Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 29, 2012

Smith: Alexander spreading goodwill abroad

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Many of you know Kami Alexander who was recently home from Kyoto, Japan and enjoying her summer break with her parents David and Kathy Alexander. Kami is a 2001 graduate of South Decatur High School and was a Key Club district officer (a high school version of the Kiwanis Club), active in journalism, a cheerleader and ran track and field.

She did that while working a part-time job and maintaining a good grade point average. It wasn't a surprise that she was the Frank Braden scholarship recipient to DePauw University.

When Kami was interviewed for the scholarship, she remembers talking with Paul Stewart and telling him that she wanted to be a missionary or a political journalist. She continues to be grateful that she received that scholarship.

Decatur County's Frank Braden retired as general personnel manager of Illinois Bell Telephone Co. in 1967, returned to Decatur County and became executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. He donated a $1.2 million trust fund to DePauw.

Kami graduated from DePauw with a double major in sociology and anthropology and a minor in Asian studies. She studied Japanese for three years in the Asian Studies program. ÒI've always loved learning about other cultures and DePauw has an excellent Asian Studies program.Ó

She got started with JET, a teaching exchange program, teaching English in junior high school. She did bible studies outside of her work. ÒFrom graduation my goal was to stay there permanently but my contract was only for three years. When I finished my three years I got an opportunity to work for Kyoto International University Academy (KIU Academy) doing ministry as a teacher."

KIU Academy has many bicultural children. Kami said, "We are a bilingual Christian school and teach both English and Japanese. Many students have parents from two different countries and because of that, the kids are sometimes bullied in public schools. Therefore, if the parents are from two countries the kids are more likely to go to this school where there is no issue with bullying because we take care of it immediately."

Students in Japan go three years in middle school and are then able to go to work or go to high school if they pass the exam. ÒMost parents push their kids to go to a good high school, because a good high school leads to a good university, which leads to a good career,Ó said Kami. This requires passing difficult entrance exams, so the parents push kids to study long hours and go to cram schools. Parents who push their kids a bit beyond the norm are called Ômonster parents.'

In Japan less fewer than 1 percent of people are Christian and that 1 percent includes Protestants and Catholics.

Kami said the suicide rate is rather high. ÒWe don't know all of the reasons, be it cultural or from religious or historical roots, but I believe that without a Christian influence someone is more likely to commit suicide.Ó

ÒI really want to just give people hope and let people know of God's love for them. With that they are less likely to doubt their self worth,Ó said Kami.

Involved as a non-supported missionary she said, ÒThere are plusses and minuses for a non-supported and a supported missionary. If you are a supported missionary you are sometimes in a box. You cannot always choose what type of ministry you want to do. I have the freedom to do many kinds of ministry by working and earning a salary instead of raising support from churches."

Readers will remember March 11, 2011 when the largest recorded earthquake in Japan's history struck the sea bed off the east coast of Miyagi.

That triggered a horrific tsunami which engulfed eastern Japan, and started the nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima.

Kami volunteered to work in the area three times, traveling many miles each time to give aid. Although we don't hear much about it now, residents there still live with the after-effects.

Raised a Methodist, Kami attended Letts Methodist Church but now attends a non-denominational church in Osaka, Japan. ÒThe Letts Methodist Church gave me a good foundation,Ó she said. ÒI remember that at age eight I knew what it meant to be baptized and that I wanted to be baptized. When I got in high school I made a deeper commitment.

In her off time Kami enjoys hiking and Taiko drumming. The drum is sometimes called the Òfat drumÓ because of its size and the large sound. It has been used for centuries in Japanese culture and once it was said that the farthest point that the drum could be heard was the edge of the village.