Reassurance (Guest Post by Adam Palmer)

Just a quick blurb for those still keeping up with the Palmers.  I (Adam) have had a few pretty reassuring times in the recent past…a lot of tests, epiphanies, and moments where the stars seemed to align.  It is strange how easy it is when we spend a day inside to forget that we are on the opposite side of the world.  So it’s good to have these moments, tests, and realizations that we are nowhere close to where we were a year ago, and have to intentionally make the most of it.  

Anywho, last Monday I had the third bible study at Lizbet’s college.  Had a decent turn out, eleven or so people, most of whom were returning, so it was good to feel they were curious.  I am trying to teach through the bible as a historical document, while accenting how God is worthy of trust not just from a blind faith, but from the clear examples in scripture of how He has promised something and then fulfilled it.  I focused on the words “trust, confidence and faith”, beginning by asking them what they were confident in.  I remembered this time to look up the Japanese word first (jishi) so there wouldn’t be meaning lost in translation, and I figured I would get a few answers.  After the 30 second wait that always feels like 5 minutes, no one had an answer, except for one girl who put her hand up and tentatively said “um, sorry, but we don’t have confidence”.  

Now in America, where we are encouraged from day one that we are special, we have talent, and we are unique individuals, it is crazy for me to think that someone has NO confidence.  Maybe a lack of self-esteem, some self-doubt, or especially misplaced self-worth and pride, but to literally have no confidence in ANYTHING…it floored me.  They would never say it, but I believe from conversations I have had, that there is a general mindset that in Japan that your life serves a function in the society, and when you function is no longer useful, or you can’t serve that function anymore, you are forgotten and replaced.  And while they hint at this idea with almost an aura of nonchalance and resolution, I imagine that must be the reason why you see such emptiness in the eyes of people you pass on the streets.

I said earlier that this was the first time most of them had heard the gospel, and now I see in an astonishingly clear way that the basic ideas about the worth of a human life only make sense in a God based worldview.  And without that, you either have to ignore the question all together, or create enough spiritual “smoke and mirrors” to distract from it.  

Anywho, while I have no real answer for how to connect and relate to the mindset, it is very humbling to see that all my years and years of apologetics and church still didn’t prepare me for the unique challenges of reaching a counter-intuitive culture.  However, in good news, our bible study has finally generated some interest.  We had a couple people come to hang out on last Tuesday night, and this week we are expecting a few more.  My pastor and I are contemplating starting a podcast, and using it as a tool to start conversations with Japanese people in order to share with foreigners and missionaries a bit of the Japanese worldview and prepare them to try to reach a culture that is built on a worldview very few Americans can relate to.  Lizbet and I personally were able to actually read through the whole bible last year, and are starting a more in-depth study of a few select books.  My long history of apologetics has equipped me to logically defend my faith pretty adeptly, and it has been very useful in teaching her how to do the same.  

Well, that’s it from this side…I’ll try to get some pics up soon (especially of the 2 to 3 inches of SNOW that fell last night).  

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4 thoughts on “Reassurance (Guest Post by Adam Palmer)

    1. Well that’s pretty interesting, because the fact that from day one each of us has a sense of what is right and wrong points to something that is not strictly based on culture or society. Each of us, when we feel we have been wronged, appeal to some “standard” that the other person didn’t uphold. Where did that standard come from? And if from within each of us, who are we to say that our idea of a moral code is better than anyone else’s?

  1. The Japanese “jishin” doesn’t mean the same kind of confidence that you’re used to hearing about in the Western world. Omg this is why people should be required to have more than a dictionary-level knowledge of a country’s language before they’re allowed in.

    1. I have to agree and disagree with you. I think the only way to get a better than dictionary-level knowledge is to go into the country and its culture and see how the native speakers use it. I learned very quickly that you can’t go word by word through a sentence and translate it. So when I was trying to find the best word to represent the idea of confidence, I didn’t go go Google translate, I went directly to the school’s chaplain, born and raised in Hiroshima, and asked for his help.

      I grant you that words take on different connotations even within different subcultures, but I assure you, if the translation still fell short of the idea, it wasn’t for lack of effort.

      It’s unfair and unreasonable to assume so much about someone from a few words you read online. Not every Westerner has a superiority complex and lack of interest in truly experiencing a different culture.

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