out of the tatami room, you put your slippers back on. When you get to the bathroom you would of course take them off again and step up into the bathroom to brush you teeth or perhaps wash your hands or yes even bathe. Upon exiting the bathroom you again step into your slippers. If suddenly you had to go to the washroom you would hurry over to the small room with the toilet in it (which is separate from the room with the bath in it), remove your slippers BUT slip on another pair of slippers which are in the room with the toilet in it and specifically designed for such a purpose (even to the point of matching the decor). When you are finished in there, you would remove the "toilet" slippers and put the other slippers back on again. Whew! This is normal. A typical foreigner mistake would be to forget to remove the "toilet" slippers upon exiting the room with the toilet in it, and then romping all over the place wearing those slippers, reinforcing the Japanese opinion of how boorish and uncouth North Americans are.
Additionally if you were to visit a castle or go to a smaller church, there are an ample supply of slippers for all visitors at the front door. Again the visitor removes his shoes slips into a nice, comfy, non breathing pair of slippers which of course have been worn by many who have gone before, and you may then enter the castle building or sanctuary area in a refined and dignified manner.
Yes I concur. Bewildering.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Friday, July 09, 2004
On the same trip up the mountain near Kyoto, I had the pleasure of hiking through bamboo forests. After seeing a picture of a bamboo forest in the Lonely Planet guidebook, I had been wanting to see a bamboo forest for months. I finally got the opportunity. Bamboo is considered a weed in Japan and it has many weed like characteristics. But walking down the mountain trail with the bamboo forest sloping away on one side and more "normal" looking coniferous trees sloping down the other was quite impressive.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
In the first few weeks I was in Japan we had a national holiday so I had the opportunity to climb a small mountain. Most of the populated areas in Japan are built along the coastal areas on the flat parts of the country, while much of the country is mountainous. We rode the train from Osaka for about a 1/2 hour, got out at a small station and went right up the mountain. There are many well kept trails that most often tend to lead to a temple or shrine of some sort. Here we can see out over some of that flat land and see a part of the Kyoto area.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Well rest assured I am not taking the proverbial header into the abyss, there is more blogging to be done. Content of this blog for the forseeable future will consist of reminiscing, (I still have more photos to share), and also of examining Japanese culture, looking at societal underpinnings, wondering about what makes culture tick, unravelling some of the fabric of things Japanese, and in general trying to get a handle on how people who grow up within Japan think. So please continue to come back and see how things are going and perhaps you can add your two cents (or more if you feel so inclined) to the comments section.
Saturday, July 03, 2004
One of the major modes of transportation in Japan is the bicycle. I even took to riding one of these (oh how some days I ached to have my own bike) to school most days, as long as it wasn't raining or wasn't too hot. No one laughed at me though, strange as it may seem I almost fit right in riding one of these.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Everyone put your hands together and please give a warm welcome to my Mom. This could well be the first time she has surfed the web, and she is especially going to surf the web to visit this site. Today I posted a picture particularly for my mother so she can see I am alive and kicking and in generally good health. As you can see Mom my head is very large, almost as big as Osakajo (Osaka Castle). I will be bringing you more about Osakajo in furture blogs, but for today you will have to be content with my mug in front of the kamera (that is camera in English).
Hi Mom, thanks for visiting.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
This is my school. I attend class here every weekday morning from 10:00 until 12:00. They are trying to teach me Japanese. It is a difficult language to learn, but I think I'm making progress. I think I managed to get past the discouraged stage when I didn't think I was learning anything while having expected to be able to carry a conversation by that time. I have learned the hiragana and the katakana alphabets. I can read them and write them, though that doesn't neccesarily mean I understand what I'm reading or writing. Vocabulary tends to be my biggest challenge. It is difficult but also enjoyable.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
He sits in the darkened doorway,
What he is plotting I know not.
But he spites me.
He does not move until the light strikes him.
He mocks me.
Perchance if he had moved out of sight
Before the door opened
I wouldn’t know his existence.
But he spites me.
As the light dawns in the doorway.
But only to the corner
Again he spites me.
He sits in the corner knowing completely
I cannot fit my rounded toe into the corner
Ohh how he spites me.
But alas I have a plan!
I shall remove my shoe
I shall lie in wait
I shall feint him, with my rounded shoe
He will scurry out of the corner
With a sly grin on his face
Knowing fully he is escaping
To his hideout
So I smote him.
I smote him with my shoe.
He no longer spites me
Poor little roach
He was a tribute to his kind
He will be missed by so many of his piers
But not by me
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
This is my Alpha group. I am the "leader" of this group which meets Friday evenings. We started the course shortly after I arrived here in Japan, but we will not get finished before I have to leave again. (unfortunately). Brad will be capably taking over from me after I've returned home. The course is being sponsored by Osaka International Church. Besides the people in the picture there are three more attendees as well.
Alpha is an introductory course about Christianity, and is designed to present the facts for Christianity, trying to look at the Big Questions of life, while allowing time and freedom to ask any question one desires.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Today Taifun (Typhoon) 6 passed near Osaka. (They are numbered rather than named.) A Taifun is akin to a hurricane.
Osaka is a geographically protected city so Taifuns generally pass by and don't affect things too much, but today was a little different. Schools were closed (including mine I found out when I got there), and the streets generally seemed more quiet. Many a cheap umbrealla turned windside out today. At times things were quiet, sometimes buckets of rain, and other times lots of wind. Enough wind to topple bicycles and motorcycles with their covers on them.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Yesterday on my way home from school I took a slightly different way home. As I was just about to cross a canal I happened upon these crates being loaded into a truck. Hmm no big deal so far right? Well these crates are Grundfos pumps, (and they look to be a decent size at that) and my brother Paul works for Grundfos. (My buddy Anthony also is a former employee). Paul is an excellent employee who goes above and beyond the call of duty, he's conscientious, teachable, and is good at customer relations. Grundfos is fortunate to have him.
Paul is getting married soon. I have the distinct honour of being the best man and will be back in Canada just in time for the wedding. (Looking forward to playing a game of golf with the rest of the usher dudes.)
So this post is dedicated to my dear brother.
Hope things are going well for the immenent event Paulus.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
This formed concrete building is right beside my Japanese language school. It intrigues me. From this angle it looks to be about three feet thick, but it is triangular. It is probably at least ten or twelve feet wide on the other end. I think it is an art gallery, in which case it doesn't need to be really wide I suppose. I'm not certain though because even though the name is in English, there seems to be nothing else to tell me what is inside. It certainly doesn't scream "Please come in and see the great works of art that are inside me".
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Here I am typing up a blog entry. On Wednesday’s at 1:30 I have a little sit down with Dan the missionary man. We just have a little discussion about how things are going with me, discuss a bit of Japanese culture and how that applies to missions in Japan. I look for particulars of Japanese culture in my daily observations, and then look for relevant biblical text.
I always have to kill a little bit of time between school and meeting Dan. Sometimes I stroll around the Umeda * area, but today I decided to sit down and get ahead of the game by typing a blog entry early. I stopped at Makudonarudo for a quick bite to eat and a place to sit down and type. The McDonalds is at Tammatskuri Station, the station close to the church where I meet Dan. I had the McGrand which is having its “Grand Debut” and then I sat down to work. Uh Oh 1:22, I have to hurry to get there now.
Today I was thinking about how physically tiny the churches in Japan are and how vast the many Buddist Temples and Shinto Shrines are not to mention the pervasive problem of idols and charms in many households. Approximately 90% of the Japanese people go to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple each year, while less than 1% attend a Church.
The text I was interested into today was Acts 17:16-34. Very Japanesque.
The church I am currently staying in is part of the Budo No Ki Saru Chaachi, or in English that would be the Grapevine Cell Church. The specific name of the location where I am is the Sekime Chapel.
Dan and Karen Ellrick along with Aukje vanden Berg are the missionaries I have been working with. The method arrived at after much forethought and deliberation was a cell church plant. The cell church model is one that seeks to build a church out of small spaces such as homes and allows for a lot of expansion based on a very small amount of space. In Japan homes are not a feasible option, so the small spaces turned into rental spaces. The building I’m in is a commercial building on the first two floors and the rest are residential. The front of the building is on a major street, so there are a few restaurants, a dentist and a travel agent amongst other things, while the back of the building is office type space. The church is in one of these units.
The plant is not growing so well. There are no regular attendees other than the missionary staff at this time. In the last year sustained efforts were made at making new contacts and trying to develop the contacts. Through short-term projects such as stuffing mailboxes and public concerts the staff had developed a few attendees but they have since dropped away. This is a very normal scenario in Japan and it is not uncommon for church plants to go 10 years before seeing any real growth, (measured in the 10’s). It can be very discouraging and disheartening for those involved.
Monday, June 14, 2004
(More about my digs tomorrow). I went to Miyakojima Kyokai Sunday morning. This church is part of the United Church of Christ in Japan aka Kyodan. At the time of World War II the Japanese government forced all churches and denominations to form one denomination. The governments leverage was join the one denomination or you will forfiet your land. This effectively forced any church of significance to become part of the Kyodan. The United Church is generally thought of as a dead church, but I think God is faithful and will not let go.
I understood very little of the language but I think the spirit of the church was alive and well. Even though it is a Japanese United Church, it has become an Eastern Orthodox Church. Interesting to find such a church in Japan. The Pastor there sees the Eastern Orthodox Church with its many visual practices and its consistent liturgy as a good fit with the Japanese people since they are comfortable with the visual and ritualistic parts of the Shinto and Buddhist religions which so many Japanese are familiar with. The liturgy is very set. The melodies of the songs are very familiar to me even though I don’t necessarily understand what I’m singing. Communion is done weekly there, and every one there today participated. The pastor was richly dressed in a very red and orange and gold cloak which he wore over his black robe. The church was packed, about 20 or 25 people. Very typical of the churches in Japan. Mostly women, mostly older people, very few young children.
I had to introduce myself which I was able to do in my very limited Japanaese. I got a real sense of peace from being in that church right from the time I sat down. I felt it was a spiritually healthy church. Wonderful feeling that. Wonderful for me but much more for the people worshipping there.
Today made me ponder some more the best way to present the gospel to the Japanese people, and to wonder about the best way to do church in Japan. But I'll have to ponder that some more and I'll leave that for another day.
Friday, June 11, 2004
This is where I sleep. It is customary to sleep on the floor in Japan. Because space is a premium, many people keep their futon in the closet and get out for sleeping. In my case I put it back on top of the pile. There is a pile here because occasionally I have roommates.
The inside of my residence looks like this. It is actually a church. You can see the kitchen area, with a shower beside it and a toilet behind it (they are usually separate in Japan). The meeting area in the middle is where the church meetings take place. It is a very small church at this point. I'm standing at one end and you can see 80% of the floor area from my vantage point.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Thursday, June 03, 2004
On my way to school this morning, I walked down this covered street. There are a lot of these streets around town. Typically the roof slides open to keep the rain out and let the sun in. It feels like a mall but cars and bicycles happily mosey through trying their best to avoid the pedestrians.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Comparing the dystopian future of today with the dystopian future of yesterday can bring up, in the similarities, the nature of our persistent fears, and, in the differences, the particular dangers of our age. The differences come in three areas that offer themselves for investigation-changes in technology, changes in society, and changes in information can tell us about our fears of today.
As I walk by these cardboard condominiums, my thoughts turn to William Gibson's book and it is no longer imaginary. It is real. I suspect Gibson has seen similar dwellings in his travels. In another of his books (I think both in Johnny Mnemonic and Idoru, unfortunately I can't check since my library is in Canada) he describes the Golden Gate Bridge as a place of complete metamorphous. In a very Japanese way the bridge has been taken over by the less fortunate, the riffraff, the lost sheep and the immoral and become a world of noodle shops, narrow alleys, and small out-of-the way dwellings. Gibson applies the population density paintbrush to this world of his making.
Nevertheless his extrapolation of increasingly higher population densities is perhaps telling of another one of our societal fears. In seeing these cardboard shanties my I think my fear was exposed.
Incidentally I was also published in a previous issue of Comment. The Craft of Machine Design.
One of the first days I was in the city of Osaka, I was acting as a tour guide for a couple of visiting Korean-American Pastors. We were riding the train back to our abode. It was a Saturday evening at about ten or so. As we boarded the subway car the reek of alcohol was in our faces. Most of the people in the car were in their business suits. Japan is notorious for its long workdays and workweeks. It struck me at that moment that these Japanese business people had finished their work for this week and had spent time after work drinking. It is to some degree a national pastime. This seems to be another of Japan’s idols, (there are many, both virtual and real). I have wondered a bit about it since. How do we approach this problem from a real-world biblical point of view? How do we make God’s Word relevant to the people on that subway car? Do we thump our bibles and preach abstinence at all cost? Do we do nothing and hope that eventually the problem will go away? Do we sit down for a beer and discuss the problem and see if we can’t come up with a good solution? In a moment of profound wisdom, I thought I should see what the Bible has to say regarding the subject. I turned first to the Psalms.
Psalm 104 parallels the first chapter of Genesis. The psalmist portrays God as Creator of the heavens and the earth, (vs. 1-9), who also adapted the earth for all living creatures, (vs. 10-23) who has dominion over all creation, (vs. 24-32) and who is naturally worthy of praise (vs. 33-35). As part of the earth being adapted for all living creatures we find that God “brings grain from the land and wine to make people happy” (The Message).
I then turned to Ephesians 5. Paul is writing to the people in the church of Ephesus, and instructing them in the art of weaving together belief and behaviour. In verse 5 Paul lets us know that “using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them - the usual variations on idolatry - will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.” (The Message). That I think applies to the many variations on idolatry that exist not only here in Japan but also all over the world. And later in verse 18; “Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of Him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (The Message).
And on to First Timothy where Paul is writing to Timothy, mentoring and guiding him in leadership. In chapter five Paul is giving Timothy some advice in the shepherding of the people of his congregation. In verse 23 Paul says “Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you." ( The Message).
I haven’t yet come to a conclusion. My lack of knowledge toward the landscape of the culture leads me to postpone my conclusions until I find out a little more. I have started to build a solid foundation though by stepping through some of what God tells us regarding this subject.
Monday, May 31, 2004
It was like walking into one of William Gibson's books. Between the Shinto Priest and Yodabashi, in storybook like contrast to both, lies these 'cardboard condominiums'. I was astonished. I recalled seeing these in my minds eye, and up to this point these cardboard dwellings had only existed in my imagination. They grew to be there from reading one of William Gibson's books, (I think "All Tomorrow's Parties"). These are people's homes, no more than four or maybe five feet to the carton ceilings. Some seemed to be well established with small items to sell, while others looked to be more newly inhabited. The address of these condominiums is beside the street the runs under the JR Umeda station. When I stepped back into the sunlight on the other side of the tunnel, I felt as though I had just trod out of a page of prose and back into the real world.
Saturday, May 29, 2004
On the way to Yodabashi, I passed this Shinto Priest quietly standing in this very high traffic area with his collection bowl in hand. There are two major religions in Japan. Shintoism and Buddhism. Most Japanese when asked wouldn't say they are religious, and most probably wouldn't be able to distinguish between Buddhism and Shintoism either. The lines of separation between the two religions that were drawn and fought over centuries ago have been blurred into a state of not just oblivion but harmony. But a significant number of the population participate in religious events either at New Years or in the Buddhist festival when everyone visits their ancestral home. This number is possibly as high as ninety percent. Religion plays a major role in Japanese culture.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
This is Yodabashi Umeda. (Umeda is a major transportation hub in Osaka and tends to attract a multitude of people). Seven giant floors of electronics from thousands of cell phones and digital cameras to computers and shavers. For the geek in me it is mesmerizing, mind numbing and hypnotizing to wander around the aisles and floors analyzing and comparing everything. Prices seem to be higher for most items here as compared to Canada, apart from laptop computers which seem to come in at slightly lower prices and give you more bang for your buck. All the OS's are Japanese though so you'll have to spend some time getting aquainted with the written language if you want to use one. The electronics industry is one of the many narcotics that exist for anyone here in Japan. Japanese go about their hobbies in a very intensive manner. They are culturally renown for their precision and diligence and these qualities are reflected in their pastimes.