I went on a hike with some university students recently. They were less than half my age, and so we were going at a pace much faster than mine. This is true not only for the hike, but in their lives as well.
One reason for this is that there are many big decisions that students make in a very short period of time.
From the last year of high school, Japanese students have had to decide on what and where they want to study. This decision could potentially affect—not just the kind of careers they will have—but if they begin their independent life by leaving their hometowns, including their childhood friends and parents.
While in university they have to make many decisions about their studies: majors and modules, internships, practicums and sometimes overseas exchange programs, research topics, further studies, etc.
Many also go through major transitions in their university years. Some have started living by themselves, without the comfort and support of having family close by. They reach 20 years of age, legal adulthood (until 2022, when the official ‘adult’ age in Japan is lowered to 18 years old). Many find their first boyfriend or girlfriend, have a foretaste of the realities of the working world, and take on responsibilities for managing their clubs or societies on campus. And some experience life overseas. Many decisions which can feel heavy because they can potentially affect what the rest of their lives may be like.
As they meet new people, gain further knowledge, and broaden their experiences, they often have to grapple with many voices within themselves and also in the world around them. Value systems are broken down, challenged, and formed. As a result, their worldview can change drastically.
Walking alongside students
As they travel through this phase of their lives, it’s usual for students to feel lost, scared, or apprehensive. What they often need is someone who will listen, help them ‘dream’, and accept their fickleness. Someone who can provide objective perspectives, point them to useful resources, ask questions, affirm them, and slow them down a little where needed. Or sometimes just walk alongside them as they make those ‘big’ and ‘scary’ decisions.
This is why outreach and ministry to university students is often hectic and fast-paced, but exciting too! It is also for this reason that student ministry is vitally important. Students graduate and go on to make many more decisions, not just for themselves but likely also ones that affect many lives.
Will you pray that in the years we have with them in the university, we can introduce to them not just Biblical truths, but also help them find, trust and love the Anchor, Rock, Guide, and Father in their lives?
—by C, an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray for those working with students in Japan—that they will know God’s wisdom about what each student needs from them.
- Pray for students that know Jesus, that they will be able to reach out to others around them.
- Pray that students who don’t know Jesus will, in this time when many meetings are online, be guided to find out more about the God of the Bible.