2008 Christmas Offering Theme: "Living Together"

Every year during the Christmas season, the Kyodan’s Committee on
Education sponsors a Christmas Offering. This year’s theme was “Living
Together.” Japanese children strive to live with children of the world
in friendship — sharing joys as well as pain and suffering. Many
children participate in the “Living Together” Christmas Offering.

In 2007, the offering was given to mothers and children in Tanzania, for
the Ghana Youth Peace Project, and for Japanese children adversely
affected by two strong earthquakes in Japan.

The offerings from 2008 will be distributed among the following ministries.

1. To help the children of Bangladesh. The Asian Christian Education
Foundation (ACEF) is an organization that collects donations from all
over Japan and uses those contributions for the education of children in
Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the world’s younger nations, as it
became independent in 1971, and education is essential for building up a
new nation.

ACEF established private kindergartens and elementary schools for
children in areas without any public education and has supported such
schools for the past 18 years. ACEF has also established 73 vocational
training schools, making it possible for about 13,000 students to
enroll. However, last year Bangladesh was hit by a gigantic cyclone,
causing extensive damage and taking the lives of many persons.

Many of the schools that had been supported by ACEF were completely
destroyed. Some of the schools have been rebuilt, but there are still
many schools in need of repair. Our earnest desire is that as many
students as possible continue to go to school.
2. To help children in China. On May 12, 2008, our friends in the
central area of China’s Sichuan Province experienced an earthquake. The
damage caused by the earthquake was not confined to houses and other
buildings. Roads, water pipes, and electric power lines were also
severely damaged, and almost 15 million people fled from the area. In
addition, the number of persons known to have lost their lives reached
70 thousand.

The earthquake took place during classes and about 7 thousand school
buildings were severely damaged or collapsed. Several thousand students
and teachers lost their lives. Many Chinese friends mourned the loss of
family and friends, and even now there are some who are experiencing
difficulties.

When the Christmas Offering was collected in 2008, we remembered our
Chinese friends who had suffered loss and damage due to the earthquake.

3. To help Japanese churches and other institutions.
a. There is an institute called Hikari no Ie Gakuen (“House of Light”
School) in Yamanashi Prefecture, a place famous for its delicious fruit.
Thanks to the members of nearby Ichikawa Church, Hikari no Ie Gakuen was
established as a place for children who are still too young to attend
elementary school. Even small children sometimes have health problems ,
such as physical or emotional illnesses. Likewise, some children need
the assistance of adults, in addition to their parents. We remembered
Hikari no Ie Gakuen in our prayers, asking that those in need will be
able to send their children there confidently.

b. Located along the banks of the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture,
“Wakakusaen” (literally, “Young Grass Garden”) is an institution for
children 18 years old or under. This home has traditionally had a strong
and deep relationship with the church. For a variety of reasons, 47
children, of ages varying from infancy to 18 years old, are living
together. Many of these children have had very difficult and trying
experiences. However, at the children’s home, they live together as a
new family. Their lives show enthusiasm and a positive attitude. So, we
remembered our friends at the Young Grass Home.

c. When children read the Bible together in church, they come to
understand God better. When they sing songs from the children’s hymnal
and when they see Bible story picture books or paper theater stories,
they become even more enthusiastic. Nevertheless, when churches want to
begin such a children’s program, some of them do not have the financial
resources needed to put together all of the necessary materials, and so
we remembered these churches in our offering as well. (Tr. WGK)

─Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary