Sunday, May 15, 2016

100 Years Old and Going Strong


Yesterday (May 14) was a big day for Seinan Gakuin, the school complex that was founded in 1916. Following the on-campus Founders Day ceremonies on Friday, there were elaborate centennial activities at large downtown facilities on Saturday afternoon and evening.

It was a joy to be back in Japan and to participate in Seinan Gakuin’s centennial celebration—just as twenty years, and longer, ago I had told people here several times that I would.

After my last two visits here (in 2013 and 2010) I posted blog articles about Seinan Gakuin, so for background information please see here and here.

The first part of the centennial celebration yesterday included a public lecture by Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, a 1962 graduate of Seinan Gakuin Junior High School.

Dr. Nakamura, who will celebrate his 70th birthday in September of this year, has lived and worked in Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1984.

He is a quiet, unassuming man whom I have met and talked with several times through the years. It was a pleasure to hear him speak again—along with about 1,500 other people who gathered in the International Congress Center of Fukuoka for the occasion.

Dr. Nakamura became a Christian partly because of the influence of Baptist missionary Charlie Fenner, one of his Jr. High teachers. Although he does not say a lot about being a Christian, Dr. Nakamura’s life and indefatigable work in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been a very positive Christian testimony.

For years much of his work in Pakistan was largely with patients suffering from Hansen’s disease (formerly called leprosy). He has also devoted much time and effort working with refugees in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands.

In 2003 Dr. Nakamura was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding.

The Magsaysay Awards are often called the Asian Nobel Prizes. As the recipient of such a high honor, Dr. Nakamura is perhaps the most prominent among the nearly 147,000 students who have graduated from one (or more) of the Seinan Gakuin schools.

Dr. Nakamura was also awarded the Grand Prize at the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize ceremony in 2013. (See here for a good English summary of his life and work that was read then.)

For the past 15 years, Dr. Nakamura has worked extensively supervising the digging of wells and in land reclamation. He said he realized it was more important to make food and clean water available to people, keeping them from starving or getting sick, than in helping cure those who were ill.

Dr. Nakamura closed his talk with a brief reference to his current slogan: Reconciliation and Grace.

Baptist missionary C. K. Dozier was the primary founder of Seinan Gakuin, and just before he died in 1933 (at the very young age of 54) he said to his wife, “Tell Seinan, be true to Christ.” For many decades, and still, that has been Seinan Gakuin’s motto.

On April 1 the Trustees of Seinan Gakuin issued a peace declaration, partly confessing that in cooperating with the Japan’s war activities in the 1930s and early 1940s the school had not been true to Christ. It was a fine statement of repentance for past mistakes and a re-commitment to the teachings of Jesus.

The evening celebration yesterday was from 6 p.m. until well after the planned ending time of 8:30. Most of the 4,000 people who attended that gala event were SG graduates, and I hope most of them gave serious thought again to the meaning and significance of the motto of Seinan Gakuin, now 100 years old and still going strong.

7 comments:

  1. It took me a couple seconds to ponder the meaning of the phrase, "Thanks and Next!" that was in the graphic illustration within your message. Then it occurred to me that it must mean "Thanks to God for the past 100 years, and may He bless us through the next 100 years" -- an abbreviated haiku.

    Congratulations on being a part of a wonderful celebration of a millstone in the life of the school that was a significant part of your life and career.

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    1. Thanks, Clif, for reading and responding to this morning's blog posting.

      You explained the English slogan very well, and I hope those who are not as perceptive as you will read your comments.

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  2. Glad you had the opportunity to serve and lead at Seinan, and the opportunity to go back and encourage them in their fidelity to the motto.

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  3. I could picture the school because, as you know, I visited the campus when in Japan 4 years ago. Did I ever mention that We met a couple of young, American, Mormon missionaries also wandering around on the campus? You have a right to feel some pride for your good leadership of the school all those years. I'm pleased you were able, too, to keep your promise to attend the celebration.

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  4. So wonderful that you and Mom were able to be there for this!

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  5. Thanks for the report of your Fukuoka visit. I am sure you are happy and thankful to God for such a privilege to plant the gospel of Jesus Christ deeply in the minds of Japanese leaders today. Blessings!

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  6. So pleased you both could be there. Sounds as if you had a wonderful time. Blessings on your return home.

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