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Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration at the Asian Rural Institute

November 12, 2013

Fall has arrived, but without the color in this region yet. The sun is warm by day, but nights are chilly. Without heat in the buildings, we wear hats, scarves and coats to supper. However, Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration weekend, October 12-13, was spectacular.

An estimated 1,500 people came to this annual event to enjoy both organic food from many cultures and stage performances showcasing ethnic dance and song. A bazaar with donated items from ARI supporters is very popular. HTC is ARI’s invitation to the public to celebrate the harvest given by God and also a major fundraiser for scholarships.

Weekly planning meetings began the first of September. Chakura team organized food, Shalom (Bob) planned two worship celebrations and handled logistics, Tree of Colors decorated an indoor and outdoor stage and organized musical performances, and Tano-C (Joyce) planned and constructed children’s games and decorated the game area.

The whole planning process is part of the participants’ leadership training. Some committees worked smoothly together, others had difficulties. Remember that most people are trying to communicate in a language that is not their first language. Ideas need to be repeated, even sketched out, to be understood.

Eventually, the week-long preparations began. Vegetables were harvested for all the dishes, and a pig was shipped to the butcher. Committees gathered materials for decoration, cut bamboo for huge gates and began creating signs and origami flowers. Tents were set, tables and chairs distributed. Two kitchens were busy from Friday night until early Sunday morning as participants prepared curry, dahl, momos, black beans, Japanese vegetables, rice, rice pudding and many more dishes. 130 volunteers came to help with parking, ticket selling and serving food.

The weekend arrived with gorgeous weather. The worship opened with the participants processing and presenting the harvest on the altar. We participated in both worship services by ushering and reading scripture. Throughout the day, Joyce enticed visitors to dress up in the participants’ traditional clothes and took their photos.   Bob pedaled popcorn, checked recycling stations and emptied trash. We made our stage debut with other Americans singing “Country Roads.”

We offered an international fashion show, tours of the campus, Thai and Japanese massage, drumming, gospel singing, face painting and a children’s game called yo-yo fishing. The atmosphere was one of celebration. Everyone had worked so hard to make it a successful weekend. During all of this, the animals still had to be fed and the crops harvested during Foodlife work morning and evening.

Now at the end of this week, fish have been harvested, seed corn cut, and participants are readying their Reflection Papers. In their remaining seven weeks, they will have a Tokyo home stay, a Rural Western Japan Study Tour, including Hiroshima. They will graduate in early December and life after ARI will begin.

For us, one more week with these courageous, beautiful people.

We are blessed.

Robert and Joyce Ray serve as short-term volunteers at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan.

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