“Youth, Why Did You Come To JAPAN?”
In their monthly “Hangout” last June, the St. Ignatius International Youth Ministry (SIIYM) had the above topic, adapting the title of a popular Japanese TV program entitled “…は 何しに日本へ? which interviewed foreigners, curious of their purpose in visiting Japan.
After some “Mood setting” to make new attendees especially at ease, two members who have stayed in Japan for a quite a number of years shared their experiences and insights.
Chris Urduje, came to Japan to fulfill his dream of studying abroad. He shared how the differences in culture were some of the most challenging things he faced. “The church back in my home country, Nigeria, and the way it is in Japan are very different. So is the local culture. The family and friends you have known for a long time are not (physically) there, so you will have to make new friends and forge relationships.” Chris said it is important to have space to go out there and meet people, have conversations and try to create a new culture for yourself and others who may be in the same boat. “Having a community around you will help you make friends. These will be the people who will be with you in good times and bad times.”
He also shared about the role that faith plays in our lives. “Faith is the belief in things unseen. Even in situations when you pray for something and it seems like God is not there, God can give you peace.” We were reminded that God is bigger than our situations and he can be found in all things, even in unfavorable circumstances.
Finally, Chris gave some practical advice on how one can grow spiritually.
1. Find a Spiritual Director.
Having one can be helpful as you continue to deepen your relationship with Christ.
2. Reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The greatest test of whether your life is going well is if to check out the Seven Gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, fear of the Lord). “How many of them are you experiencing right now?”
3. Have conversations with God.
In our personal time with him, we can ask God, “Why am I here?”
The next sharer was Damian Adorable who hails from the Philippines. Prior to his arrival in Japan, he had this desire to be a lay missionary. He was discerning whether to stay in the Philippines or take the opportunity to work in Japan for a better career. He found his answer after he attended a conference and a priest advised him, “Why be limited to choosing one, when you can do both?” He was reminded that God is not a limited God, but a God of abundance. So Damian came to Japan and allowed God to bless his life.
He had a bumpy ride in his initial stay here. He stayed away from church as he felt he had immersed himself enough in “church” back in the Philippines. However, one day God made his way back to his heart through a deep spiritual encounter in the Xavier Chapel. God indeed is a God of surprises!
God’s love continues to be significantly felt in Damian’s life. In the last point of his sharing, he mentioned how he was able to visit many beautiful places in Japan. For example, he has climbed up to the peak of Mt. Fuji a number of times. In one of these hikes, God revealed his love to him by instilling in his heart this message: “You are more beautiful than all of these wonders I created!” God is a God of love.
Finally, the participants, composed of young professionals and university students coming from different countries, were divided into small groups, where they too shared “Why did you come to Japan?”
Seeing the youth gather, listening to them, and journeying together with them is a blessing in itself. Perhaps this is one way we can live out what we can call a Synodal Church — a church that listens, walks, and moves forward with everyone. The “Hangout” ended with a prayer and blessing by Fr. Bony James, SJ, our Director at the English Center.
By Renzo Carlo Gonzales