Anchoring identity : problems and opportunities among Japanese student returnees
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This thesis examines the problem of identity as both a missiological challenge and opportunity among Japanese students who come to the United States, become Christians, and then return to Japan. The research relies on three sources: quantitative research drawn from missiology, educational theory, second language acquisition studies, and anthropology; a Learning Community of Japanese students in West Michigan; and a written testimonies and surveys from 11 Japanese student returnees. Identity is posited as a basic theological problem for all humans, rooted in tensions between alienation and belonging. This problem is manifested in Japanese culture particularly through other-orientation and nihonjinron theories, which are shown to be obstacles to Christian faith and returnee readjustment. The paper calls for a form of discipleship that addresses the problems of identity, helping Japanese students develop an anchored identity in Christ which both informs and enriches, as well as critiques and transcends their cultural identity. Christ provides the anchor of identity, the center of gravity, and the narrative coherence for both Japanese student returnees and those who minister among them. Both Japanese students in the United States and those Americans who minister among them need the other to recognize the ways in which culture might snatch us away from Christ, but may also yield us to Christ.