Years before I became a missionary to Japan, I was an Assistant Language Teacher in a Japanese public school. I was startled one morning when the school principal stopped by my desk to remark: “I was just reading on the Internet about research showing that the DNA of Japanese people makes them more sensitive to nature than Westerners. What do you think?”
My first thought was—Keats and Emerson, and maybe a few million other ‘Westerners’ might disagree.
But I understand the underlying sentiment. Whether we live in “the East” or “the West,” centuries of industrialization, urbanization, and globalization have led to a growing sense of alienation from nature. In a world that seems to be relentlessly converging upon a single, global culture shaped by technology, many people sense that their rightful ethnic heritage—a blessing enjoyed by their ancestors—has been taken away from them. Namely, harmony with nature. This is especially true in Japan, perhaps because in Japan technology has advanced so far in such a short time.
“Nature” is a modern, secular perception of creation. As creatures, we instinctively long for our Creator. Consequently, a thoughtful and honest contemplation of creation can—and often does—have a profound role in leading someone to God. This is something that we are very mindful of at the Aomori Christian Center (ACC) in northern Japan.
I am reminded of the testimony of Mrs. Sugata*, an elderly evangelist who has supported the ministry of ACC for many years:
“It was through nature that I was first led to acknowledge the existence of God. God gave us this wonderful property in the midst of nature. It is a place where you can have intimate fellowship with God. The time I have spent here, surrounded by his creation, has been a great spiritual encouragement in my walk with God.”
Whether through igloo building, tapping birch sap, summer hiking in the Hakkōda mountain range, or photographing autumn leaves; our ministry at ACC aspires to transport people of every age into the midst of God’s creation to bring them face-to-face with their Creator through his divine Word.
By Luke, an OMF missionary
*Not her real name