Thursday, June 27, 2013


Today’s coffee: many cups from the hotel coffee machine, and a delicious cup of coffee at a café overlooking the river, enjoyed in the company of friends…

We’re at Jozankei Onsen for 5 days of OMF Japan Field Conference. The schedule is pretty packed, but I’ve found a quiet moment to write a bit.

Last weekend, I had ample opportunity to reflect on what it means to be the family of God in Japan. On Saturday, our church had its annual memorial service in which we remembered and thanked God for the lives of church members who have died. Eight of us made the trek to the other side of Sapporo where many of the area churches have their graves.

The small building in the foreground houses Wakaba's grave as well as those of three other local churches.
At the top: "Our citizenship is in heaven." Below, the names of the churches and of the deceased members are written on the wall.
Although some Christian families have their own family graves in the same area, there are many families in which only one or two are Christian. In order to be buried with the rest of their family, they would need to be buried according to Buddhist customs, which they no longer want to do—many Christians see funerals as an opportunity to proclaim their hope for eternal life with Jesus and together with each person who believes.

We have been taught that to a Japanese person, it is very important to know that one will be buried with the other members of one’s family, to not be forgotten or neglected by remaining family members, and to die with the hope of going where one’s ancestors are. Christian burial in Japan reflects the reality that in Christ, we have become family. We have been adopted as God’s children; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We do, in a sense, hope to go where our ancestors are—those who have gone before us in the faith. This practice isn’t limited to people who are the only Christian in their families; sometimes families are buried together in the church grave.

Now for something completely different (although not entirely unrelated)…

On Sunday, we had our first movie night with the middle and high school students at our church… and a couple of people who recently graduated from high school. I was expecting about 4 people, but we had 7, plus 2 adults who came to help with food. I’m thankful to have been so well supported by our pastor and church members in prayer and in practical ways.

It could have gone better, but it could have gone worse. The food was good. Since we picked Lilo and Stitch for the movie, we went with a Hawaiian theme for the food. I’m sure it wasn’t authentic, but we did our best with the ingredients we could get. (The menu was pineapple fried rice, pineapple salsa, and chicken and vegetable shish kebabs—maybe if I get really ambitious, I’ll try to post a couple of recipes later.)

Shish kebab team!
The movie discussion was… a little disappointing, but I’m thinking we may have set our expectations too high for the first time. I think we have some better ideas for how to get the discussion going, but we’ll have to keep experimenting. In our minds, the most important thing for this first time was to get to know these kids better and spend some time together outside of church in a relaxed atmosphere. If they feel comfortable, we hope they feel that a movie night is something safe to bring friends to.

The theme of “family” is one that comes up again and again in Lilo and Stitch as each of the characters struggles with loneliness and loss of family. Keith and I are far away from our families. One of the adults who came to help cook has just sent her daughter off to college—I caught a glimpse of her dabbing her eyes during the scene where “family” is defined as “never saying goodbye.” God knows that our families are sometimes far away, and that they are imperfect and even broken. I’m thankful that in Christ, I have family wherever I go, and “goodbye” is only temporary. I’m thankful for the people who are around me right now at our church, and I pray that we can become family to them.

No comments: