“Tenkin” – 転勤 －mandatory transfer system in Japan ~~
The long-standing tenkin (job transfer) system in Japan probably stems from the medieval Edo-period custom of keeping the regional daimyo (feudal lord) virtually hostage in the capital city for one year out of three, as a way of reducing the threat of rebellion by the shogun’s vassal states.
Obviously, we want to reach every single person in the Teshio area with the gospel whether they are living here on a family run farm or will only be here for 3 years. But that also puts our work into a different light. While we work at reaching the locals, if you will, we are also constantly having opportunities to reach the ‘transfer people’ or ‘traveling folk’ as the local people affectionately call them. Many time, too, these transfer people are more open to the Gospel especially through English teaching at the beginning than those that live here all their lives. While the local people were interested and came to many programs the first few years, once they knew exactly what was being taught here, they often became more closed to the Gospel beings it represented a change they did not want to encounter–or were afraid to encounter due to possible ostracism.
What are we going to consider here–
3. Eventually hand over the work to a national pastor.
Beginning with number three we find that the concept of no longer being Japanese if one becomes a Christian, the work ethic in this country being so strong and the group within the work ethic even stronger as well as the mandatory transfer within the office make-up means that in many areas it is almost impossible to find young men open to the Gospel, or once saved willing to give up everything and go train to become a pastor and then realizing that he needs to stay in the big cities so he can work at a regular job AND be a pastor at the same time. Living in the countryside and reaching the lost is not going to be a choice because he has nothing from which to draw an income. Therefore, reaching the lost and continuing on with the church as it grows, no matter how slowly or quickly, means that much of the time the churches are pastored by foreigners.
The local group that begins with one in a community that becomes interested in Christianity as a result of various means such as English learning which leads to Bible study, through attendance at special events that they might feel more comfortable attending, can lead to another and then to another. But many of the times the interested party is a woman–they don’t feel as threatened and even some times feel of greater value through what they learn from the pastor and his wife and the Word of God. Then even if they get saved they might face emotional persecution from both the husband and his family especially if they live in the same house. When there are two generations living together the new wife is considered to be the ‘lowest’ person in that house and depending on the mother-in-law’s temperament or upbringing herself may treat the other woman with respect or much much less. The newly saved wife may either not feel free to share her new found faith right away or go for years before becoming strong enough in her faith to make it known. Case in point–we have one believer who was in the home of two generations and her father-in-law was one of the main laymen in one of the local Buddhist temples and a local business man (had the only plumbing business in town). While not treated badly she was threatened by her husband that she should NEVER talk about her faith because it could greatly undermine their business and their relationships within the community. When she discovered she had to have some female related surgery in another city she was thrilled because it meant that she would be away from the home and in the hospital for a month and she would have roommates that she could actually freely witness to. She did and eventually lead two of them to the Lord; one while there and one through continued witness through letter writing over the next couple years. She also lead her own mother to the Lord when she went and visited her over a period of time. She has since been more open in her witnessing but her husband remains quite closed to the opportunity to witness to him.
We have seen several women come to know the Lord but most are still either 1/ very fearful of sharing the Gospel with other members of their family; 2/ they have to also work to support the family and rarely have a Sunday off; or 3/ they had to move on when their husbands were transferred.
That leads us to one of the chief challenges to having a continued growing ministry within a small community–transfers. We have been thrilled over the years as people have transferred in to our community. Sometimes it has meant that we have had new people to try and reach; sometimes they have already been saved when they came to Teshio and were THRILLED that there was a ministry within such a small northern community. They continued in fellowship for the term of time they were here in Teshio. With those that came for study and seemed interested but were transferred before they came to know the Lord, we pray that the seeds planted and watered here would continue to be watered as the system moved them to a new community but the Lord moved in their hearts when reached by others.
And lastly, sometimes we saw a person come to know the Lord and know our time with them was short so we must do what we could to stabilize their faith while they were with us and then pray they would be transferred to a town that had another ministry near by they could continue to be discipled and encouraged. A family that moved into Teshio came as a couple with a young daughter–the wife was saved but the husband wasn’t. He was an English teacher and greatly desired to talk weekly with a native English speaker and his wife wanted to attend church. A study time was started and they came on Sunday mornings. As a result, the husband was saved, baptized and growing in the Lord. Then came that year where he HAD to transfer to a different school. That lead to his working in a larger city down in the southern part of the island of Hokkaido where we live. We still keep in touch at times and are encouraged that we were ‘here’ when it was God’s timing to work in his life and when he moved it was to a town that had a Baptist church that he could attend and become a part of. His family has grown in size and they have needed to stay in that area. We would have loved to have him be a part of this community for a long term basis but God had other plans for him.
Our work here is going to continue for faithfulness is what God asks of us
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
~~1Timothy 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
~~Romans 5:1 ¶ Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
~~that the devil will be defeated in his lies so deeply engrained in the Japanese customs and minds so that our beliefs are just ‘for foreigners’
~~that we will be here for both the local people and the people who come and go again and for their hearts to be open to God while they are here.