A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
When graduating from Kwassui some years ago, Hiroko wrote: “Kwassui is a Christian school, so we had the opportunity to learn Christian teachings. Among us there were those who had never received any religious education before entering Kwassui. Therefore, they first thought that they didn’t want to be required to learn about Christianity and shouldn’t have come to this college. However, as we studied it, we found the truth in the Bible here and there in spite of it being difficult to understand. Worship and the retreats were helpful to us, and especially did the short morning chapel brace us up. Some words that the preachers said sometimes made us consider deeply. We were richer spiritually than we had been after we heard them. I think even if we forget what we learned in class, we’ll never forget about Christianity. It will help us and give us strength in the future.”
Kwassui Women’s University, like most schools in Japan, celebrated graduation in March. Many of our students first encounter Christian teachings here or in schools, including Kwassui junior high and high school, that were started by Christian missionaries. As I also “graduate” this spring to a new phase of life in retirement, I have been looking back over the past 31 years as a PC(USA) mission co-worker in Nagasaki, Japan, and thinking about what students have said in their graduation speeches.
Usually they recall attending weekly chapel hour and listening to the sounds of the pipe organ, which was the first on our island, Kyushu, 30 years ago. They have learned about the “living water” that Jesus Christ offered to a woman in Samaria in the John 4 episode, which gives us the name of Kwassui, and also about the need to share God’s love in personal relationships in daily life.
Go therefore and
of all nations,
...and lo, I am
with you always,
to the close
of the age.
— Matthew 28:19-20
Quite a number of our students also go on to study overseas, for a few weeks or several months. In her application essay for study in Virginia, Yasuyo wrote that she had “wanted to go to the mission ship [Doulos] after graduating from college. However, after guidance, I thought my desire didn’t seem realistic, and I felt it was like a dream. So I started to think about my future seriously. … I didn’t know what I should do for my future. I talked with my friends, family, teachers, and gradually found my goal. Now I want to be an English teacher at a mission school.” She went on to explain about coming to “faith in Christ Jesus": "I became a Christian this spring through the college life in Kwassui. Now God is working among the Kwassui students. Then some of them received Jesus Christ. It’s very wonderful, but I think we need more Christian students here. So I’d like to work for sharing the gospel more, but I don’t know how to do it. So I’d like to see what the American Christian students do in their college life. I want to work with them. Also I want to see the churches in the U.S. As far as I know, the churches in the U.S. are energetic and lively. I want to see how God works in American churches and I want to help them as a Japanese young Christian.” After returning to Japan she has remained active in Christian life and did indeed teach English in a Christian high school before becoming a full-time homemaker.
Nagisa, who now works in one of our offices, also commented that “Kwassui is famous for solemn worship. At the beginning, I didn’t know how to pray in chapel, and I felt embarrassed at singing hymns. I sometimes wondered why we had to attend worship and what it was. But while I was there, I noticed its importance. If I was angry or had some worry, I could forget the annoyances and ease my mind when I listened to the beautiful sounds of the pipe organ and the prayers. Now I understand the meaning of it. I think that by believing and praying in our daily life, we receive hope and power to live.”
Sometimes the young people are led to join a local congregation, although if they move away from Nagasaki when they become employed we may not hear about what happens later. Nevertheless, we rejoice at the baptism and confirmation of new Christian believers, especially at Easter in various congregations, including this year at Nagasaki Church in which I participate.
I hope that Christian schools such as Kwassui will continue to introduce many people to Jesus Christ and to God’s call upon our lives. Please pray for these institutions, and for Japan Mission members in Hokkaido, Nagoya, and Osaka as they continue to explore new ways of supporting mission in Japan and the wider Asian area. I would also appreciate your prayers for my own transition back into life in the United States of America as I go to join my sister and her family near Saginaw in mid-May. Please let me know if you would like to maintain further contact in my retirement.
Support of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from believers in America makes it possible for World Mission activities of evangelism, peacemaking, and various kinds of development to take place in different parts of the world. Without your prayers and gifts mission co-workers cannot be sent out. Your personal communications are very encouraging. Let me express deep appreciation for your interest and generosity in helping to spread the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 234
Read more about Barbara Easton's ministry