Monday was another early start. The time was ok, but we also had to pack our bags and put away our futons. My energy for early morning starts had just about run out, and that meant a run to the station and a dash past the members of Eifuku Minami who had also woken up early to see us off, and then a leap onto the train. We made it without losing anyone, and without time to process a sad see you later.
The train (or more correctly trains because there’s a lot of transferring to different trains/lines in Tokyo) we were catching was bound for Chuo Daigaku (Central University). Peak hour with our backpacks was not as bad as it could have been, and we made it to the University on time. There we met with Max, the leader of the Chuo KGK, and a couple of other members. Max shared how for him leadership has come with many blessings and many stresses. James tells people that leaders will be judged more harshly (James 3:1), and Max certainly feels that responsibility. So please remember to pray for those who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
After find out a bit more about Chuo KGK, and praying for the day slash year ahead, we took some flyers and Easter eggs and were set loose for the first morning of orientation week. All of the clubs of the university start “peacocking” (trying to attract new members [my word not theirs]). They have varying degrees of success. Some attract by telling you everything about themselves (KGK is more down this end of the spectrum), and others tell you nothing about themselves (one group, Foul Bizarre, when we asked simply said fun things). Sports club members roam around in their gear looking impressive, and multiple cheerleading/dancing/singing/English speaking clubs try to get you to give all your free time to them.
Although it wasn’t as wacky as we were expecting, it did show just how hard it is for Christians to connect with their university’s KGK group even if they wanted to. Choosing to join the Christian group when there are many seemingly more attractive options would be hard. We wanted to do lots of those activities. But we also see in the noise that people are distracted by so many pleasures that they can’t see the real treasure. To borrow C.S. Lewis’ imagery, people are content to be playing with mud pies because they do not know what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
We had lunch at the cafeteria before heading of the KGK head office in the inner city suburb of Ochanomizu (“Teawater”) for the commissioning of the new KGK staff workers. We were honoured to be a part of something not usually open to guests. We saw Richard East again who we met earlier in the week. The staff workers were both men and women, and as they went around the group sharing their stories about how they came to trust Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and how they came to be involved in working for the KGK. During that time, we learnt a bit about the lady who will be the staff worker for the block of universities that includes Chuo. They had a variety of backgrounds, but were all keen to see university students in Japan trust and serve Jesus for their whole lives.
We then had a brief discussion with the KGK General Secretary, Shigenori Oshima. It was a particularly busy time for him and we were amazed that he carved out a bit of it to meet with us. We asked what kind of staff he would like and what he would love to do if he had more. He said he would love more overseas workers to come so that Japanese students had a bigger view of the world and Christianity than just Japan, and that he would love for those workers to take Japanese students on short trips regional churches/areas in their home country. As an aside, if you’re interested in speaking with Oshima-san he will be in Sydney over Easter and leading a celebration of 70 years of the KGK on Easter Monday.
Some of us then sat in on a talk by Jongho Kim, who was the guest speaker for the new KGK staff. He is the general secretary of the Inter Varsity Fellowship in South Korea (the IFES group). It was more of a seminar than a talk, asking about the values of the KGK which (although in English) made it somewhat difficult for us to engage in as visitors. However, it was encouraging to see how the KGK staff had deep insights into what makes sharing the gospel with and for students in Japan hard. It was also encouraging to see that what may be common place to you as an outsider (like genuinely loving the people you share the gospel with) could be a helpful message for people here. Despite the difficulties, you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to delight in the privilege it is to share not only the gospel but your life as well (1 Thess 2:8).
Afterwards we got a tour of the building which has many other Christian groups in it including a book store and a radio/television program recording studio (also keen for workers if you’re interested). But all to quickly it came time to leave, and we rushed off into the stormy Spring evening to catch our flight home. We abandoned Thom B at the station (he is the husband of a college student and so didn’t have to rush back for class like the rest of us) and made it to the airport where we checked in. After a long week of running around, some of us had already checked out. But even in leaving Japan, we know that we can entrust its people to the one who humbled himself to become one with his people, to die for them and to raise them to new life in the Spirit. He will never leave them nor forsake them. And who knows if some of us, or even some of you, are going to be the means by which he speaks that message to the people of Japan.
Perhaps that would be a good final prayer point for this week. Ask the Lord of the harvest that he may raise up workers for his harvest field. Ask him to raise them up from within Japan and from without. Ask him to help you not be afraid of what Christians in Japan seem to know so well, you might be the only servant of Jesus that this person may meet. However flawed and sinful you may be, you know Jesus is full of grace and compassion towards sinners. Enjoy that, and enjoy sharing that wherever you are.
Thanks for putting up with my story telling, and for offering up your prayers. We appreciate it, and though our time in Japan for 2017 has ended God’s time has not. So please keep praying 🙂