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A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan

July 11, 2008

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Rainy season has ended almost two weeks early in Nagasaki this year. It was a good time to reflect on the many blessings that God continually showers upon us. Kwassui Women’s College, where I teach English and required Christianity courses, takes its name (“Living Water”) from Jesus Christ’s conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria (John 4). Every day we experience the essential need for pure water, which we thank God for providing for us. Many people throughout the world are also giving thanks for the faithful gifts and prayers of people such as you who help to support God’s mission work.

All Kwassui college students are required to be present at a weekly chapel service as part of the Christian education program here. In chapel hour at the beginning of July, several third- and fourth-year students shared some of their experiences doing volunteer activities and studying overseas. One of Kwassui’s Chinese students, who had gone to Australia to study English for a few weeks, talked about her host family there. She said that the mother was always cheerful, relying on God and friends for support, as she tried to help other grieving families after her own son died at age four and her young daughter lost an arm in a traffic accident.

This effective sharing of what a weakened person is able to give made a strong impression. It reminds us of what Paul wrote (in 2 Corinthians 12:9) about God’s answer when Paul was suffering: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”; and Paul’s praise of God (in 2 Corinthians 1:4): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

These words could also fit the situations described by the two students who went to the Philippines last December for an international gathering of potential leaders from seven Methodist-related women’s universities in Asia (from India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines). They experienced various challenging situations together, beginning with how to communicate clearly in a multilingual environment. They also saw poverty directly on field excursions. For example, they visited a day-care center that was set up to provide basic nourishment to young children. The mothers were not able to feed their children adequately because they had not been able to attend school and develop skills that would help them to take care of their families. The Kwassui students returned to Japan with a new perspective on their own homeland, having discussed the roles of women in various countries. They now feel challenged to find out how they may be able to make a difference in the lives of less-advantaged people near and far.

Another student talked about personal growth through the various activities of a group of music volunteers who work with Japanese children and residents of nursing homes. Although she and her associates did not travel very far, they also discovered new “neighbors.”

The students who listened were impressed by hearing about the breadth of experiences that were shared by speakers of their own age and similar backgrounds. Some now say they feel encouraged to try harder to become involved beyond their usual activities of classes and part-time work. The text for the chapel hour was the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Students’ vision of who is their neighbor is expanding. Please pray that they will be able to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Our first semester finishes with examinations in early August, when schools in America will be about to start a new year. There are many differences between countries, but all of us are one nation and one people before God, from whom all blessing flow. Thanks again for your support of God’s mission, through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and all of the partner churches working together.

Yours in Christ,

Barbara Easton

The 2008 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 104

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