by Matsuda Yoku, teacher Aino Gakuen Agricultural High School
Typically, I don’t have a clear sense of the Holy Spirit. However, I feel it in my work at school. Isn’t it that warmth that wells up in our hearts as we work and pray together when we confront the problems that come our way? Isn’t this the power at work in the hearts of the non-Christian as well as the Christian?
Nurturing Life, Receiving Life at School
I am responsible for actual farm work at Aino Gakuen Agricultural High School, a Christian school in Mie Prefecture. (The characters for Aino mean “love agriculture.”) This is a small school of about 60 students, all of whom live in the dormitory. Food self-sufficiency at our school is about 70%. We practice organic farming and produce most of the food we eat.
On our farm we are involved in all six areas of farming: crops, vegetables, fruit, poultry, swine, and dairy. We grow rice by using the aigamo (rice-duck) farming method, an organic process that utilizes ducks in the flooded rice paddies to control weeds and pests rather than depending on herbicides and pesticides, and fresh eggs and milk from our own cows and chickens are on our dining table each day. This causes us to reflect on our own lives as we realize that we are sustained by the life cycles of our farm products.
Every morning before breakfast, our students do farm work from 5:00 to 6:00. Then, after arriving at school, they participate in morning worship. Along with scripture and hymns, a member of the faculty or student body speaks openly from his/her own experiences, interests, or reflections on Christianity.
“The Bible says ‘Seek and you will find,’ so I want to pursue something.” “At our school I feel that something is missing when we don’t sing a hymn. I think we should sing something together other than the school song.” These are quotes from students who had never read scripture or sung hymns before coming to our school. As someone who grew up in a home with Christian parents, I must confess that somehow I thought the Bible and hymns were meaningful to Christians only. However, our students have taught me that they leave a significant influence in their hearts.
On the other hand, I also hear less than positive remarks about Christianity. “There is no God. I’ve never even thought that I needed God.” “I don’t understand it when the staff say they are praying. What they are saying and what they are doing is different. If they really believe in God, shouldn’t they be thinking more about us?” Our students are listening carefully to what we say, and watching closely what we do and how we approach them. Our task is not simply to quote scripture but rather to express our faith continually in our daily interaction with students.
Accepting Another’s Problem as Your Own
At our school, there are many times when prayers are offered. Beginning with prayer before morning worship, there is silent prayer before our evening meetings, and students’ prayers before lunch. There is also prayer during individual counseling.
Our students face numerous problems. They often feel lost as they consider their future and what their next step should be following high school. They struggle with interpersonal relationships among their classmates. There is frustration with school rules against dating, and many students struggle with relationships in their own families as well. As we listen to our students’ problems, we often feel at a loss for answers. At times like that, I suggest that we pray together. At that time, I feel something that has not come from me, but a warm and soothing force that brings brightness to one’s face.
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4:12) If we believe that God is love, I believe that the Holy Spirit works in the relationships formed when we accept another’s problems as our own. When I was struggling as a student myself, I experienced the truth of these words of scripture through the care of my pastor.
Faced with the problems of our students, I painfully experience my own lack of maturity. At those times I find support in this prayer: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” (Psalm 51: 12-13)
With a renewed “steadfast spirit,” I want to be transformed from my inabilities. With this as my constant prayer, and as I continue to seek guidance from above, I want to be able to give full attention to each person I am with, to lend my ear, and to do everything that I can do to help. (Tr. JS)
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), May 2016 issue
私は三重県にある愛農学園農業高等学校というキリスト教主 義の農業高校で農場担当として働いています。全校生徒が約60名 という全寮制の小さな学校ですが、校内食料自給率はおよそ70％ で、