In the States, the school year has ended and students are graduating or going home for the summer vacation. Maybe this is your first time going back to Japan since you became a Christian, or maybe this is your last time. This article aims to assist you and those of you who are helping returnees.
7 keys to preparing for going back to Japan
1. Know and understand the differences between Christianity and American culture.
2. Understand the importance of grace.
3. Confirm what you have inherited as a Japanese Christian.
4. Discern the cults.
5. Respond to the tradition of Buddhism and Shintoism as a Christian.
6. Find a good church in Japan.
7. Read a Japanese Bible and go to a Japanese church before returning.
"The know-how of going home" as a Christian
Witnessing is not merely a responsibility or duty for a Christian. It is a privilege and a blessing as a Christian, but it is not your task to convert your family to Christ. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we confess "Jesus is the Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3). Simply share with your family your joy and thankfulness for what God has done in your life, in faith.
Caring (a positive heart) is more important than worrying (a negative heart). "Your happiness" is a joy to your family. Your family may oppose you out of worries and misunderstandings that come from some bias toward religion, not knowing the Christian life you enjoy. So, give priority to "what you can do" as a Christian. Be considerate to your family's expectations and feelings, and be involved with them even more than usual. Have them say to you, "You have changed," (of course in a good way).
Obon is coming. But there is actually something you can do at a Buddhist ceremony. It would be excellent if you could pray to God the Father in heaven at the family altar when your family prays there and greet the ancestors. Of course, you will pray to the Lord who loves you and your family. You can thank Him that your family has been protected and thank him also for your ancestors, who gave your family their existence, praise Him for the joy of having a family, and pray about your purpose while staying with your family and seeing about your family's needs.
Visiting the tomb is okay, too. The tomb is an important place to commemorate and remember your ancestors. We don't pray to the tomb (the dead), but cleaning the tomb, decorating it with flowers and remembering the dead is a humble show of love for your family. Try praying there the same prayer as above. In the same way, a funeral is a time to show your faith. Express your mourning in your own way. Use your head more than anyone else, don't spare yourself but serve hard and use your money and time effectively. If you are one of the bereaved family members, you can avoid confusion by asking to be left out of "the order in offering incense," beforehand. The purpose of offering incense is to show your respect for the deceased and condolence to the family. It would be good to meet the family before the funeral and express this so that you will fulfill the purpose and be a comfort to them. There are different opinions about incense offering, but in order not to make your understanding and freedom a stumbling block to others, find a way to avoid offering incense or standing before the incense altar. In case you couldn't avoid, don't offer incense, rather entrust the deceased to the Lord in silent and sincere prayer and pray for the family's comfort. And it is a good thing to visit them or send flowers after the funeral is over, when they may be feeling lonely. You are trying to do something that is not "a custom," so you must go out of your way and use time and money to show your heart.
Opportunities to witness don't arise only when you "go back to your family." The key is in your daily communication. You are the source of joy and the first fruit of salvation for your family. To bring peace of mind to your family, who are far away, communicate to them your joy. Do your family members know you have become a Christian? Depending on the family, it is better to let them know it beforehand. And to let them know is the first step of the blessing. Sending a Christmas card is a good way!
Your communication with your family should be warm, expressing your heart. Are you making phone calls or sending birthday and anniversary cards or e-mails, often?
Here are some encouraging verses for your. "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." Luke 12:11-12, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," 1 Peter 3:15, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."Acts 1:8.
The first thing to do is to let your family know the joy and the hope of eternal life you have found in Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength, and enjoy the reunion. It often happens that people around you aren't as worried as you are. "Grace before the meal" is a good opportunity, too. How about asking, "Can I thank the Lord for the food?"
The above content is offered by Rev. Ray Gozden and Rev. Saku Kuroda. We hope it will be helpful for those who are returning to Japan this year. JCFN has a Bible study guide to prepare new Christians for returning to Japan, called, "Returnee Workbook" in both Japanese and English. If you would like to have a copy, you can download it on JCFN website or e-mail us and we can send you a copy.