music or MPR blares from the speakers. This morning though, I didn’t feel the need to do either one. That’s because Rev. George Kwame Koomson, a pastor and teacher from Ghana, was humming old hymns while he ironed his suit for church in our kitchen.
Reverend Koomson stayed with us for one night, and we talked for several hours over some delicious home-cooked goodness from Rachael Ray…I mean Rachael White. Along with about 20 others from all over Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, Rev. Koomson is living and learning at the Asian Rural Institute, a fantastic organization located here in Japan. Our church has apparently been supporting ARI for close to 40 years, so it was nice to be able to participate in a long-held tradition of hosting guests from around the world.
Participants in the ARI program come to Japan for nearly nine months to learn about rural leadership and organic farming. Then, armed with new knowledge and skills, they return to their home communities to implement more sustainable farming techniques, and teach others to do the same. In the end, they care for their communities and the land that sustains them.
The Mission of ARI:
The mission of the Asian Rural institute is to build an environmentally healthy, just, and peaceful world, in which each person can live to his or her fullest potential. This mission is rooted in the love of Jesus Christ.
To carry out this mission, we train and nurture rural leaders for a life of sharing. Leaders, both women and men, who live and work in grassroots rural communities primarily in Asia, Africa and the Pacific form a community of learning each year together with staff and other residents.
Through community-based learning we study the best ways for rural people to share and enhance local resources and abilities for the common good.
We present a challenge to ourselves and the whole world in our approach to food and life.
THAT WE MAY LIVE TOGETHER
We learned a great deal from Rev. Koomson, but not just about farming and his stay here in Japan. He also shared about his family and home in Ghana, and we discussed politics, faith, and our plans to have children in a few years.
On faith, we talked at length about the meaning of the Christian faith around the world. In Ghana, most people are Christians, whereas only 1% of people in Japan are Christians. He talked about the difficulty of “winning a soul” in Japan versus doing the same back home in Ghana. Just like the verse that says it is more difficult for a rich person to have faith in God than a poor one, he believes that the incredible wealth and prosperity of Japan (referring mostly to Tokyo) makes it difficult for people to feel a need for God in their lives.
He also challenged us to be a “living Bible” to those around us- something I have been thinking a lot about lately. When we first got here, our lives weren’t that “different” from those around us. Lately though, we’ve been making different decisions, now that we feel much more grounded in our home and marriage, work life, and faith community. That in mind, we hope to live much more as we want to, not just as is convenient because of the people or opportunities right around us. Reverend Koomson said that the only reason anyone would want to know more about Christ was if they saw something different and better in that life. If there is no difference between our lives and anyone else’s, then what’s the point? That is certainly not to say that everything is hunky-dory as a Christian, but for me, joys are more joyful and struggles are less difficult with God leading the way.
Later on, he advised us to prepare ourselves now for having a family of our own. First, he stressed, we must learn to laugh together and pray together as a couple. Later, our kids can laugh and pray with us, and we will be stronger as a family. We’ll we be (more) prepared to share in the joys and hardships that come with raising children. His view of children is that they are not as much sons and daughters as they are his “brothers and sisters.” In this way, he says that his children come to him for advice and when they are struggling because he is their brother, or equal, and not a judgmental, superior father. As you can imagine, this was a great discussion and one we’ll remember for many years.
Here are some photos and videos of the ARI folks and Reverend Koomson at church the next morning. He was our first guest here in Tokyo and we even had to borrow sheets and a blanket to host him, but it was well worth it. What a great weekend!