Posted by: Catherine Weston | September 2, 2011

Taking it slowly

Kenny* arrived in Oxford for an English course earlier this year and soon made his way to the International English Club, which runs at our local university.  The club is sponsored by the university chaplaincy and Friends International and is the brainchild of our colleague and friend, Peter. It’s a great place to make friends, practise English and meet local people. Kenny wanted to practise his English some more, so one of his new friends said ‘Why not come with us to church?’ So Kenny started to come to our church to improve his English.

Sometimes there would be a church lunch, where Kenny enjoyed the food and hanging out with people.  Sometimes he came home with us. (One of his Christian friends lives in our house).  We soon learned that Kenny never said no to home cooked food.  He’d been taught the word ‘Yummy’, which he used quite often.

At church we would say ‘What did you understand in the sermon, Kenny?’ ‘Not much’ he would reply – but he kept on coming. Was it the friendship? Was it being accepted into a community? Was it the chance of free food, or something else?   One Sunday he was curious about the sermon headings and asked his friend afterwards ‘What does ‘Gospel ministry’ mean?’

After a while Kenny asked for a Bible. He told me that it was because he wanted to understand the theme of the services and what church members were concerned about. So his Christian friends gave him a bilingual Japanese and English New Testament. He made a start, but got a bit confused by the genealogy in Matthew’s gospel and didn’t at first get any further.  Kenny’s friends noticed his spoken English was improving, though it was still difficult to know what was going on in his heart. All the while they were praying for him.

One Sunday he was clearly listening hard to the sermon and picked up enough to say ‘The pastor is angry that Christians do not read the Bible enough’.  Afterwards the pastor explained that he was not really angry but sad, and encouraged Kenny to read the Bible for himself.

Not long after this, just as other activities were quietening down for the summer, the Oxford International Outreach began.  For four weeks in July and August, every weekday evening Kenny had the opportunity to go to ‘Café 360’, hang out with young enthusiastic Christians and attend a Bible study. He went every day. After two weeks one of the girls on the team told me that Kenny had become a Christian.  I wondered about this – Kenny’s English is still quite limited; did he, in a way normal for his culture, simply want to please his friends by saying yes to a direct question? How can we discover what he really understands?  A bit later another friend gently probed and Kenny asserted ‘I love Jesus’.

If you were one of Kenny’s Christian friends, what would be your next step in helping him become a mature disciple, able to stand firm for Jesus in Japan?  You have about 4 or 5 months before he goes home! I’ll let you know how we get on.

* Name changed

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