A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
January 13, 2010
It is a day of beautiful snow, rarely seen in Nagasaki. Having arrived safely uphill at the Kwassui Women’s College campus, where I teach English and Christianity courses, I can enjoy seeing the bonnet of snow on the clock near the main entrance and the white outlines of the branches of the camphor trees with their green leaves. Our founder planted some of them 130 years ago to symbolize the eternal life that comes from the “living water” (Kwassui) of God’s Holy Spirit. Yesterday and today in the first Chapel services of 2010, one of our chaplains, the Reverend Murase, spoke about “being made completely new” (Ephesians 4:22-24), which distinguishes human beings from other creatures. He introduced a Japanese poem about snow. Its point was that old snow becomes dirty and must be covered with fresh snow repeatedly to continue to appear clean. Our souls also require refreshment, but we are changed forever by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.
One of our senior students was baptized at Christmas. Before she came to Kwassui, she completed high school through a correspondence course. She has learned a lot about human relations in college. Another student, who has suffered from depression, has also seen the light of our heavenly Father shining on her through the ministry of Christian friend. She can now begin to recognize the love of people around her that had not been apparent to her in her own loneliness. She is growing to be more positive in her outlook on interpersonal relations as a result. Yet another student is rejoicing because she was unexpectedly moved to attend church services during Advent and Christmas because of the invitation of some Korean students here. While our courses about Christianity may prepare the background for changing lives, it is becoming increasingly clear even now that personal contacts are some of the most effective means of bringing people to Jesus Christ, which has been true since the time of the first disciples.
At present our local Mount Inasa has disappeared from view behind heavy snow flakes dancing in the air. However, for a brief time, it reappeared in sunlight with enough snow cover to make it seem like a much higher mountain than it really is. Many local people like to see the sunrise from the top of Mount Inasa on January 1, a custom that does not really appeal to me. Some Japanese even climb high mountains to try to see the first sunrise of a new year, although this is not always a successful venture if bad weather warnings are ignored.
Because most Japanese go to a Shinto shrine to pray at New Year, usually in Nagasaki, there is also a joint Christian worship service sponsored by the Nagasaki Council of Christian Churches. This year it was held on January 2, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in Japan. What was unusual this year was that participants came from some Roman Catholic congregations and were encouraging all of the body of Christ to grow together in prayer. This is a positive change from more traditional exclusive attitudes in the past.
The current week began with a holiday for Coming-of-Age Day for new adults, aged 20. This is the first time that all the new adults were born in the reign of the current emperor. In many ways, the 20th century is receding into the past. Nevertheless, students sometimes comment in surprise that the message of the Holy Bible seems contemporary, even though it was written about 2,000 years or more ago. God is timeless, and God's work continues from our past into our future. Please pray that we can all open our eyes to see where God is leading us at present.
With prayers for a blessed new year ahead as we try to walk with Christ,
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 141