Baylor Missions Serves in Communities in Japan Seeking Solutions for Childhood Poverty

April 11, 2019

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
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by Jessie Jilovec, student newswriter, Baylor University Media and Public Relations

WACO, Texas (April 11, 2019) – As 10 teams of Baylor University students, faculty, staff and friends embarked over spring break on Baylor Missions throughout the world, one new journey allowed students to combine their faith and academic disciplines on a first-ever trip to Japan.

“Everyone has something to offer and there are places that you could put your talent in use even in developed countries like Japan,” said Yoshiko Fujii Gaines, senior lecturer of Japanese in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, who arranged the mission trip and traveled with the students. “Just like America, Japan is facing issues such as poverty among children. From that point of view, I wanted Baylor students to travel all the way to Japan and meet these people to make them feel special.”

The Baylor team of students from various academic disciplines traveled to Tokyo and Fukuoka to serve with local organizations focused on fighting childhood poverty. The team volunteered at local facilities to provide free and discounted meals, worked alongside college students at partnering universities, including Hosei University in Tokyo and Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka. Despite the language barrier, students from both countries joined together to learn collaborative cross-cultural communication skills.

“Mission trips can give you different experiences and perspectives than studying about another culture as an academic subject,” Gaines said. “Also, I believe that what you are learning now will help you determine what your talents are and how you can use them, and you hope to find your calling. It is a blessing to be a part of a mission trip. You travel to give, but you gain so much more than you give.”

On their first day in Tokyo, one group worked in a kodomo shokudo, or a free or reduced-price meal community diner run by volunteers, where they made tacos and s’mores for dinner. One child who had an eating disorder tried the tortillas and enjoyed tacos, and another child who had an attendance issue was encouraged to study English, Gaines said.

Other groups volunteered at Toy Libraries, which assists single mothers or new parents. On their last day in Tokyo, the group visited the Hosei University campus, while also learning how to prepare sushi and yakitori alongside Hosei students.

“The way the Japanese college students treated us was extremely humbling,” said Stefan Fitting, a senior University Scholar from Lorena, Texas. “They went out of their way to make our time there as enjoyable as possible.”

From Tokyo, volunteers flew to Fukuoka and visited the Asakura District, which was devastated by flooding and mudslides in 2017. Students helped make sandbags for a family who recently had a landslide behind their house. They also visited Haki Elementary School in Asakura and engaged in a cultural exchange with fifth and sixth graders while helping them with their English.

While in Fukuoka, students volunteered at two komodo shokudos. One was called Nana Café, where they cooked several dishes for guests and presented on American holidays. Fitting said the most moving aspect was the time he spent with families at the café.

“It was evident that the communities came there to see us, specifically so their kids could meet foreigners and practice their English,” Fitting said. “Getting to be a part of the community for a day and sharing love definitely felt like the most impactful thing we did.”

Later, Baylor volunteers visited the Baptist-run Hisayama Residence Care for people with severe disabilities to engage in cultural exchange with residents and volunteered in another komodo shokudo. Volunteers from the komodo shokudo took the group on a trip to see the Sasaguri area where they were treated to a traditional Matcha green tea.

On their last day in Fukuoka, volunteers visited Seinan Gakuin University as well as its Bible Botanical Garden and Bible Museum, and they attended a Taiko Japanese drum performance. Seinan Gakuin University students accompanied the Baylor group to help volunteer and communicate with residents of Fukuoka.

Through this collaboration, Baylor students used cross-cultural skills to learn how Japan is combating childhood poverty in several ways. One way is through food pantries, where citizens and corporations collect leftovers and uneaten food and help distribute it to those who are in need, so nothing is wasted.

“Poverty is not always as visible there as it is here,” Fitting said. “Many of the families looked similar to any other family.”

One Fukuoka komodo shokudos where the group volunteered is supported by the Green Co-op, which has 200,000 members who pay $1 per month to enable places like komodo shokudos to purchase what is needed instead of what is free.

“They were all welcoming and appreciative of having us come all the way from the States,” Gaines said. “They especially thanked us for taking the time to visit them and making them feel special. We are more thankful for them making us feel so special.”

For more information, visit the Baylor Missions website.


BU Missions seeks to create tangible opportunities for students to understand how they can use the knowledge and skills they gain here at Baylor University to love people around the world and in the Waco community.

As part of the Office of Spiritual Life at Baylor, our Mission is to nurture theological depth, spiritual wholeness and missional living in the students, staff and faculty at Baylor by offering integrated formational programming, transformative missional experiences, competent pastoral care and worship that is responsive to the Christian Tradition and sensitive to the culture.

Global Missions collaborates with faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds along with our global partners to implement spiritually rich and challenging experiences for our students. It is our hope that the students who participate in our trips not only enjoy the experience (which is important), but also discover a sense of vocation and calling as they see first-hand how they can use their discipline to serve.

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.