A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
July 20, 2011
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Thank you for your prayerful support of Japan, especially following the severe earthquakes and tsunami in eastern Japan in March that led directly to power shortages as nuclear reactors are being shut down throughout the country. Nagasaki, where I teach English and Christianity classes at Kwassui Women’s University, is in the far west of the country. However, because of the atomic bombing of the city 66 years ago at the end of World War II, medical expertise concerning illnesses caused by radiation has been developed here and is being shared.
This is an unusually hot summer already, with high humidity, but our first semester classes still continue, and final examinations go through the first week of August. Of course it is hard for students to study under these conditions, particularly when restrictions on air-conditioning due to the need to conserve electric power make it difficult to sleep at night. I used to think that Indiana summers were hard to get through at times, but the climate in Kyushu is more like that of the American Southeast. Even after 30 or 40 years, summer is a challenge for me, especially when trying to motivate students in required English and Christianity classes.
We are encouraged by the music of our pipe organ in chapel at least three times per week. Sometimes I speak in chapel, as I did earlier this week in English on Psalm 8; at other times I must speak in Japanese because that is naturally the main language of education in Japan.
Tuesday evening the extracurricular Bible study group that I lead had a farewell party for two Chinese exchange students who are about to return home after a year at Kwassui. They have been actively involved in classes in both Japanese and English here and also in many outside activities. One participated in our residence hall English Bible discussion group also. Other group members include graduates who have continued to take part in this time of fellowship and learning.
Students help me to see God’s truth in new ways as they teach me about culture and language. There is also a Bible Class at Nagasaki Church (United Church of Christ in Japan, Kyodan). One of the members and I also have lunch together about once a month to encourage each other in Christian growth. It is great to see her development as a relatively new Christian in the midst of family opposition. Nagasaki Church has a long history, having been established in 1875 as the first Protestant church in western Japan. However, the current membership is about 20 persons, mostly retired. The previous pastor retired last year at the age of 75. Last week a younger minister, the Reverend Hideki Fukuda, was formally installed. The message of advice given to him in the service of worship led by the Kyushu District moderator was based on Acts 23:1, in which Paul said: “‘My conscience is perfectly clear about the way in which I have lived before God to this day.’” We were urged to live as good “citizens,” not in a political sense since most pastors in Kyodan churches do not discuss political issues in church settings, but in order to please God through everyday actions and attitudes. In a secular or non-Christian environment, it is extremely important to fulfill the basic duties of a member of society so that people will be attracted rather than repelled by the church, which exists with a focus in life different from that of the neighbors. Please pray with us for spiritual growth in Nagasaki Church.
In addition to teaching and participating in meetings of the department and committees that seem to be necessary parts of university life and in various religious activities on three Kwassui campuses, I was appointed in 2010 as the chairperson of the Japan Mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This has given me various interesting opportunities to learn more about Presbyterian work in other parts of the country, especially as I am teaching in a historically Methodist institution (founded in 1879). Yodogawa Christian Hospital in Osaka has been serving the needs of disadvantaged people through whole-person healing since its founding in 1955. Currently a splendid new hospital building is being erected to further develop this caring ministry. At every monthly meeting I am privileged to learn more about what is being done by people connected with the hospital. Teams of hospital volunteers have also made 14 trips to eastern Japan to help survivors of the March disasters. Of course there are other activities, too, including new church development, being carried out and needing prayer support and even qualified volunteers who can speak Japanese.
As summer progresses, I pray that you find fulfilling activities to refresh your spirits. I am looking forward to participation with other mission co-workers in the Sharing Conference in Louisville in early August. Please continue to remember Japan and its Christian minority in your prayers, for God is at work here and around the world.
Yours in Christ,