27 April, 2012

10. What are the positive and negative aspects of your relationships with national Christians?

The final question in a tough, but interesting series of questions. I realised this morning, in the pre-getting-up haze of Friday morning that I'd promised to finish these before the end of April. So, here I am.

(This is the last in a series of questions I'm answering for a friend's Bible college assignment. You'll find links to the other answers in the series here.)

This is tricky because I haven't spent much of my time with Japanese Christians and there are two reasons for that. Firstly, my husband's work doesn't involve me closely and it is not in a Japanese-run institution (not to say that there aren't quite a lot of Japanese at the school). Secondly, since we finished language school back in 2006, I've mostly been a stay-at-home mum. During our last term I spent more time with Japanese non-Christians as I socialised with friends from my son's kindergarten. However, I'll do the best I can with the question.

Japanese Christians have a tendency to treat missionaries as special. We get often get tagged with the "sensei" or "teacher" suffix. (That is part of the language. Every name gets a suffix. Be it the generic "san" or cutesy "chan" or "kun" reserved for children, younger people, and friends.) This is a hierarchical society that reveres teachers. That is a hard thing to cope with, coming from a much more egalitarian society like Australia where you don't get respect because you have a title, you get it when you earn it (this is even different to America).

Japanese Christians who've been overseas are often very grateful for what they perceive as our sacrifice in coming to Japan.

In general, though, I've struggled to get to know Japanese Christians. This is probably a lot to do with the fact that my Japanese is bad, as well as the fact that we haven't been deeply involved in a church (as in, working within a church as part- or full-time workers). We've found it difficult to get to know people and to really feel a part of a church. So much goes on in the church that we simply don't know about. That is a hard thing to get used to after being deeply involved in any church we were a part of in Australia. Another reason why we've struggled to get to know Japanese Christians, I think, is that in Australia we do that in our homes and in other social events. People don't invite you to their homes here to get to know you. I mentioned that here. And social events haven't always been easy to get to with our three energetic and strong-willed boys.

Then again, those times we've managed to break through those cultural reserves, we've found Japanese Christians to be warm, friendly, and patient. And always helpful.

I think of one friend who helped us last year. We had an urgent medical situation at night on a public holiday. It needed medical attention, but we simply didn't have the medical language to deal with it (it was a pretty unusual problem). I saw my friend was on-line on Facebook and I messaged her, asking for help. She rang around various hospitals looking for one that would help us (they don't really have ERs like we do in the West). Wonderfully helpful and we were so grateful.

This has been an intriguing journey, answering these questions. I've received quite a lot of feedback saying that people have enjoyed hearing my answers. I'm grateful and slightly overwhelmed that people are so interested in my experiences. My challenge to you, is that it pays to ask others hard questions like these, especially people who've lived unusual lives. Finding out how they tick, why they made certain decisions, what struggles they've had. These make interesting and helpful conversations.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Thanks again Wendy. It certainly has been interesting to follow these posts, and I have really appreciated your honesty in them :)