New school year begins at Urawa Lutheran School in Japan
The beautiful plum and cherry blossoms, bright new leaves, and birds’ song are refreshing signs of spring as well as a “beginning” here in Japan. The natural beginning of the season of life also coincides with the start of a new fiscal year and a new academic year. Businesses and schools throughout Japan open their doors to recent recruits, new assignments, and freshmen. Urawa Lutheran School (ULS) is no different as we welcome new 1st, 7th, and 10th grade students to our campus that houses an Elementary, Junior High and Senior High school. One of the first things these students learn at ULS is the importance and value of English language as they are provided with an opportunity to use the language through the various special relationships ULS has with schools from across the Pacific Ocean.
Over the years, ULS has developed partnerships with Lutheran churches and schools in America. First on the academic calendar (May) is the Faculty Development Program (FDP), an opportunity to welcome professors from one of our sister schools, Concordia University Irvine (CUI) in California. The university sends two faculty to ULS each May to learn about Japanese culture and to serve in many ways. CUI professors follow Paul’s missionary example in Acts 17 by watching and listening carefully to people around them so as learn from them, not just interesting cultural things, but ways in which they could make connections for the Gospel.
With hearts of true evangelists, these special Concordia guests are always more than willing to adventure out of their comfort zones and to try to understand the mysteries of this great country.
Next on the calendar (June) is welcoming a short-term mission team from another special partner and sister-school, Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix, Arizona. The program is called, “Nihon Kenshu” (Japan Study in English) and consists of junior and senior high students, along with chaperones, who fly from Arizona to serve our school here in Japan. While at ULS, this mission team is always intentionally cheerful and engaging with our shy Japanese students. These young servants are industrious workers for Christ, digging in the hidden mines of the Japanese students’ hearts, mixing in English conversation classes and homerooms, and leading exciting chapels for all grades with songs and drama.
As the calendar flips over to July, these programs are reciprocated as Concordia Irvine and Christ Church Phoenix welcome not only ULS teachers for Faculty Development, but a large group of junior high and senior high ULS students. CUI provides students with a 10-day intensive English and cultural experience on their university campus, then our friends in Phoenix extend and increase the intensity by providing a two-week homestay in Christian homes.
These valuable partnerships have been vital in shaping the focus of our ministry here at ULS, providing countless long-lasting and unforeseen benefits. The relationship between ULS and Christ Church Lutheran especially (along with Valley Lutheran High School in Phoenix), has led to ULS students (1 or 2 each year) that spend a year abroad studying English and living with an American Christian family.
Over the years, we have also had graduates of ULS who have ventured back across the Pacific on their own to revisit families with whom they stayed while taking part of our exchange programs. We are even seeing a “baton” being passed to a second generation as children of past participants stay in the same home as one of their parents.
We ask for your prayers as we eagerly prepare for these programs to kick off on May 16 as we welcome for the first time, not just faculty from CUI for ten-days of cultural exchange, but two university students as well. This opens the door for many new and various possibilities to connect this group to teachers, students, and their families. Please also pray for the 23 ULS students that have signed up for our study trip to America in July, students who we pray will see the miraculous ways that our Heavenly Father works in their everyday lives by helping them to build and deepen relationships with American families and friends.