日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【June 2022 No.410】In Everything Give Thanks(3)


    by Sheila Norris, former missionary

After 36 years serving at Kwassui Gakuin in Nagasaki, I am taking up a new challenge in response to God’s call to become the Partnership Coordinator for Asia Pacific for the Methodist Church in Britain, based in London. The farewell events in Nagasaki, and hence the need for me to make farewell speeches, started back in November 2021, and repeatedly, as I have had to decide what to say about my experiences here, I have found myself saying, “Thank you.”

Although the exact wording has been adapted to the particular audience, as I have looked back over my years in Japan, I have found that the word that best sums up my feelings is gratitude. First, gratitude that God brought me here at all, because coming to Japan wasn’t part of my own plans. When I first volunteered for overseas service, I said, and meant, that I was willing to go anywhere, while fully expecting to be sent to Africa. However, when I got the letter saying that I would be considered, the enclosed leaflet was entitled, “Who me? Serve God in Japan?” and my reaction was to ask, “Me? Japan? Are you sure, Lord?” However, over the following weeks I thought and prayed about it, and by the time I attended the residential selection process, I had come to acceptance. Then at the end of two days of psychological tests, interviews, and group discussions, one of the interviewers said, “Of course, if you don’t want to go to Japan, you can say so, and we can look at somewhere else.” But by then it was too late; I had told God that if I was accepted for missionary service, I would go to Japan, and before many months had passed, I was starting work in Nagasaki.

The psalmist says, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6), and I have been privileged to work on a lovely campus in a beautiful city. I have been able to experience God in the peace of the wind blowing through the leaves, the sunlight on the water in the harbour, the calm of open skies over green hills. On arriving on campus, I have been greeted by trees and flowers, and when leaving I have had in front of me the panorama of the city, nestling in its basin round the estuary, frequently bathed in the radiance of glorious sunsets. God has spoken to my spirit through the beauty of creation here, and I am grateful.

Looking back now I can see God’s hand in many aspects of my life, as one step has prepared me for another, and my own experiences have given me an understanding of others. Of course, most of this has only become clear with hindsight, and there have been many times of frustration and pain along the way. There have been times of doubt as to whether the constant effort for very little visible result was worth it. Yet every time I reached the point of wondering whether my being here really had any meaning, there was always some sign that this was where God wanted me to be. Nothing dramatic — a phone call, a letter, a word of appreciation, a request for help, a new opportunity — but nonetheless an unmistakeable message from God at the right time, confirming the call to be here. For this too, I am grateful.

When people in the UK have asked what I do in Japan, I have told them, “I sow seeds.” For me, that best sums up the work of sharing the good news of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, praying that the seed would grow, though often never knowing if or when it did. I am thankful for the many opportunities I have had to interact with students and to explore with them the meaning of the Bible teachings for their own lives. I am thankful for the opportunities to speak and preach more

formally and to lead worship regularly. Every week I reminded myself that there can’t be many jobs that involve standing in front of a microphone and singing hymns, and I was thankful.

And I am thankful for the people that God has brought into my life, those who, knowingly or unknowingly, have encouraged and helped me, those who have made my work in Japan possible — but also for those who have made me strive more earnestly to understand different points of view and to create harmony where there is friction.

Now, as I think about the challenges faced by the Christian educational institutions as the birth rate dwindles and by the churches as congregations age, it would be very easy to focus on the problems. What will happen? The answer, though, I find in one of my favourite Bible verses, Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I claim this as God’s promise to the people I leave behind me and to myself as I respond to the call to the next stage of service and am thankful.




 お話する相手によって、具体的な内容は異なりますが、日本での日々を思い返すとき、私の気持ちを最もよく表している言葉は「感謝」です。まず私をこの地へ導いて下さった神への感謝です。元々私は日本へ来るつもりはありませんでした。海外での宣教を志願したとき、本心からどこへでも行きますと申し上げましたが、心の中ではアフリカへ派遣されると思っていました。けれども候補者となったことを知らせる手紙に同封されていたのは、「なぜ私が? 日本で神に仕える?」というパンフレットでした。「私が? 日本へ? 主よ本気ですか?」と問いました。しかし数週間考え、祈り、宣教師選考審査に臨む頃には日本へ行く気持ちになっていました。二日間にわたる心理テスト、面接、集団討論の最後に一人の面接官が「もちろん日本に行きたくなければ、そのように言ってくれれば、別の任地を考えますよ。」と言ったときには時すでに遅し。「宣教師として選ばれたら日本に行きます」と神に約束をしてしまった後でした。数か月も経たないうちに私は長崎で働き始めていました。






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