by Manuel, Bible School for the Nations leader
Today I’m surrounded by people who have lost their jobs. Who have broken dreams. Who are societal failures and yet persist to live.
Here in Japan, many people commit suicide when they lose their jobs. They have brought shame to their families and want to restore their honor through their death. These students have chosen something else.
I’m in a government sponsored English class for the unemployed, teaching English conversational skills and discussing our cultures. But most importantly, my team and I are sharing a message of encouragement and value.
Next to me, my colleague encouraged his discussion group. “You are so precious,” he told a young woman.
The woman looked away with an expression on her face that seemed torn between disbelief and hope that he was right.
“You have so much to give!” John continued. “The world needs you, needs the Japanese. Don’t play the victim, but stand up and be who you were made to be.”
I turned to my discussion group of atheists, Buddhists, and Shinto. We were talking about the three questions every person must answer satisfactorily to find peace: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
“What will happen in these peoples’ lives as a result of this class?” I wondered. I wanted to hear their answers as much as they wanted to hear my own. But most of the students struggled to answer any of the questions. It was as though they had never been asked their opinion or encouraged to think for themselves.
“God made me with a good design and for a purpose,” I said. “God designed people for relationship with him and others. That is the reason we are all here! Every one of you was uniquely made and has infinite value. When we walked away from God and stopped following the purpose we were made for, we forgot our infinite value. We started treating ourselves and each other like we are not valuable.”
“That is Japan’s main problem!” interrupted one of the students. “We, Japan, have forgotten our value. There are so many pressures forcing you to live a certain way in Japan that is not in line with the value of people.”
“You’re right,” I told her. “If we saw people as valuable we would not have issues like human trafficking, exploitation, and pornography.”
I scanned their faces, recognizing the spark of hope in some of their eyes. I hoped they could truly understand what I would say next.
“God also saw that we had forgotten our value. So he, himself, came to earth in Jesus Christ to give his life for ours to remind us that we were made for a love relationship with him and to show us how valuable we really are to him.”
From my studies of Japanese culture, I realized I was making some bold and shocking claims! By the end of the English session, we had encouraged the students to think about what they are passionate about as they discover what to do next with their lives. We wanted to encourage them to be themselves, to think outside the box. I’m excited to see them step away from a devastating cultural norm that would keep them from reaching their full potential.
Will you join with me as I pray that this evening will be a turning point in the lives of these precious Japanese?