To Understand Returnees (2) How can I approach them? ― “Are returnees space aliens”?

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The previous articles links.


  1. Who Are Returnees?


North and South, East and West in Japan. We experience culture shock even moving within Japan. When we move to a new location for school or work, we go through the process of adjusting to the local customs. We learn a new way to do things and get used to it when we come across the language and custom/tradition that we had taken it for granted did not work. The church setting is also like a small society. People coming from a different church background will experience a similar process of adaptation. Meeting someone with a different background from ourselves could be sort of a culture shock, not only for the one visiting, but also for the ones who welcome them. There is a step-by-step process to welcome and walk with those who have a completely different way of doing things, different values and language, sometimes even the way they dress is different from what we think is common. We often hear, “We have experience welcoming people who move from other areas of Japan, but we have no clue about returnees.” Some say, “Returnees are like space aliens.” Despite the confusion with such unfamiliar experiences, an increasing number of churches (believers/pastors) have the desire or wish “to understand the returnees who became Christians outside Japan,” or “to make them feel like they want to come back to our church again,” in various regions in Japan. This is great! In order to understand their background and welcome them, it is extremely important to learn what kind experiences those returnees had overseas and To Understand returnee Christians 7 how their faith was nurtured. The following are some of the keys to do so.

Point 1. What kind of church has the returnee attended overseas?

What kind of church did the visiting returnee attend during their stay overseas? Was it a local church, or a Japanese church (often called JCF, which is the abbreviation of Japanese Christian Fellowship)? If it was a local church, it is most likely that the returnee knows about Christianity through mainly English. If it was a Japanese Church, the style of how they worship is similar to Church in Japan. (In most of the cases, however, churches except the ones in the west coast of the US are cross-denominational.) Now, how about the age group, style of worship, types・the way of praise and size of the church that the returnee attended outside Japan? When you have this specific information, you can see the whole context of the returnee’s experience in church outside Japan. For those who only attended a local church, it is helpful if you ask him/her whether he/she has met a Japanese Christian before he/she came back to Japan or is reading a Japanese Bible. Some are involved in Japanese fellowship as well as attending a local church, and if that is the case, he/she could have experienced Christianity in Japanese considerably.

to be continued….

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