2018 was a tumultuous year in many ways.
Personally, I had to say goodbye to several dear friends, one of whom was Teruko Enomoto, the founder of the Bazaar Café.
We continue to miss her, but are working to carry on in her spirit. We also celebrated our 20th Anniversary. Jim Moos and Derek Duncan of Global Ministries joined us for the celebration, which was quite a special occasion. The photos below are from the ceremony, where Jim and Derek gave a wonderful poster to the Café. It reflects the values and vision of our shard ministry! I am spending more time at the Café, now in more of a leadership role. We are also making long-range plans for greater sustainability for the Café.
As in many parts of the world, Japan had its share of natural disasters. Mega typhoons, earthquakes, landslides and the extreme heat wave caused many deaths, disrupted lives and even whole communities.
Politically, the Japanese government has moved forward with its plan to construct a new US military base in Okinawa, ignoring the majority of Okinawans who are against it. The government also has passed legislation to accept more foreign workers, to supply the demands in the labor force in areas such as construction, factory work, agriculture and care-giving for the elderly. Citizens’ groups and non-profits who have been working for the rights of migrant workers in Japan are against this move, pointing out that the government must make sure support for these foreign workers are in place first. The government refuses to use the term “immigration policy” – an indication that they only see these foreign workers as “labor”, not as persons who will need health care, language education, and other social support, much less as people who will be a part of the communities in which they live. This legislation was rammed through the Diet session with little time devoted to discussion amidst an outpouring of protest from politicians and experts. Many of my colleagues and friends are critical of the Abe administration and question whether democracy is really working in Japan.
In the midst of all this it is easy to despair. But as we start a new year, we must not lose hope for a better future! I am made aware of that hope in the small day to day encounters in my life and through those around me. I find hope in students who graduate and go on to make a difference in people’s lives, through their social work jobs, supporting children, elderly, persons with various health and/or mental health challenges, those who struggle with addictions, or those in poverty. I find hope when I am at the Bazaar Café, seeing the smiles and kindness of the staff, volunteers, and guests. I find hope when another one of our friends at the Bazaar Café, says that the Café helped him get through another year sober and clean and realizing he is not alone in his various struggles.
May 2019 bring hope to each one of us, and to all God’s children throughout the world.
Martha serves at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan through the Council on Cooperative Mission. Martha is a professor of social welfare. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.