Matthias and I are back to “normal” life (whatever that means) and able to post again on our blog. I missed writing on this blog quite a bit, but I honestly had no time for updates during our busy visit to the U.S.
Today I would like to share a list of ideas to connect with Japanese folks. The bottom line is that if you are a relational person and the Japanese sense that you genuinely care for them, there are endless possibilities for effective ministries in Japan.
1) Teaching English – I think the key to this is finding which group of Japanese you genuinely enjoy teaching. Teaching English is a very useful venue for developing relationships, but it can drive you crazy if you are with the totally wrong group for you. It’s also very fun to have a language conversation partner so that you can not only teach English but learn Japanese (but you won’t get paid).
2) Holiday Parties – Japanese enjoy what they called “home parties,” especially if it is in your home. They genuinely enjoy the chance to learn about your gajin lifestyle as well as learn about different customs and dishes (and desserts!) from your home country. During Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, in particular, I have loved holding parties with my friends for Japanese folks, including a White Elephant gift exchange, Pictionary, and other games for everyone’s enjoyment. If you’re not inclined to cooking, having a potluck party in your home is a good option, and I’ve had one pizza party for high school kids, although pizza is quite expensive in Japan. (See below: two large pizzas would cost $39 in Japan.)
Of course, having a Valentine’s Day party, a chocolate party, a winter-themed party, a birthday party, and a host of other types of parties would be loads of fun as well. Don’t worry about lack of space – Japanese are used to being crammed into small spaces and it makes it rather cozy.
3) Cooking class – My mentor, Edie C., was able to teach 20+ women at a time, something I cannot imagine ever being able to do. However, if you are the kind of person who truly adores cooking, I would highly recommend this venue. It’s a great way to get lots of people together for fun and fellowship. The hard part is, of course, gathering all the ingredients, finding a good place to hold the class on a regular basis, and finding a translator if you don’t speak Japanese. After the cooking classes, Edie’s husband would give a short Bible lesson in Japanese.
4) Craft Clubs for kids – Doing crafts is very appealing for girls of all ages and it gives you a chance to get to their moms as well. (I hope to expand this ministry as way of getting to know people because unlike teaching English, I am free to speak only in Japanese.) I did this with a group of several Japanese children as well as a group of two girls, American and Japanese – both were really fun experiences and it gave me a chance to have “small talk” as we painted and made the craft. Some ideas would be origami sets, needlepoint, crocheting, etc.
5) Movie Night – It’s always fun to invite young people over to watch movies and eat popcorn and relax. If you bake a dessert from your home country, that could go over very well. (However, I wouldn’t recommend rice pudding – I once made that for a friend and she was disgusted by it.) At the local movie shop, you can easily find lots of movies in English with Japanese subtitles if you are not interested in watching a Japanese movie.
6) Volunteering in your community – The key to this is to know someone who knows someone. I was able to work as a volunteer in a nursing home by the introduction of a friend to the supervisor of the nursing home. I played music twice a month for the elderly folks and it was incredibly fun. One of my favorite memories is doing karaoke with a group of twenty elderly people after I had played the piano for them. No matter how I played they would always cheer me on and say, “How wonderful! すばらしい！”
7) Teaching literature, culture, etc. at the local YMCA or cultural center – These offices are often looking for foreigners to teach unusual classes (I once taught English Literature) or give presentations about one’s home country at local public schools. It’s a unique way to get to know people in Japan and eventually share Christ’s love with them.
Some other ideas I’ve heard about are board game nights, Christmas cookie exchange parties, clubs for mothers with small children, crock pot parties, recipe parties (bring a recipe and make one or two), joining a gospel choir, or taking salsa lessons or foreign language classes to befriend your fellow Japanese classmates.
Do you have any creative ideas for ministry in Japan that you’d like to share?