【February 2018 No.396】Laypersons with a Priestly Calling: Guiding Newcomers

by Ogasawara Akihiro, member Ofunato Church, Iwate Prefecture, Ou District


I entered Tohoku Gakuin University in 1980 and through God’s guidance joined the men’s glee club, where I had my first contact with hymns and religious music. I also studied the Bible, but only for class credit, without believing in God’s teaching; so as I approached graduation, I put my Bible and hymnal on the back of my bookshelf.


On March 11, 2011, the giant tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake descended on the Sanriku coast of Iwate Prefecture, and both the house in Kamishi where I grew up and my house in Rikuzen Takata were washed away. I could not even cry at the sight of the hellish scene before my eyes.


In the whirl of the first year-and-a-half afterwards, my body and mind did not function normally, and I continued to experience insomnia. Somehow I was able to do my job, though completely exhausted when I got home, so I distracted myself with alcohol. I commuted to Kyoto to pray at shrines and also prayed at temples, but even when I did that, after ten days or so, I felt the same as before.


One day, I went to Tsuchizawa Church in Hanamaki to pick up some relief supplies. My wife’s parents often performed ventriloquism there as volunteers. When I told the pastor that my Bible had been washed away, she gladly gave me one of the church’s Bibles and hymnals. When I got home I casually opened the Bible, and the first thing that jumped out at me were the words in Matthew 6:25-34 “do not worry.”


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. . . . So, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (NRSV)


At that moment I heard the Word of God. I felt strongly, “I need to go to church!” and I could not stop crying. Ofunato Church warmly welcomed someone like me into their church. I started attending services with my wife, who had been baptized in her youth, and eventually I too was baptized.


A little more than a year later, a man with whom Ofunato Church Pastor Muraya Masahito had previously served as a volunteer probation officer started coming to church. With a record of more than 10 offenses, he was out of prison on parole. Pastor Muraya then asked my wife and me if we would help guide him as he prepared for baptism. It is the custom at Ofunato Church for members to take the lead in preparing others for baptism. Nevertheless, we were flabbergasted to receive this request when we had only been attending the church for a little over a year. However, if it is God’s mission, you cannot refuse, so we accepted.


This man had a home and a wife and children, but he was living in a room in the church. Pastor Muraya looked after him every day, and from time to time I would go to the church and talk about the Bible and other things with him. He was a hard worker, doing routine tasks around the church like cutting grass and clearing trees and bushes on the hill behind the church. He even helped at an NPO in the city. You would often see him reading the Bible, and at Christmas he made a detailed plan for the church illumination lights. I even bought a radio and gave it to him so he could listen to the Christian broadcast FEBC every evening. He deepened his understanding of the contents of the Bible, and his preparation for baptism seemed to be going smoothly. If he successfully completed his period of parole, his sentence would be complete. However, when he had only a few days left in his parole, he ran away with a woman he had met at his workplace. He was quickly found and sent back to prison. After that, he finished his sentence, but he never came back to the church.


What happened to the positive attitude he seemed to have had? My wife and I wondered if there had been something wrong with the guidance we gave him, and we spent our days questioning God about this. But this was not the end. Now the church is involved with a boy on temporary release from a juvenile correctional facility. At the same time, someone who had been shepherded through preparation for baptism by other church members was baptized on Pentecost Sunday in 2017.


Pastoral care or preparation for baptism are not only the job of the pastor. Ordinary members also have roles as laypersons, jobs that only laypersons can do. We are not transferred as pastors are, so we can continue to guide those who come to church for the first time. We are to become “the salt of the earth” and believe in God and that we are certain to bear fruit. With this in mind, I want to continue to reach out to new people who come to church. Amen. (Tr. DB)


From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend),

October 2017 issue

Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

祭司とされた信徒として 新来会者を導く

小笠原明寛おがさわら あきひろ/岩手・大船渡教会員

私は1980年に東北学院大学へ入学し、神さまの導きで男声合唱団グリークラブに入団し、初めて賛美歌や宗教 曲に触れました。聖書も勉強しましたが単位を取るためだけで、神さまの教えを信じることはなく卒業を迎え、聖書も賛美歌も本棚の奥に しまってしまいました。

2011年3月11日、東日本大震災大津波が三陸沿岸に襲いかかり、生まれ育った岩手県釜石市 の実家と、陸前高田市の自宅が全流失しました。目の前に広がる地獄の光景に涙も出ませ んでした。

無我夢中の1年半が過ぎたころ、体と心に不調が現れ不眠が続きました。仕事はなんとかこなすものの、帰ってく ればぐったりで、酒で紛らわせる日々でした。京都に通い神社参り、お寺参りをしましたが、10日もすれば元に戻ります。

そんなとき、妻の両親が腹話術のボランティアでよく通っていた花巻市の土沢教会に、(わたしが)支援物資をもらいに行きました。牧師に聖書を流してしまった事情を話すと、快く教会の聖書と賛 美歌を分けてくれました。家に帰って何気なくパッと開き最初に目に飛び込んできたのはマタイによる福音書6章25節以下の「思い悩むな」でした。

「だから、言っておく。自分の命のことで何を食べようか何を飲もうかと、また自分の体のことで何を着ようかと 思い悩むな。……だから、明日のことまで思い悩むな。明日のことは明日自らが思い悩む。その日の苦労は、その日だけで十分である」

まさに神さまの御言葉が聞こえた瞬間です。教会へ行かねばならん! と確信し、涙が止まりませんでした。大船 渡教会は、こんな私をたいへん温かく迎え入れてくださいました。若いときに洗礼を受けていた妻と共にせっせと通い、私も受洗しまし た。

1年あまりが過ぎたころ、大船渡教会の村谷正人牧師が保護司としてお世話をしていた男性を教会で引き受けるこ とになりました。前科10数回、仮釈放期間中とのことでした。そして村谷牧師より、彼の受洗の 準備として私たち夫婦に導きの手伝いをしてほしいとお話があったのです。大船渡教会では、信徒が中心となって受洗の準備をするのが慣 例です。それにしても教会に通いだしてまだ1年余りの私たちにこのような話があるとは。びっくり仰天です。しかし神さまのミッション とあらば断ることなどあり得ません。引き受けました。

その男性には家も妻子もあるとのことでしたが、教会の一室に住まうことになり、村谷牧師が日々の世話をし、時 間をみて私が教会に通い聖書の話などをしておりました。彼は教会の雑務、境内地の草刈り、裏山の雑木伐採などよく働いてくれました し、市内のNPO法人へも出かけて働いていました。聖書をよく読んでいる様子も見 られ、クリスマスには教会をイルミネーションで飾る計画を具体的に進めていました。毎晩キリスト教放送局FEBCの放送を聞くようにと、私がラジオを買ってプ レゼントしたりもしました。聖書の内容も理解を深めて、受洗の準備も順調と思われました。仮釈放期間を無事に終えれば、彼は「出所」 です。しかし、あと数日で終わろうとしていたとき、職場で知り合った女性と一緒に逃亡してしまったのです。すぐに見つかり刑務所に逆 戻りとなりました。その後は刑期を満了したようですが、教会へは近づこうともしません。


あの積極的な姿勢は何だったのか、私たち夫婦の導きが不適切だったのか、神さまに問いつつ日々を過ごしており ます。が、これで終わりではありません。今は少年院を仮退院した少年が教会と関わっています。一方で他の教会員が受洗準備会を担った 方が、今年のペンテコステに洗礼を受けました。

牧会や受洗準備は牧師だけの働きではなく、信徒にも信徒の役割があり、信徒にしかできない働きがあります。牧 師のように転任がないので、教会に来られた方を導き続けることができます。「地の塩」となり神さまを信じ、必ず実を結ぶことを信じ て、これからも教会に来られる新しい方々と接していきたいと思います。アーメン。((信徒の友 2017年10月号より KNL編集委員長 川上善子まとめ)



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