Missionary Stories

New Challenges

This past year has been a very full year for me as I took on new responsibilities at the University where I teach. This has made my life busier than ever and I have had to take on new challenges, but I also am aware that this has offered me a chance to learn new skills and also, hopefully, to grow. My new responsibilities include working with the administrative staff on curriculum, on budget issues, and to deal with endless e-mails and paper work. But the best part has been that I have also had new opportunities to relate to both students and faculty. I feel my relationships have been enriched and for that I am thankful. I hope in my second year as “Department Window” (that is the literal English translation of my position), I can find some more personal time to recover at least a bit more balance in my life!

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Stories of Joy and Sorrow

Japan_-_J_Mensendiek_larche_Sp_2016.jpgMarch 11th will mark the 5th anniversary of the great earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan. Though much of my time is consumed by the responsibilities that come with my work on a college campus, I make a point to embark on two pilgrimages each year. One to touch upon the wellsprings of joy, and another to enter into the pain of those living in the shadow of human-made tragedy.

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Love Your Enemies

Hong_Kong_-_A_handshake_of_friendship.jpgIt’s not every day that the Consul General of a Middle Eastern country asks to come for a visit. But that’s what happened recently at the Hong Kong Christian Council. We weren’t sure why the Consul General wanted to see us as we had no prior connection with that country. But we said we’d be happy to meet him. Our General Secretary would be traveling on the proposed date so I was asked to represent the Council along with the HKCC Chairperson.

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Anti-Trafficking Work in the Philippines

After volunteering with organizations in Chicago that strive to end human trafficking, I realized that I wanted to go to school to be equipped to holistically minister to human trafficking victims and survivors. In particular, I was interested in learning about the role of survivors in anti-trafficking work; best practices for anti-trafficking organizations and anti-trafficking ministries.

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People on the Move

Hong_Kong_-_Xyza_speaking_at_photo_launch_in_HK.jpgThis month I had the chance to meet an extraordinary artist who is displaying some of her black and white photographs at an exhibition in Hong Kong. What’s so special about her? #1 – She’s only 28 years old. #2 – She is a Filipina who studied nursing in college. #3 – She used to be a ‘maid’ for a rich Chinese family in Hong Kong.

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Hearts Ablaze with a Sense of Dignity and Purpose

Japan_-_A_at_Diet_Session_Sept_2015.jpgNow wait a minute! How can we let a political party, which only represents 20 percent of the Japanese population, forcefully pass such controversial laws that not only run against our own constitution, but against the overwhelming will of the people? What about democracy? What does it mean to be a constitutional democracy? These were the questions on the minds of the people who took to the streets this summer to protest the passing of the new set of security laws proposed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The largest protest was held in Tokyo on August 26th when 120,000 people gathered in front of the Diet building. Similar non-violent demonstrations were also held that day in 350 locations all over the country. The nation was afire with anger. And who do you think were standing at the forefront of this movement? It was the young people. Although the security laws (called “war laws” by the opposition because they allow for Japan to ignore six decades of constitutional debate around the peace constitution and to join in US military activities all over the world) were passed on September 19th, the movement has given many people reason to hope. As one of my colleagues put it, “Though democracy in post-war Japan has not taken root within the halls of the Diet, it is promising to know it has taken root in the hearts of the young people.”

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Seeing Christ in the Stranger

World_Refugee_Day_Hong_Kong_2015.jpgFor the past six years I’ve been researching a topic that all of a sudden seems to be a hot button issue again – refugees. Of course, those working in the field of forced migration and the refugees themselves know that the issue has never really gone away. Often it’s a matter of where people seeking asylum flee to that determines whether citizens or the media pay attention. Certainly the refugee crisis in Europe has captured the attention of the world as governments, international agencies, NGOs, faith groups and others seek to respond.

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Protesting for Peace in Japan

Please pray for Japan.

protest_(2).JPGOn my way back from Fukushima yesterday, I stopped by the Diet building in central Tokyo. There was a group of two to three hundred people protesting the present government's intentions to pass the new set of security laws. Tonight there will be another large demonstration in front of the Diet building. Each day the television reports the discussion continuing in the upper house. The opposition presents issue after issue, and Abe and his men intentionally steer themselves away from answering the questions. One opposition leader put it to the prime minister this way; "Mr. Abe, why don't you just give this issue up? You see too many of the people are against this set of laws." Government officials argue "The Japanese people have always been cautious of new security treaties. But at each historical turning point the Japanese government has pushed on to implement needed changes, and the Japanese people have benefited. In retrospect I think you would agree that the decisions of the past were good. We are standing at such a juncture once again."

This argument is deeply misguided and self-serving. The people have stood up to protest a government that has crossed the line - to disregard its own constitution for the sake of national security.

The Japanese government is trying to push through a new set of security laws which would allow the Japanese Self Defense Forces to enter more fully in supporting US military maneuvers anywhere in the world. Prime minister Abe is trying to deliver on his promises made to the US last December, before he even opened the issue up for discussion with his own people. 99% of constitutional lawyers agree that these laws are unconstitutional. People all over Japan are standing up in protest. Polls show that 60% of the public feel the government has not fully explained the reasoning behind the laws. On August 26th 120,000 people protested in front of the Diet building in Tokyo, and there were protests in 350 locations throughout Japan. Abe, who has a majority in the Diet, is determined to take the vote on September 17th ignoring the uproar from his own people. The US will be pleased if Japan can take a more active role in the Far East. But this move by Abe and his selective circle of friends to bypass the Japanese constitution is certain to heighten the tensions in east Asia.

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A Christian Diet of Yin and Yang

Old Testament: Joshua 24:1–2, 14–18
Psalms                          Psalm 84
Epistle:                         Ephesians 6:10–20
Gospel:                         John 6:56–69

Spirit of love and compassion, Spirit of justice and peace, may the meditations of my heart, of my mind and of my spirit be acceptable and pleasing to you, and may they be a faithful witness to the wisdom you have gifted to us. In your Son’s name, we pray. Amen.

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“O land, land!”

Hong_Kong_-_Elder_Dr._Wong_Fook-yee_(2).jpgOver the past 10 years I have worked with the Hong Kong Christians for Eco-concern network to produce materials for Environment Sunday, the first Sunday of June. This year we decided to do something different. Instead of group members doing the writing, we invited a lay church leader to pen the sermon. Elder Dr. Wong Fook-yee is a retired civil servant formerly in charge of Hong Kong’s countryside and marine parks. You may be thinking, Hong Kong has countryside and marine parks? Isn’t the city just one big urban jungle? That’s what you usually see in the media, but surprisingly, around 75% of Hong Kong’s 400 sq. miles is countryside. 40% has been preserved as country parks and marine parks. So when Dr. Wong accepted our invitation, we should not have been surprised by his chosen topic – land. He reminded us that 2015 is the U.N. International Year of Soils. And in his sermon he pointed out, “The fate of humans is closely related to the land. When humans sin, the land is also affected. All creatures were beyond the void, together they were groaning (Romans 8:20-22). Therefore, God, humans, and land are interrelated, interdependent and interconnected.”

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