I want to share with you some news from the Bazaar Café in Kyoto. (The Bazaar Café is our church’s coffee house ministry.) Among the many programs we have going on at the Café, last year we started what is called “Shaba Café.” “Shaba” refers to the “outside world” as opposed to the world inside prison.
One of the staff at Bazaar Café, Chie, is a social worker at a psychiatric clinic and has many opportunities to meet persons with addictions. Among them are people who have been in and out of correctional facilities (including prison). Chie is involved with them after they are released from prison, and when during this time, they again are returned to prison. Chie says she has often had a feeling of unspeakable sadness. Meanwhile, she was approached by a social worker who works in support of the homeless in Kyoto, as well as a professor whose area of research is forensic social work, about the idea of starting up a support network in Kyoto for those released from prison. They started with a series of study sessions to learn about the current status of those released from prison, about their support, and also to connect with those who are involved with this population.
I feel that there is great meaning in holding these study sessions at the Bazaar Café, where there are already among us some persons who have been released from prison. We try to provide a supportive environment for them to express their feelings when things get hard for them. And through this kind of supportive environment, we are also creating a place for those of us who have a supportive role to feel safe about sharing our own struggles too. I feel happy that we are providing a place for people of different backgrounds to gather, to support each other in thinking about next steps in our journeys. As a place that connects a variety of people in solidarity, we can overcome issues that seem insurmountable when faced alone.
In addition to this new program, we continue to hold our monthly “Bible Sharing” time. Among those who attend are people with addictions, including those who have been in prison, those with HIV/AIDS, people of a variety of sexual orientations, social workers, students, and others. Of the 15-20 persons who attend, most are not Christian. As facilitator, I start with a reading from the Bible, followed by a short reflection or inspiration gained from the passage. The rest of the time people are free to share what strikes them as pertinent to their life, sometimes bringing tears, sometimes laughter. Often, someone who has read the Bible for the first time, shares something that is a new insight for me. Bible Sharing seems to be a time of healing, a time to know that we are not alone, that there are friends who listen, who share our pain and joys that care and are willing to walk together toward wholeness.
Thank you as always for your prayers and support for our ministry in Kyoto.
Yours in Christ,
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.