To Understand Returnees (7)- When a person feels, “I will come back to this Church.” #1

For the booklet download:  LINK

The previous articles links.

Forward

  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
  6. How can I approach them? ー”Are Returnees Space Aliens? #5

 

When a person feels, “I will come back to this Church.” #1

Returnees continue to gather at church, grow as a member of the church to be combined as an essential part of the body of Christ and receive blessings. Dedicate themselves. Become a pastor ・ missionary ・ worker for the Lord. God is equipping such resources. It is an awesome work of God. Returnees go back to Japan and visit churches. What are the keys for them to feel, “I will go there again” or “I would like to continue to attend there.” Let’s look at the cases of “I stopped going there because of this.”

Case 3: Ms. C (single woman, saved and baptized in the UK and returned to Japan)

It has been a few years since I returned to Japan. I visited several churches, but currently I am staying away from church. I am an introverted person, not good at expressing what is in my heart, and I had a very tough time to get used to live in the UK and it took me a long time. However, when I got used to, I had many people who had become “lifelong mates.” It was painful for me to leave the UK. Still now I take every chance to exchange emails with my friends in the UK. Upon my return, I visited many churches and tried to get used to it. I am sure about my salvation and I also served at the churches I visited. Yet, when I talk about my experience in the UK, which is very important for me, people at church does not show their interest at all. The impression I receive from their responses are,“Even if you say so, that is about there. Focus on what is in front of you. Forget about the UK. It is useless to talk about it.” That makes me think that I am denied and I feel like I cannot be myself, which makes me stay away from fellowship. I think that my current faith life is OK, and this is the only thing I can do.

 

Accepting differences

Ms. C’s personality of having difficulty in saying what she thinks seems to be one of the reasons that she was not able to come to stay at church. English Christians accepted Ms. C of few words with tolerance. They understood and loved her. However, the brethren in her home country treats her differently (refer to the sentences with dotted underline). They indicate to her with or without words that she cannot be accepted unless she becomes like them. Yet, what would have happened if they treated her with an attitude of, “It is OK for you to miss theUK all the time, you do not have to be the same as us.”? Ms. C would have not felt like she was denied. How can we treat people in such a way?

 

For accepting differences ~~~Always the case with reverse culture shock…Twitting by returnees lasts 6 months in average.

Not all returnees keep talking about the life outside Japan for a long time like Ms. C, but more or less, every returnee will have a similar tendency. They have reasons to talk about their overseas experience. One of them is that their experience as Christian is only from outside Japan. Another reason is that is a form of reverse culture shock which every returnee goes through.

When people live in a different country ・language ・ culture zone, human being goes through the following 4 steps; (1) “excited: feeling like a tourist,” (2) anger or escape: what are these local people!? Or avoid having contacts with people,” (3) “depression: I cannot be like the people in this country no matter how hard I try,” (4) “Calmness: I can be myself.”

When Japanese go overseas, these are the 4 steps they have to struggle to go through, and eventually they get used to the life of the local area. Then when they return to Japan, they repeat the same process. Yet, that shock tends to be bigger than the one that they experienced when they went abroad because when they go abroad they are prepared to go somewhere with different culture to a certain extent, but when they return to Japan, they are often unguarded. Since they are returning to where they were familiar with, born and raised, they do not feel any worries, yet with that in their mind, when they actually return to Japan, their ideas and values are largely affected by that of the overseas culture and are not like that of their home country, which is shocking to them. In that process, there are some words and attitudes that may be difficult for “standard” Japanese to understand, but they gradually get used to the life in Japan naturally. It is just impossible to go back to how they were before they left Japan, and they settled “himself/herself who has overseas experience.” Even though there is some range for that period depending on a person, usually people calm down in 6 months after going through the following 4 processes; “excited: returned to Japan! I can eat nigirizushi and anything I like whenever I want to eat and as much as I want!,” anger or escape: why does not my friend understand me? (since there are some areas that only people who have overseas experience can understand.),” “depression: I became an “eccentric person.” I cannot fit in the society in Japan.” and “calmness: it is OK even some people think I am strange. I had good experience overseas and live and let live.”

In the process of reverse culture shock, these returnees held back when they are treated like Ms. C, as she was said, “Even if you say so, that is about there. Focus on what is in front of you. Forget about the UK. It is useless to talk about it.” Even if you want to say such things, please bite back and just accept them saying, “Oh, I see. That is great. That is right.” In this way, they can feel, “I am accepted. What I experienced there was still good.” And can stay in the fellowship.

To be continued….

 

 

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

For the booklet download:  LINK

The previous articles links.

Forward

  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.

Discipleship in the Time of Coronavirus

中村佐知(JCFN理事、霊的同伴者、キリスト教書翻訳者)

How are you doing? The US was a few steps behind Japan in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and several states are now under Stay at Home Orders. Schools, churches, restaurants, convention halls, and any places for gatherings are now closed. Even when we go out for grocery shopping or for a walk, we are told to strictly keep a distance of 6 feet away from each other. The turn of events over the last ten days were so fast-paced that everyone is at a loss. As Japan enters into a new school year, will the schools reopen?  Will people finally be able to go back to work? 

As we were suddenly thrown into this situation, I can imagine that many are feeling quite anxious. This morning, I was reading an article titled “Discipleship in the Time of Coronavirus” and came across this passage. 

“What is the way of Jesus in such a time as this? First, we must remember that we are disciples of the living, ascended, and enthroned Jesus. …… The Jesus who said, “And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” remains/abides with us by his Spirit. When we are tempted to isolate and turn inwards, we need to repeatedly turn our gaze to the availability of Jesus. Throughout our days we need to develop the habit—now more than ever—of finding encouragement and comfort in the real presence of Christ’s love (Phil 2:1). ……. Our Lord, savior, friend, and lover is paying attention to us, the human situation, our needs, and the needs of those around the world. We need to pay attention to him—fixing our eyes, setting our minds, abiding—while we attend to the news, our needs, and the needs of those around us.”

What we choose to pay attention to and focus on will influence our emotions,  cognitions, actions and attitudes. (see Philippians 4:8) The author of the above article recommended several disciples such as breath prayer (Japanese only), stopping occasionally during the day to turn our hearts to the Lord, and praying and meditating on the Lord’s Prayer in the morning, noon and evening. For those who are taking this course, those spiritual disciples are probably already very familiar to you. Even in regards to the coronavirus, may we seek the Lord for discernment to clarify the boundary line between the things we can and should do, as well as things that are beyond us that we need to entrust into God’s good hands, since worrying about it won’t do any good.  

The author of the article says,

“Returning one’s gaze to the competent gaze of Jesus throughout one’s day is not simply a nice idea. Discipleship to Jesus is a learning way (Matt 11:28–30). With Jesus’ leading and the aid of his people down through the ages, we make tangible plans to reorient our minds to Christ and his Father’s kingdom resources in the midst of daily life.”

Even when we are anxious and fearful of what lies ahead, or when we are exhausted by the sheer number of things to attend, may we still turn our eyes to the presence of the One who is with us in the midst of them to encourage, help  and protect us. May we be able to comfort those around us with the shalom of the Lord that is within us. I hope that the spiritual disciplines (*) that we have been learning about through this course will be helpful you to do so.  

 

*Please refer to the spiritual disciples that I have mentioned in the JCFN blog in the past. 

 

Post  articles on the eLearning course “Boundaries from the Point of View of Spiritual Formation” (Japanese only) 

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