First Let Me Take a… Kinen Shashin?

Long before the term “selfie” carved out a unique niche in our lexicons, the Japanese used an alternative word that quickly became a part of the personal vocabulary and history of my wife Rowena and me.

It is called “kinen shashin” (記念写真) and it is roughly translated as “commemorative photograph.” Whenever a group assembles for a particular occasion, someone inevitably calls for a kinen shashin to be taken to commemorate the event.

By Mike McGinty

A Record of God’s Faithfulness

If you peruse our personal photo albums (back in the day when we collected literal photographs), you will discover quite a few of these kinen shashin scattered among other pictures portraying family and friends in various locations and activities.

A few of these kinen shashin are now framed and hang on our walls, or sit on our shelves, reminding us of days gone by and of God’s grace in our lives. Such events may include baptisms, church anniversaries, a farewell of a coworker, training events, a church dedication, a wedding, an induction of a pastor, a graduation, conferences, the launching of a new church plant, a special concert or a group reunion.

This picture doesn’t include us, as it was taken at the welcome of the new pastor of Satsunae Lighthouse Church last year. (He and his wife are seated in the middle.) Included in this picture are a number of people I’ve baptized, local pastors we’ve worked with, representatives from other churches we helped plant and colleagues we have served with.

Each kinen shashin speaks volumes of God’s faithfulness in various times and circumstances as we walked through life with many others.

Long before the days of cameras and cell phones, the psalmist testified, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord.” (Psalm 77:11a) This is how we are prompted to respond when we view some of the kinen shashin from our past depicting people and ministries that many have faithfully prayed for.

A Record of Doing or Being? 

But this is where the nuance of kinen shashin departs from our typical preoccupation with selfies. A selfie is generally photographic evidence that you did something, ate something, went somewhere or were with someone in particular. The focus is centered more on the individual/me and things that are related to the individual/me at the time the picture was taken.

That is undoubtedly why the term “selfie” was coined to capture the essence of this particular form of photography. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach and we ourselves frequently take selfies. If given a choice, however, I would much rather be included in a kinen shashin, where my face may be lost in the crowd and something much greater than me is being recorded as part of our faith journal.

We Commemorate a New Generation of Missionaries 

We just recently added another kinen shashin to our growing collection that has both of us quite excited.

On September 4th, we hosted a special gathering via Zoom of eighteen prospective missionaries scattered across the US who are heading to Japan. Joining us was a young couple in Japan who went out earlier in the year; they graciously shared their experiences with those who hoped to follow in their footsteps. They now call themselves the “Nihon Go” group which is a play on the Japanese words for Japan (Nihon) and Japanese (Nihongo).

From our experience, this was quite a special meeting as neither of us has witnessed or heard of such a large gathering of potential missionaries heading to serve together in the same country.

Through the wonders of technology, most of them met each other for the first time and everyone seemed to be encouraged as they briefly shared their stories and learned from the experiences of others.

Standing on Holy Ground

Our plan is to keep meeting on a regular basis as new members are added to the group while others eventually make their way to Japan. In some regards, Rowena and I felt like we were standing on holy ground as this particular kinen shashin captured God’s work in many lives and served as a reminder of our own journey many years ago. Although individual faces can be picked out, this was no selfie. This was an obvious work of God and a vivid reminder of His love for the Japanese!

Everyone in this picture is committed to laying down their lives for God’s purposes in Japan. That is worth remembering and honoring. Please join with us in praying for God’s provision, guidance and protection for each individual in this kinen shashin and for those who may soon be included.

Stepping Out in Faith

Many of our previous kinen shashin bear witness to this pattern that there is indeed a cost in following Christ. Those included in this kinen shashin will soon be collecting their own commemorative photographs as they step out in faith for Jesus for those who have never heard.

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