Asia Gakuin (Asian Rural Institute)

by Ban Hyung Wook
Korean Methodist Church missionary

Established in 1973 in Nasu-san-roku in Tochigi Prefecture, Asian Rural
Institute is a school founded on the love of Jesus Christ to promote the
progress and prosperity of the rural peoples of Asia. It was established
with the goal of promoting just and peaceful societies through the
training of local leaders who themselves hold these goals.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the founding of ARI. During the
eight months from April to December, invited participants from Africa,
Asia, and at times the Pacific Island nations, South America, and others
of the world’s developing nations, come for leadership training. These
leaders are pastors, priests, officials of NGOs, farm organization
leaders, women’s group leaders, teachers, and any who are rural
grass-roots leaders working to improve the lives of rural people.

I myself am a graduate of ARI, class of 1983. I am a Korean Methodist
Church pastor and, since September 2004, I have been working as a
missionary staff member of ARI. I love ARI from the bottom of my heart.
Here I find great joy in working for God’s purposes as God’s vessel.
Since being sent to ARI, I have continually been filled with a burning
sense of my high calling. Here I can meet with young students who gather
from all over Japan and, while working together or eating together in
the Koinonia dining hall, I can share my thoughts and feelings with
these students. As the staff person responsible for group life, I can
assist ARI students when they complete their training and return to
their home areas as rural leaders. My heart swells with joy and thanks
to God as each ARI student achieves transformation into a good leader.
This becomes the motivating power for my work as a missionary.

Sometimes I receive telephone calls or E-mail from young people who have
at some time visited ARI. Sometimes these are reports of someone
beginning to read the Bible or beginning to attend Sunday worship
services, or receiving baptism. This is one such E-mail. “Dear Pastor
Ban, my life at ARI and the community there are very precious to me. For
me and my friend, the summer spent at ARI, where we experienced the
power of God, had deep importance for us. Through our experiences at ARI
our friendship has deepened. Can you believe that she decided by herself
to begin attending church services? Pastor Ban, you and your wife Chinhe
have been excellent Christian models for her and for me too.”
My wife Chinhe is fulfilling her calling from God by working as a
volunteer at ARI. One thing she does is to bake birthday cakes for
everyone in the ARI community. “This is the first time in my life that
someone has baked such a wonderful cake and celebrated my birthday,”
said one joyful person. When I see scenes like this, I too am overjoyed.

Even now the training of rural leaders from all over the world is
continuing. Knowing this, why is ARI’s name still the same? Why not
change the name to “Asia-Africa Rural Institute” or Asia-Africa-Pacific
Rural Institute? That is a question that sometimes arises, but there is
a reason for the name as it stands. The reason is that the founding of
ARI was an act of repentance before God for the sins committed against
the people of Asia during World War II. Because of the need to confess,
apologize, and repent for the brutal acts committed against the people
of Asia, the name “Asian Rural Institute” must remain.

Please pray for Asian Rural Institute, its students, its graduates, and
ARI’s calling to labor for those suffering in poverty? (Tr. GM)

Shinpo( The Kyodan Times)

Note:
Asian Rural Institute was awarded the 2008 Welfare Award by the Asahi
Shinbun newspaper company. Asahi gives this prize each year to the
organization it chooses to honor for its exemplary services to society
and its welfare. Begun in 1947 as the Social Welfare Award, this prize
was split into two separate awards from 1975. It is a great honor for
ARI to receive one of them.