I just got back from a 10 day work-trip to Thailand with 13 students and another colleague, Mr. Kanda. For a moment, please allow me to tell you a little about Mr. Kanda because he's an example of how mission in Japan sometimes works...
Mr. Kanda was not a Christian five years ago -- he was a pretty typical parent of a child in Kanto Gakuin's Mutsuura Elementary school. But in the late 1990s, Kanto Gakuin Mutsuura Elementary developed a partnership with the Karen Baptist Convention in Thailand, through the work of Eji and Emi Osato -- the Japan Baptist Union's only missionary couple. As the partnership developed, Kanto accepted the challenge to provide a dorm for students from mountain villages who needed to come down to the bigger cities to attend school and learn to speak Thai. Students and parents from Kanto Elementary did fund-raising projects for about a year, and finally became able to provide the dorm for the Karen students.
Every other year since, students from Kanto Gakuin Elementary have traveled to Thailand to offer assistance and to learn about how their Karen friends live. In 2003, Mr. Kanda joined the principal, Shimada-sensei, on the trip to Thailand as a parental advisor. Mr. Kanda's 2nd grade daughter went along as well.
But on that trip, something unusual was happening with Shimada-sensei, the Kanto Gakuin Elementary principal. He had been a Christian for some time, but he had never been baptized. So before the trip even began, he'd planned on being baptized up in a Karen church in one of the hilltribe communities. These service trips had influenced him so much, he felt that God was asking him to be baptized in Thailand!
Well, at this time, Mr. Kanda was not a Christian, and he was staying in the same room principal Shimada was staying in the night before Shimada-sensei's baptism. The story goes that Mr. Kanda was baffled that an intelligent, seemingly "normal" Japanese man would decide to be baptized into a "strange" religion--especially in a foreign land. So, dying of curiosity, he plainly asked principal Shimada the question, "Why in the world are you doing this?" Shimada-sensei's answer came as a shock: "Well, why aren't you? Why don't you get baptized with me?"
Stunned, Mr. Kanda started asking principal Shimada about the Christian faith, and in fact, he did become a Christian that night. The next day, he was in fact baptized right along with Shimada-sensei in the Karen village. That was five years ago, in 2003.
Today, Mr. Kanda is a second-career graduate student in the Comparative Cultures department of Kanto Gakuin's College of Humanities. He's working towards becoming a professor -- to show students how Christian volunteerism can change lives as well as whole communities. For the last three years, he's taken students to northern Thailand to volunteer with ACT -- The Akha Churches of Thailand (our American Baptist missionaries, Chuck and Ruth Fox work with ACT, too). And this year, I was asked to go along with the group to do some problem-solving and relationship-building work.
While we were there, the KGU student volunteers built a church/community center as well as a public toilet facility in an Akha village. We visited missionary Kim Brown's ministries -- the House of Love and the House of Blessing -- in Chiang Mai, and were given tours of two ministries taking places in slums in Chiang Mai and in Bangkok. The students were tremendously affected, and I'll be getting the chance to follow up with them in the weeks to come. Recently, these volunteering students have formed their own student organization on campus -- the Sigma Society -- and I've ended up becoming their faculty advisor.
Check out some of the highlights of our trip on our website below:
When we were dedicating the new church building in the Akha village, Mr. Kanda gave one of the dedicatory speeches. He reminded us all -- American, Japanese, Thai, and Akha -- that we were called to become a new creation; something quite different from the average man or woman. We are called to give the world zest and flavor -- to be salt -- through good works done through the power and grace of God.
It's great to be in this wonderful family of faith -- especially when we can see the family working together for the good of those around us!
Please continue to pray for Mr. Kanda as he strives to live out his faith and calling. Pray for our KGU students, many of whom might have been as affected by their own experience as Mr. Kanda was by his first trip to Thailand. Pray for me and Kari as we minister to these students, inviting them to meet Christ and to deepen their own journey of faith.
Maybe God is asking you to step out today, to discover that new way God is asking you to serve in your own field of ministry!
Take care and God's richest blessings be with you,
Dwight & Kari Davidson
ABC/USA IM Missionaries