A letter from Tom Goetz serving in Japan
Greetings, everyone. As we approach the end of 2015, I would like to thank all of you for your email correspondence, your prayers, your occasional suggestions, and your faithful financial support of Presbyterian World Mission.
Presbyterian mission workers are fortunate to be accompanied by regional liaisons who accompany us in our ministry and help us set goals each year. My regional liaison is Choon Lim. I am pleased to say that all my work-related goals I set with Choon for 2015 were either met or continue as works in progress. Here are some examples:
My duties at Hokusei Gakuen University continue unchanged, save for the rotation on different committees. Presently I am on the University Entrance Committee, one of the most important and public committees. There we plan for the future based upon our current reading of admissions trends. I visit high schools, both urban and remote, to tell students how wonderful we are.
As for our employment of a controversial lecturer, I am happily largely responsible for that. Professor Uemura, years ago, wrote widely about the Japanese Imperial Army’s forcible conscription of young Korean, Taiwanese, Filipino and Dutch women as “comfort women.” With the blessing of the present Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, the ultra right-wing nationalists have denied that these relationships were forced, and thus claim that no human rights violations occurred. Our university knew that by keeping Professor Uemura in our employ we would receive harassment, and we did. Security has been stepped up and the police have been on our campus both visibly and invisibly from time to time. When we say in our promotional literature that our school is founded upon Christian principles, I say that paying a price for lifting up a prophetic voice in Japanese society is entirely consistent with our values as Christians. To dismiss the good professor would drain our Christian profile of any meaningful substance. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/03/world/asia/japanese-right-attacks-newspaper-on-the-left-emboldening-war-revisionists.html
According to my work colleagues, I am more literate in Japanese, but still have a long way to go. Little by little I am becoming more fluent and literate in Japanese, but it takes time and discipline. With language-learning I am a work in progress, a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel.
My witness to nonbelievers in both the university and the larger community has continued unabated. In fact, within the university, we have had four chapel services through Skype, all of which were technological successes and well received by the students. Two PC(USA) ministers spoke from the U.S. and one former Hokusei English teacher who now lives in Canada spoke as well. What was most interesting aside from their messages was the after-service fellowship over Skype that occurred—totally unexpected.
I enjoy finding creative elements to add to our chapel services. The group that I formed last year called the Hokusei Country Gospel Singers is now a regular feature during our Spring and Fall chapel programs and our extracurricular student activities. I have also reached out for many years to local musicians to perform sacred music in chapel, most recently of the Italian Baroque and early Renaissance period. While the video is not the greatest, here is a link to our most recent concert:
A personal goal met is the annual Christmas Charity Concert. Scheduled for December 5 of this year, the concert benefits the local Project Santa, a group that provides age-appropriate Christmas presents for children living in group homes (four homes—nearly 300 children in total), and the Make-A-Wish Sapporo office. In Japan, Make-A-Wish is well known and children from Japan’s warmer climes often select Sapporo during winter for a time to play in the snow. While Hideko and I are completely exhausted after the event, we share a happiness that can be gotten in no other way than by emptying oneself through giving. Hideko and I agree that we need to begin the transition of leadership with the production of the Christmas Charity Concert to the Make-A-Wish Sapporo office. Our sense is that we are good for 10 years. This will be year number 6, so the clock is ticking.
Counseling services in English are few to non-existent here in Sapporo. While this city’s population is over 2 million, the English-speaking foreign population is tiny in comparison. I have been providing a volunteer counseling outreach to members of Sapporo’s English-speaking community for years. Last year was no exception. While the pain and suffering is real, so too are the slight changes in outlook, which are restorative.
I look forward to greater participation on the Japan Mission Committee, on which I’ve served for a full year now. There is certainly a lot going on with PC(USA)’s real estate holdings and Yodogawa Christian Hospital. There is still much more that I must learn and there is so much more that we can do. But, with the current leadership and their patience, I look forward to more participation in the future.
My plans for the year to come are to live my life in conjunction with the individual goals set earlier and continue to serve as a credible witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ within this cross-cultural context, perform my assignment with professional competency and sensitivity, continue to relate well and effectively with PC(USA) constituencies and Presbyterian Mission Agency/Presbyterian World Mission staff, and participate in work that aligns with Presbyterian World Mission’s directional goals as outlined in its strategic plan.
Financially, while serving in Japan I have always been supported by Hokusei Gakuen University, Presbyterian World Mission’s global partner. And for many years that was enough. However, the present financial challenges facing Presbyterian World Mission are such that I feel deeply committed to encouraging U.S. churches to provide more financial support for mission workers. I shall be in Milwaukee, Wis., on a 6-month sabbatical from the university from April to September and wish to visit churches as time allows. If you would like me to visit your church or presbytery, please contact me at Tom.Goetz@pcusa.org.
God grants us the gift of life, and it is, in fact, a straight line. I have begun exercising daily. My clothes fit better. But I can do more. This too continues to be a work in progress and an area for prayer requests.
As I look forward to my next year of service, I can say with confidence and joy that I am thankful for my career at Hokusei Gakuen University. I have developed lifelong friendships with Christians and many non-Christians here. When asked where I wish to retire, I find that retiring right here in Sapporo seems to be the best fit.
Once again, everyone, thank you for following my ministry and praying for me. My overall needs are met, but please consider special year-end gifts to Presbyterian World Mission. Our work is based upon years of faithful service and experience. It would be sad indeed to see more mission positions terminated with our faithful partner institutions and churches around the world. Our church needs you to give at this time. Thank you!
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 247
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