So last night I went to grab some dinner in Kyoto and enjoyed some of the views overlooking the city. I have to share a couple of these with you!
Today was then an early start to visit some of the youth centres in Kyoto. Very interesting, because Kyoto is the only local authority in Japan to establish an official ‘youth service’ and it looks kind of like the English model that I’m pretty familiar with. So it was a full day of meeting staff and young people, asking questions and viewing facilities. And other than a brief lunch break where me and Maiko ate what she renamed ‘katsu-curry-fondue’ in the cutest Japanese restaurant that actually served proper earl grey tea afterwards (yes!!), sitting down to write this waiting for my Shinkansen back to Hamamatsu is the first time I’ve had to stop and think all day.
In fact, in 9 days really.
My tour of Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto youth projects has finally concluded, and I think it will take me a month to reconcile my thoughts, notes and interview recordings. It will take me even longer to translate the policies and papers I’ve been given. And I pray that I will not ever forget the names and faces of the wonderful people I have been privileged to meet on this journey. Because in it all, and through all the learning and lecturing and crazy-busy-schedule, God has done some incredible things in these last 9 days. He has marked me in a deeper way for this country. He has inspired me in a more powerful way about the ways that church can engage with community here. He has challenged me in a fresh way about my own commitment to learn this language. And He has begun to teach me about the contextualisation of the full Gospel in a way my new friends can understand.
And I have seen some great projects throughout my time here. But I am struck again by the reality that young people who don’t engage in some of these more mainstream services are a hidden problem in Japan. The stats and the provision of local authorities don’t add up. For instance, we know that only 10% of care leavers here go to university, the normal route for teenagers in this highly pressurised education system. But no one can really tell you what happens to them. They are a hidden statistic with a silent voice. And there are these small, incredible projects, unnoticed and struggling to secure funding, without any real network to link them together.
Hmmm, my brain is buzzing. Those of you who know me and especially those of you who work with me will be able to imagine the flip chart/flow chart/strategy that is coming out of my reflection time just now!! Coloured pens are DEFINITELY in order! 😉
But more than that.
My heart is marked.
If you were to ask me right now which groups of young people I am increasingly burdened for in my prayer time, it would be the care leavers and the hikikomori in Japan. Two very different groups in a lot of ways, but two groups that you can’t help but recognise struggle to have a voice here… Who struggle to be cared for or nurtured here. And my heart breaks for the most vulnerable. Because the heart of God breaks for the most vulnerable. Like the widows, orphans, poor and foreigners of the Old Testament, there is a modern day quartet of the vulnerable that I am so burdened to love with the love that He has first poured out. Man, in short, I am moved by Japan!
Anyway, on that note, I am going to head back to Hamamatsu for some wonderful and much needed refreshing church fellowship, followed by a week of not-doing-very-much-work!! Also much needed to be honest! I also think I need to find a more intensive language school, and start what is probably going to be my toughest year of study yet!! 😉
Enjoy some more hilarity in today’s photographic journey! 🙂