Becoming New: Youth Mission Project Event in Japan

During four different weekends this Spring, young people of the USA Central Territory gathered to attend their annual divisional Youth Councils.  Did you know that Youth Councils is not something that is unique to our country? We invited Captain Christopher Marques, a USA Central Territory missionary currently serving in Japan as the Assistant to the Territorial Youth Secretary, to share about their territory’s recent Youth Mission Project (YMP) event.  Here is what he had to say:

In Japan, we just held our YMP camp from March 27-29 in Kiyose, western Tokyo. The theme was “Becoming Japan Youth RetreatNew.” Thirty-six people (eight officers and twenty-eight youth/young adults) gathered for a weekend of fellowship, prayer, Bible study, games, food and fun.

Youth camps in Japan are usually held at a corps, with the kids staying overnight in a chapel or meeting hall. In USA, we might rent a hotel, or use a campsite for a divisional or territorial event. But the Japan territory is small enough that one of our corps can host the event.

On Friday night, the kids acted out gestures (showing the meaning of the words) in songs, and we played a few games. There was also a time of personal testimony, where youth could show their pictures growing up and tell their story of how they met the Army and what their goals for the future are.

On Saturday, we explored several Bible passages about transformation and enjoyed making sculptures out of clay. After that, we took time to visit a few Salvation Army facilities which were conveniently located near the corps.

First, we visited a men’s alcoholic recovery center called Ji sei kan. Ji means self, sei means to look back or think carefully on the past, and kan simply means building or center. So one could say that the men are encouraged to think deeply on their past actions and chart a new course for the future. The young people listened to a lecture and watched a powerpoint, followed by a Q&A time. They also interacted with a few of the men and staff as they explored the building.

IMG_4889Next, we visited a home for the elderly who cannot live on their own, called Keisen home. Kei means grace and Sen means spring (as in fountain/hot spring). After listening to a few staff lectures, the young people were able to experience what it is like to push and ride in a wheelchair. This helped them to relate more to the older people and staff who must care for them.

During our debriefing, the young people split into groups and talked about their impressions of each place and a few expressed interest in working for the Army in that capacity. In the evening, we enjoyed delicious okonmiyaki (batter fried with vegetables and meat, and then cut like a pizza). The youth stayed up late at night, practicing guitar, playing cards, laughing and talking about their ideas for future events.

On Sunday, we cleaned up the meeting hall and chapel (where we had slept) and got ready for church. The small band grew to a large size as the young people joined in to play, and a few played guitars for some traditional songbook songs. The Chief Secretary gave the message, encouraging the youth and adults to read the Bible, as a guidebook for life that can lead us to Jesus, the transformer of lives.

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How did the description YMP event compare to your experiences at your divisional Youth Councils this year? We would love to hear from you!