To Understand Returnees (6) How can I approach them? ― “Are returnees space aliens”? #5

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The previous articles links.


  1. Who Are Returnees?
  2. How can I approach them? –“Are Returnees Space Aliens?” #1
  3. How can I approach them? — “Are Returnees Space Aliens? #2
  4. How can I approach them? — “Are Returnees Space Aliens? #3
  5. How can I approach them? ー”Are Returnees Space Aliens? #4

To Understand Returnees (6) How can I approach them? ― “Are returnees space aliens”? #5

Murmur by worker: Is a “returnee” an eccentric?

As society in Europe and the US is basically founded on individualism, respecting individual dignity is a basic premise in the society. For example, disabled people are fully accepted in Europe, where nonbeliever Japanese start to to have an interest in Christianity in some cases. Many local Christians who desire to minister to Japanese show the overflowing love of Christ, and they accept those Japanese the way they are, try to understand, help, serve and deliver the love of Christ as well as the good news of Christ through the how they live. There are quite a lot of Japanese who seek for the truth out of the feeling of “I want to be like this person.

Japanese who leave their own country with the wish to gain something even though they have to overcome the barriers of language and culture may be considered as an “eccentric person” from the point of view of Japanese who do not have experience outside Japan. (It could be different with the case of overseas assignment of the company because they are sent for their company reasons.) Would it seem to be even more bothered because that “eccentric person” has “fueled” his/her eccentricity in such a favorable environment and returns to Japan?

I am not denying this because it could be the case of some people that taking it in such a way helped them to understand, treat and accept returnees, but as we are in a position to have direct contact with returnees, we have a different dimension to look at this. Let’s assume that people who go overseas with their own will are “eccentric.” Yet, even these people are lumped together as “eccentric,” those who go overseas vary in reasons for doing so, such as studying abroad to develop one’s career, utilizing a working holiday opportunity to find one’s own identity, going abroad to reset one’s life, looking for breakthrough from sickness in one’s heart by leaving Japan or having a dream of living overseas even with a fake marriage. Furthermore, are those who do not have overseas experience “not eccentric” at all? In my personal observation, there are some “eccentric” people I cannot get over no matter how hard I try. Regardless of the overseas experience, there are people who are labelled as “maverick outsiders” wherever they are placed.

As we are tackling the challenges of how returnees could put down roots at church or how churches can have a better understanding of returnees and help them, it seems that Japanese tend to prefer “homogeneity (i.e. people who have similar ideas or are placed in a similar position),” and it seemingly applies to churches in Japan as is. That could be found to be a barrier for new comers.

Please do not get me wrong. This is not a simple wish like, “I wish church becomes more like churches outside Japan.” Churches outside Japan have their own challenges. An English Christian who is very familiar with church in Japan says, “Church in the UK has a lot to learn from church in Japan. They should have some activities together as symbolized by the love feast held following Sunday worship service. It also happened that an Englishman who is a nonbeliever lives in Japan and was saved in Japan. Some American Christian’s pointed out a strong tendency that Christians in the US commercialize church, select a church only to fulfill their needs and change church easily if they cannot satisfy their needs, and value how Japanese Christians are conscious of the system of church membership, give tithes and offerings and serve for 1 church for a long time.

Each culture has the expression of Christianity that is befitting it as well as how Church should be. However, as a general tendency, it seems that Japanese church feels is challenging to effectively approach not only to returnees but also to new comers. It could be due to the Japanese mentality which unconsciously wishes that strangers (new comers) will be like themselves. Yet, I think that, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23, to learn how we understand and accept people different from us and to help them grow as a Christian is a significant step to capture even more people for Christ. “To understand and accept returnees” may be a challenge for churches in Japan. That is why we believe that welcoming returnees to church is a blessing for churches in Japan. Through the experience of welcoming “returnees” to church and to love them as a part of the body of Christ and the process of hooking up with people who have different experience from that of our own, church can lay the foundation to accept people who are heterogeneous to us. Needless to say, it does not have to be “returnees,” but could be a “youth who has brown-dyed hair, got a tattoo and speaks a different language from us.” To be a friendly church “for people outside of church community.” To be a church that people who do not normally go to church visit for the first time and feel like “visiting again.” When this is realized, I think that will be the breakthrough to a commonly heard “cooped-up feeling that Christian society in Japan has.” Church will shine To Understand returnee Christians 13 the light of Christ on Japanese society as the body of Christ, which Jesus wishes. We sincerely hope to serve with churches in Japan to that end.

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