【June 2017 No.393】Testimonies Featured at the 2017 Missionary Conference

by Takada Teruki, staff Kyodan General Office, Tokyo

A three-day missionary conference was held at the base of Mt. Fuji at Torchbearers Yamanakako from Monday, March 20 (a holiday), with the theme, “Joy at the Household of God” (Acts 2:42-47). Including missionary families and Kyodan staff, a total of 37 persons attended, among whom 23 were missionaries.

The Site: Torchbearers Yamanakako

The Torchbearers, which originated after World War II from the mutual friendship between the churches of British Wales and Germany, was founded for the purpose of opening Bible camps throughout the world. The one in Japan is a retreat established in an area located one kilometer from the shore of Lake Yamanaka and made to resemble closely the forests of Germany and the countryside of Canada. The wooden building felt soothing to me. The fragrance and heat of the wood burning in the fireplace warmed not only the participants’ bodies but also their hearts. This was different from a hotel or a Japanese inn. The immediate feeling of “narrowness” sensed by those who came—that very cozy closeness of space—shrank the distance between the participants, and relaxed relationships were instantly formed. In the midst of this cozy atmosphere, free of tension, the messages at the worship services and the testimonies reverberated deep within our hearts, and we experienced a noticeable rise in our ability to concentrate.

The Schedule

The message at the opening worship service on the first day was offered by Pastor Imaizumi Nobuhiro of Mukonoso Church (in Hyogo, near Osaka), and following a delicious supper, we split into small groups to introduce ourselves and pray for one another. It snowed from the morning of the second day. That morning, testimonies were given by Elizabeth Mbundu and Karen Strydom, teachers at Kyoai Gakuen High School, and following breakfast, under the direction of Kyodan Executive Secretary Kato Makoto, there was a treasure hunt and a ping-pong tournament. During individual free time that afternoon, we went to a nearby hot spa and other places. The evening campfire was canceled due to snow, but instead we warmed up the meeting room and held a candlelight service during which Nishinasuno Church (in Tochigi) Pastor Ban Hyung Wook and Sheila Norris, a teacher at Kwassui Women’s University (in Nagasaki), gave testimonies of their personal struggles of evangelizing in Japan.

From the morning of the third day, the weather was fine. The program began with the testimony of Uotsu Church (in Toyama) Pastor Ruth Ester Waehrer, followed by a worship service commemorating deceased missionaries led by Kobe Jesus Band Church Pastor Claudia Genung-Yamamoto and a communion service, with Rev. Thomas Goetz of Hokusei Gakuen University (in Sapporo) officiating. During the final meeting, the next year’s planning committee was chosen. Then Rev. Akiyama Toru, chair of the Kyodan’s Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, gave the message at the closing worship service. Throughout the entire meeting, Josephine Kimura of Ferris Girls’ High School (in Yokohama) provided the music.

The Participants

From Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, attendees were able to gather together from throughout the country. First-time participants were Mrs. Carol Imaizumi from Mukonoso Church, Rev. and Mrs. Lee Meng Jer from Tokyo Taiwan Church, Rev. Lin Mei-Ying from Saitama Chinese Worship Mission Church, missionary Karen Strydon of Kyoai Gakuen Gakuen, and Yuka, the adopted daughter of missionaries Jonathan and Satomi McCurley. There was sparse participation by missionaries from Korea and Taiwan and only Akiyama Toru, moderator of Kanto District, who also serves as chair of the Committee on Ecumenical Ministries, represented the Kyodan districts.

The Special Blessings of this Missionary Conference

I have worked in the Kyodan Office for the past ten years, but I have never before experienced as great a blessing as I did at this missionary conference.

1. The site was separated from daily life, a place free from our regular work and interpersonal relationships.

2. On the contrary, the institution was in the middle of nature, and when you tuned your ears to God’s Word, strangely it was a place where that Word reverberated in your heart.

3. Again, this time especially, there was a blessed chance to hear the testimonies of senior missionaries who had given their lives and struggled for a long time during their mission work in Japan. Sheila Norris’s testimony about her work of teaching and overcoming difficulties particularly struck my heart.

For this reason, participants soon opened their hearts, and as if they had been acquaintances for many decades, they were mutually able to deepen their trust relationships. It was a heart-cleansing experience.

 

The Planning Committee

What we must not forget about the missionary conference is the existence of the planning committee. On the last day of the 2016 Missionary Conference, held in Sendai one year ago, the following four persons were chosen and have borne that heavy responsibility:

1. Rev. Imaizumi Nobuhiro (United Methodist Church), Mukonoso Church),

2. Rev. Timothy Appau (All African Baptist Fellowship, Asian Rural Institute),

3. Rev. Chang, In-Hye (Korean Methodist Church), Hizume Church), and

4. Ms. Devora Umipig-Julian (UMC, Yoyogi Uehara Church).

At the initiative of Secretary Kato during the first consultation held in the Kyodan conference room in July 2016, the place, theme, and Bible passages were decided. Then while staying overnight at the site of Torchbearers Yamanakako, the committee proceeded to draft the schedule as well as to decide the division of responsibility. During the five days prior to the conference, when we were so busy with preparations, the flexible coordination of Devora Umipig-Julian was particularly helpful, for which I am very grateful. (Tr. RT)

2017年3月20日(月・祝日)から3日間、富士山の麓、トーチベアラーズ山中湖にて宣教師会議を開催した。テーマ“神の庭にある喜び(使徒2:42-47)”の下、宣教師の家族や教団スタッフを含め37名(内、宣教師は23名)の参加を得た。

 

1.トーチベアラーズ山中湖

第二次世界大戦後、英国ウェールズとドイツとの間で、互いの教会の友好のために始まったトーチベアラー ズは、聖書キャンプを開催するための施設を全世界に建設してきた。日本のそれは、山中湖畔から1キロの別荘地にあるリトリート施設。 その地は、ドイツの森やカナダの自然を彷彿とさせる場で、木造の建物は柔らかく感じられた。薪をくべた暖炉の匂いと温かさが、利用者 の体だけでなく心をも温めてくれた。ここはホテルや旅館とは異なる。入居時には正直“狭い”と感じたものの、そのこぢんまりとした空間の狭さが、参加者同士の距離を縮めてくれ、すぐに打ち解けた関 係を築くことができた。また緊張感から解放されているこの豊かな空間の中では、礼拝で聞く説教や証しがよく心に響き、集中力が格段に 増すのも体験できた。

 

2.スケジュール

初日、武庫之荘教会・今泉信宏牧師の説教で開会礼拝をささげ、手作りの美味しい夕飯の後、小グループに分かれて自己紹介し、互いのため に祈った。2日目は早朝から雪が降っていた。朝は共愛学園高校のElizabeth Mbundu先生とKaren Strydom先生の証し。朝食の後には加藤誠幹事の指導で宝探しと卓球大会。午後は自由時間で各々、近くの温泉などに 出かける。夜のキャンプファイヤーは雪で中止となり代わりに室内で部屋を暗くしてキャンドルサービス。西那須野教会の潘炯旭(Ban Hyung Wook)牧師、活水女子大学のSheila Norris教授が、自らの日本宣教の取り組みについて証しをした。3日目は朝から快晴。魚津(Uotsu)教会Ruth Ester Waehrer牧師の証しで始まり、神戸イエス団(Kobe Jesus Band)教会Genung Yamamoto Claudia牧師による逝去宣教師を覚えての記念礼拝、北星学園大学Thomas Goetz牧師による聖餐式、まとめ会では次年度の企画委員を決め、閉会礼拝の説教は世界宣教委 員長の秋山徹(Akiyama Toru)牧師が担った。全体を通してフェリス女学院高校のJosephine Kimura先生が奏楽を担当した。

 

3.参加者

北は札幌・函館・弘前から西は長崎まで、全国から集まることができた。初参加は武庫之荘教会・今泉キャ ロル夫人、東京台湾教会・李孟哲(Lee Meng -Jer)宣教師ご夫妻、埼玉中国語礼拝・林美音(Lin MeiYing宣教師、共愛学園・Karen Strydom宣教師、そしてJonathan McCurley宣教師ご夫妻の養女(adopted daughter, Yuka)ゆうかちゃんであった。韓国や台湾からの宣教師の参加は少なく、教区代表者も世界宣教委員長を兼任する関 東教区秋山徹議長のみとなった。

 

 

4.今回の宣教師会議での特別な恵み

私はこれまで10年間、教団事務局で働いてきたが、今回の宣教師会議ほど、恵み深い体験はなかった:

①そこは日常から離れ、普段の仕事や人間 関係から解放された場であった。

②加えてその施設は、大自然の中にあり、神様の御言葉に耳を傾けると、不思議にその御言葉が心に響く場で あった。

③更に今回は特に、日本での宣教活動に長い間、人生を懸けて取り組まれた先輩宣教師の証しを聴く機会に恵ま れていた。私はNorris先生の、困難を乗り越えてのお働きの証しに特に心を打たれた。

こういう訳で、参加者はすぐに心を開き、あたかも数十年来の旧知の仲であるかのように、お互いへの信頼関 係を深めることができた。心洗われる体験となった。

 

5.企画委員

宣教師会議で忘れてならないのが企画委員の存在である。1年前、仙台で開催された宣教師会議2016の 最終日に選出された次の4名がその重責を担った:

Rev. Imaizumi Nobuhiro (UMC, Mukonoso Church), Rev. Timothy Appau (All Africa Baptist Fellowship, Asian Rural Institute), Rev. Chang, In-Hye (KMC, Hizume Church), Ms. Debora Umipig-Julian (UMC, Yoyogi Uehara Church).

加藤幹事のイニシアチブの下、2016年7月教団会議室での第一回打ち合わせ会にて場所・テーマ・聖書箇所を決定し、更に11月には開催地・トーチベアラーズ山中湖に赴いて宿泊の上でスケジュール組み立て及び役割分担を決めた。準 備活動が殺到する直前の5日間、特にMs. Debora Umipig-Julianの柔軟なコーディネーションが功を奏した。感謝している。

 

教団事務局職員 高田輝樹

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