Veritas Project Japan: Summer 2016 Team

 

Project Japan 2016 Team

Project Japan 2016 Team

For the past five years, The Crossing’s college ministry, Veritas, has partnered with Mission To the World’s church planting team in Nagoya, Japan. Each summer, Project Japan takes a group of Veritas college interns to Nagoya to help run the college ministry at Nisshin Christ Church (NCC) for the months of June and July. Here’s a video overview from Project Japan 2015.

This guest post about Project Japan 2016 is contributed by Alex Gray, a Veritas staff member, former NCC full-year mission intern, and leader for Project Japan 2016. Please consider financially supporting Project Japan 2016 (Place donation amount under Project Japan.)

 

Project Japan 2016: June 1st-July 27th

Itinerary Details:

  • Two days of travel from Columbia, MO to Tokyo, Japan
  • Four days of adjusting to the time change (14 hours ahead!), sight seeing, and team bonding in Tokyo
  • Six weeks of relational ministry in Nagoya, building friendships with Japanese college students in hopes of showing Christ’s love and connecting them to Nisshin Christ Church (NCC) staff members.
  • Events such as a camping trip, a weekend home stay, a Nagoya Dragon’s Baseball Game, a Fourth of July Party, and other fun activities all aim to cultivate meaningful relationships among the Veritas team and Japanese students.
  • A weekend trip to Kyoto for contextualization and history of one of Japan’s most ancient, traditional cities.
  • One week of facilitating NCC’s Kid’s Gospel Week, overseeing activities such as games, crafts, music, Bible lessons, and an end of week festival.
  • Two days of team retreat in Mt. Fuji Highlands
  • Two days of travel from Tokyo, Japan to Columbia, MO

Project Japan 2014 Team with Japanese Friends

Team Demographics:
Veritas has been sending students to Japan for five years now; a partnership started by Kermit Summerall, past director of Veritas. His missionary experience in Nagoya and his long-standing friendships with missionaries there currently gave him a heart for connecting the two ministries. In 2012 Kermit brought the first group of Veritas students to NCC to help kick-start its college ministry, and each summer since has been a continuing effort to grow and strengthen that ministry. This year the team consists of eight Veritas students and will be led by Alex Gray, a Veritas staff member. Alex spent the summer of 2012 in Japan as a Veritas student and then interned with NCC for a year after graduating college. While there, the team will work with college ministry leaders including Tim and Chie Burns (JEMS missionaries) and Kaji and Ayumi Uechi (Japanese staff).  The church was planted by Wayne and Amy Newsome, MTW missionaries who have lived in Japan for over 25 years starting churches in the Nagoya area.

Target Population:
The Veritas team will spend most of its time with Japanese college students from the campuses close to NCC. Over the years, NCC’s college ministry has grown to roughly 30 consistent students, almost all non-Christian. These students attend colleges usually within walking distance of the church, so these students are the Veritas team’s connection for being on campus and meeting new students. Many of the Japanese students on campus are studying English as their major and are looking for international friends, giving the Veritas team a great opportunity for relationship building.

The Japanese schooling system is set up in a way that makes middle school and high school highly important for future success and therefore highly stressful. High school exams determine which university students will attend, and once that is decided their paths are fairly set. This means that after high school, Japanese students are free to relax their studies a bit, making them more available and less stressed to spend free-time as they choose. The Veritas team utilizes this free time to get to know Japanese college students as much as they can in their 6 weeks in Nagoya.

While school is less of a stress for most college students in Japan, other factors greatly affect their college years. Job success is extremely important in Japanese culture, so most students join clubs that build their resume and teach skills useful for finding and securing jobs. The pressure to succeed in their future job causes many students to pack their days with clubs and activities, and once committed to these clubs, there is a high expectation of loyalty and obligation to them. This makes it hard for students to rest and build deep friendships during their college years, and many feel differing degrees of isolation, anxiety, and depression.

Another factor is the Japanese concept of honne-tatemae, or inner and outer face. Japanese culture encourages people to separate their true feelings, opinions, and desires from what is presented to others. This comes from the ideal of keeping harmony and not disturbing the unity of society. The result of this cultural concept is that college students are not given opportunities to express their feelings, beliefs, hardships, etc. if they would disrupt peace or place a burden on anyone else. Keeping true emotions and convictions to themselves causes Japanese students to feel as if they aren’t truly known or valued, and the pain and hardships they carry often become too much for them to bear.

Veritas sees an incredible opportunity with Japanese college students in the Nagoya area. These are students who are wanting international friendships, who are looking to be known and loved, and who need people in their lives that will listen and care for them deeply.

Alex Gray with Japanese students during Project Japan 2015

Alex Gray with Japanese students during Project Japan 2015

Team Goals:
The Veritas team aims to create meaningful connections with as many Japanese students as possible over their seven weeks at NCC. It is their goal to build friendships that’s Japanese college students may not be used to, ones that are intentional, vulnerable, and sacrificially loving. The team hopes to simply care for students in a way that shows Christ’s love clearly. One of the main goals for the Veritas team is to be connecting students to the NCC staff. With only seven weeks in Nagoya, the team does not have expectations of seeing students come to Christ, though that would be a wonderful blessing from the Lord. Instead, the Veritas team focuses on bringing Japanese students into a Christian church (many students having never been in a church) in ways that display NCC as a place of refuge, acceptance and radical love. This allows NCC staff to continue pouring into Japanese college students after the Veritas team leaves.

Barriers to Christianity:
There are many cultural and religious factors that present barriers to a Japanese person becoming a Christian. On average, it takes a Japanese person 10 years to become a Christian from the point that they begin studying the Bible. Some of the cultural and religious factors facing the Japanese include:

  • Wa: idea that the good of society, harmony, unity is the ultimate goal; more important that personal needs, beliefs, desires. “Wa” is the basis for how Japanese society functions; everything is done in relation to maintaining harmony. Becoming a Christian goes against the group consensus; it believes and commits to something different than the rest of society, creating a disruption of harmony.
  • Giri: Refers to duty or obligation that Japanese people have toward groups. There are high expectations to give time, effort, sacrifice toward your social groups and obligations. Becoming a Christian causes people to fail in some duties and obligations. For example, within the family, Japanese have an obligation to perform rituals that honor and worship ancestors. Becoming a Christian would mean renouncing those practices, but for the Japanese it would also be a sign of renouncing and bringing shame upon one’s family.
  • The Concept of God/gods: The Japanese word for god or gods is kami, and they are Shinto deities. They are formless, lacking personality, and amoral. They are thought to have superior knowledge and power over certain aspects of the natural world, but they are not creators or omniscient/omnipotent. They should be treated well in order to receive fortune, but full devotion isn’t necessary. Because the Japanese have a completely different idea of what a god/who God is, the process of believing in God takes much longer. The Japanese have to learn about the God who is creator, who loves his people unconditionally, who has a personal relationship with people, who should be worshipped fully, who is sovereign and all-knowing and all powerful, who is the only true God, etc. Everything they know about what a god is gets turned around when they begin learning about the Lord.

Please pray:

  • That God would put students in our path who will respond positively to our friendship and will be drawn to NCC and the love of the staff there.
  • That God would work in our team to show the love of Christ and make the good news of the gospel known.
  • That God will strengthen us as a team, giving us love for one another, energy and perseverance through the summer, and reliance on him alone in our ministry.
  • That we would serve NCC and its staff well this summer, being a blessing to their ministries and continuing to build the partnership that God has created.

Info Links:

Sources:

  • Alex Gray
  • Lee, Samuel. The Japanese and Christianity. Foundation University Press. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 2014

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