A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
November 24, 2012
Holiday greetings to all in the name of Jesus Christ!
As Thanksgiving Day has just been celebrated throughout the United States, and Labor Thanksgiving Day on the following day in Japan, this seems to be a good time to thank all of you for your support of mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Your prayers and gifts for Christ’s work are always appreciated, and especially at traditional family times when people may be separated from loved ones at home.
Today I attended a talk given at Kwassui Women’s University, where I teach, about living in community with serious mental illness. Members of a group from Hokkaido, in the north of Japan, had come to Nagasaki in the south to share about the need to avoid rejecting persons who are different from most residents of a region. From where does help come? Peer support may be useful, but true hope comes to us from Jesus Christ, who was born to heal minds and bodies and to make it possible for us to become a whole person in relationship to God.
Kwassui’s Bible verse for this year is “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Because of last year’s devastating earthquake, tidal wave, and nuclear generator meltdown in northeastern Japan, we are still frequently reminded that people there continue to live in the midst of suffering as they try to rebuild their lives, but these people also look for small signs of hope in daily life. Hope may be seen as a single flower blooms among rubble, or it may be experienced as a volunteer listens to what a survivor has been holding in until able to express it to a sympathetic ear.
Last week our students had an opportunity at the annual special religious lecture to learn about Make a Wish of Japan, which is 20 years old now—the age of adulthood in Japan. This is an offshoot from the Make a Wish volunteer organization that started in Arizona in 1980 to help children with life-threatening illnesses to keep hope alive in their daily struggle. Ms. Hisako Ono came from their headquarters to tell us about specific cases of their work. For example, Kazuma, an 11-year-old boy, said, “Thanks to my illness, I received wonderful presents from God. That is, many friends and companions.” Other children had a wish fulfilled to help others find hope, for example by producing a picture storybook, or by collecting pencils to send to children in Africa. Ms. Ono told us that she had come to realize that the words of Paul in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” do not promise us any immediate solutions to problems, but they do assure us that our Savior will be together with us in whatever happens. The students found this a very moving and valuable time for them to reflect on how much they have for which to be thankful and also to consider how they might be able to show more concern for other persons. They will have one opportunity to do this at a Christmas chapel hour, when there is always an offering given to help people who are having a harder time in this world than we are.
On November 17 the point that Christ is with us in the midst of our difficulties was also made clear on the day of thanksgiving for the opening of the new buildings for Yodogawa Christian Hospital and their Hospice, Children’s Hospice Hospital, in Osaka. The hospital was started in 1955 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, and it has continued to be a leader in medical care focused on whole-person healing—body, mind, and spirit. The new Children’s Hospice is the first such dedicated facility in Asia. It is a bright and cheerful place that offers respite care as well as terminal care to support children and their families in their struggle to live successfully. For the celebration of the openings a group of Presbyterian leaders and related persons were invited from the United States and also from sister hospitals in Korea and Taiwan.
As we proceed into the season of Advent, let us pray that our hearts may be open to the significance of the birth of our Redeemer, made known to us through the action of the Holy Spirit to the glory of Christ Jesus and our Father in heaven. I pray that this Christmas will be meaningful to you, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, because we are connected as members of the family of God. Please remember the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its efforts throughout the world in your prayers and offerings as you too serve in the mission to which you have been called by God’s Spirit.
Peace in Christ,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 200
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 208
Read more about Barbara Easton's ministry