By Laura Foushee
When we began our practicum period at Tokiwadai Baptist Church in Japan in the spring of 2019, it was natural for us to begin practicing our Japanese Christian language through preaching. Sermons, though time-consuming, offered us a way to take time to write, have manuscripts edited, and practice our speaking fluidity and pronunciation.
However, sermons by nature are monologues with limited congregational response. We began to realize that an even more important exercise was to gain experience in using our Japanese in settings that better promote dialogue, like Bible studies or seminars. In some ways, that is even more difficult than preaching as these settings require more spontaneous speaking and listening comprehension.
So, upon our return to Japan after off-field assignment, we began to discern with our church how to best use our last year with them in this practicum period. In wanting to stretch ourselves, we began to think about ways we could connect with church members in more conversational ways.
I have always had an interest and passion for Christian education and spiritual formation but had not yet explored how to teach or facilitate seminars in Japanese. And especially because the COVID-19 situation has limited church school and prayer meeting opportunities, a focus on spiritual formation gatherings through Zoom seemed to be a natural way to offer space for Christian education to church members.
On May 30, I offered a seminar entitled, “Methods of Reading the Bible,” the first of six spiritual formation seminars this year. With 10 participants, I discussed our own personal habits of reading scripture and explored various ways we could read scripture that might deepen its meaning for us in our daily lives.
Many of you may be familiar with Christian traditions such as lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) that offers a way of engaging scripture that focuses more on deep contemplation of a short text rather than the more academic Bible study approach with which many of us are more familiar. Our group practiced reading Psalm 23 several times through lectio divina, reflecting on words and phrases that called out to us and considering how God may be inviting us to something new in our lives.
At the end of our time together, one participant said, “I have been reading the Bible for 30 years, feeling as if I must try to learn everything in it. This is the first time I have heard that it is okay to take my time and read short passages to understand them better.”
Another participant sent an email to me later that day. She wrote, “You gave an example of savoring scripture as you would a delicious meal with a good friend. It made me think of my time in America and the new foods and flavors available for me to try. In some ways, the various ways of reading the Bible are like trying these new foods and flavors – learning how best to use them in cooking. Sometimes it turns out to be delicious, and sometimes it doesn’t. But trying it with others makes the experience even better.”
Our hour together last month was not only a space for me to further practice my Japanese language skills, but one where we were all blessed to learn more about how we can deepen our relationship with the One who loves and cares for us all.
Please pray for the next seminars as hopefully even more will gather to learn about different methods of prayer that have been developed throughout Christian history.
Laura Foushee and her husband, Carson, are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Field Personnel serving in partnership with the Japan Baptist Convention (JBC) in Tokyo. Learn more about their ministry at www.cbf.net/foushee. The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like Laura. 100% of gifts to the Offering support CBF field personnel serving in the United Sates and around the world. Give online today at www.cbf.net/OGM.