【June 2019 No.403】From the General Secretary’s Desk: The Inspiring Visit of RCA’s General Synod President and His Wife

The Reformed Church in America’s General Synod President James Nakakihara and his wife Lisa recently visited the Kyodan office. Nakakihara is a third-generation Japanese-American elder in the RCA. Elected for a one-year term of service in June 2018, President Nakakihara is the first person of Japanese descent to be elected to this position in the RCA’s long history. Within the church, there is now a difficult conflict regarding the LGBTQ issue, so Nakakihara is responsible for the important task of steering the church through this political situation.


The RCA was formed by immigrants to the USA from the Netherlands and previously was referred to as the Dutch Reformed Church. It is a well-known fact that the church has an especially deep relationship with Japanese churches. In the middle of the 19th century, the country of Japan emerged from isolation. When the door was opened to several foreign countries, the RCA was the first church to send missionaries to spread Protestant Christianity in Japan. Among those missionaries were Samuel Robbins Brown, Guido Herman Fridolin Verbeck, and James Hamilton Ballagh. Later, the RCA planted many churches in Japan and was deeply involved in the establishment of schools, such as Meiji Gakuin and Ferris Jogakuin. Dr. I. John Hesselink, who had served as a professor at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary for 20 years, returned to the United States and, after serving as RCA vice-president, became its president.


Nakakihara is a lay member and elder at Rancho Community Reformed Church in Temecula, California. He has served as a special education teacher and as an IT engineer who participated in product development and a variety of other activities. While he was working briefly in Utsunomiya in Japan, his wife Lisa, a Buddhist at the time, encountered the gospel and was converted. Although he had been baptized when he was in high school, Nakakihara had become inactive, but his wife’s conversion influenced him to come back to church. Because this happened in Japan, he is especially interested in—and prays especially for—the church in Japan. Now he is very active at his church as a small group leader and webmaster and also takes a leadership role at gatherings of the churches in the region. He says that although being chosen as the president of the RCA General Synod was completely unexpected, he accepted the job because he believed it was God’s calling. Lisa is also of Japanese descent and is also active in the church. However, around the time when James became general synod president, she contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, which limited her mobility to a wheelchair. Even with this disability, she came with James on this trip to Japan.


While talking with both of them, one of the things that impressed me was the church that they belong to, Rancho Community Reformed Church. Although it is located in a city of around 100,000 people and began with only seven families, in nearly 20 years it has grown to become a church where about 2,000 participants gather to worship. The secret of this growth is that when church members really wanted to do something as Christians, they would simply gather together some like-minded people and do it. One group began a private school, and another group formed a women’s work group. Nakakihara started a website for young people that now has 4,000 followers. By making sufficient use of the gifts God has given to each individual, a living church was born and grows, seemingly with things naturally becoming what they are. Through this time of close fellowship in faith, I feel even more familiar with the RCA. (Tr. KT)

                              —Akiyama Toru, general secretary



 先日教団に、アメリカ改革教会の総会議長Mr. James & Mrs. Lisa  Nakakiharaさんご夫妻を、お迎えしました。ナカキハラさんは日系の3世で、アメリカ改革教会の長い歴史で初めての日系の総会議長に、2018年6月に一年任期で就任なさり、LGBTQをめぐる厳しい対立がある同教団の政治状況のなかでかじ取りをする重要な働きを担っておられます。

 アメリカ改革教会は、かつてはダッチ・リフォームド教会と呼ぼれていたように、オランダからの移民によって形成された教会です。日本の教会とは特別に深い関係があることはよく知られています。19世紀の半ば、日本が鎖国を解き、諸外国に向かって門戸が開かれるようになったとき、最も早くプロテスタントのキリスト教を伝えるためにS.R.ブラウンやフルベッキ、バラーなどの宣教師たちを送り出し、その後の日本の数多くの教会形成、および明治学院やフェリス女学院などの学校の設立にも深くかかわっています。かつて、20年間東京神学大学で教鞭を執られたDr. I. John Hesselink先生は、帰米後に、RCAのVice-Presidentを経てPresidentになられました。

 ナカキハラさんはカリフォルニア州のTemeculaという街にあるRancho CommunityReformed Churchの長老です。Special educationの教師やITの技術者、商品開発など、多方面に活躍され、しばらく宇都宮で働いていた時代に、仏教徒だったLisa夫人が、福音に触れて回心なさいました。それがきっかけで、高校時代に洗礼を受けたものの、教会からは離れていたJamesも、教会に復帰なさったのです。ですから、日本の教会のことについては特別な関心と祈りをもっておられます。現在、教会ではsmall group leaderやwebmasterとして生き生きと活躍しておられ、地域の教会の集まりでも責任のある役割を果たしておられます。RCA総会で議長に選ばれたのは青天の霹靂だったそうです。でも、神様の呼びかけがあると信じてこの職に就いたと言っておられました。リサ夫人も日系で、教会で活躍しておられますが、Jamesが議長になるころにギラン・バレー症候群にかかられ、車いす生活を余儀なくされています。今回の日本旅行も不自由な中で、お二人で来られました。

 お二人との話し合いの中で、印象的だったことの一つは、彼らの所属しているRancho Community Reformed Churchのことです。10万人ほどの町の中にあって2000名ほどの礼拝参加者が集まる大きな教会ですが、はじめは7家族だけの教会で、ここ20年ほどで大きく成長したというのです。その成長の秘訣は、教会員がそれぞれにキリスト者としてぜひやりたいことがあれば、何でも仲間を集めてやるというところにあるとのことです。そのなかからプライベート・スクールや女性の仕事会があり、ナカキハラさんが始めた若者のためのWeb-siteには4000人のフォロワーがいるとのこと。一人一人に与えられた神様からの賜物を十分に生かすところに生きた教会が生まれ、成長する、当然のことが当然になっている姿を見る思いがします。今回の、親しい信仰の交わりによってRCAの教会が、さらに身近に感じられました。 (秋山徹総幹事)

【April 2019 No.402】Pastoral Telephone Counseling Service Established

by Kato Mikio, chair

                                                                    Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families

The Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families is a telephone counseling service that will begin on March 4, 2019. It will be available every Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding a lunch hour from 12 to 1 p.m., and will be operated by people with experience in telephone counseling. Both a guidance meeting for counselors and a committee meeting were held at Kamakura Meditation House, Jan. 15-16. Since 2009, the Subcommittee for Consideration of Disabled Persons has been discussing the serious problems of churches in crisis situations due to suicides and mental health issues in clergy families. With increased awareness of the urgency of the need for mental health care following three gatherings of the National Fellowship Meeting for Ministers and their Families, we were finally able to establish the Counseling Center for the Support of Pastors and their Families in 2018.

The purpose of the counseling center is to “promote understanding of spiritual ministry and mental health care in relation to issues actually experienced.” The specific problems that pastors and their families have been struggling with are not being dealt with well through the use of traditional counseling methods. However, though this is the case, we cannot turn away from the problem. Rather we should acknowledge that the effectiveness and power of evangelism has been weakened because of this. Thus it is of utmost importance that the Kyodan deals with this issue immediately.

In order to address the various issues with which people suffer, we began with the idea of phone counseling and invited church members with phone counseling experience to open our guidance meeting. At this meeting we determined ethical principles, of which the following seven are of most importance.


1. Participants must strictly uphold confidentiality by distancing themselves from politics or personnel relations within the Kyodan, church district, or local church, not making any judgments or personally following up on such issues. Likewise, counselors are not to answer inquiries from others.

2. The most important thing is to focus on the client’s problem or pain and work to share that pain with the client, but not to focus on problem resolution.

3. When necessary, call a committee meeting to share ideas on how to deal with the case and hold discussions to deepen cooperation.

4. When a counselor is faced with a case that cannot easily be handled, bring the case to the committee and work together to find the correct solution and receive necessary support.

5. Take care not to share your notes and records with others to make certain that confidentiality is maintained.

6. Even though a pastor is a fallen creature like anyone else, he or she has a special responsibility and calling. Keep that in mind during consultations.

7. Though families of pastors may not have a particular calling or special training, their role causes them to be involved in very unique and unusual situations, and they may carry burdens that are very specific to their particular situations. Keep this in mind when having consultations with them.


We have prepared for this project by trying to discern the various types of consultations we might have, but until we actually begin, there is no way to imagine every possibility. Although we may not be able to bring the problems of pastors or their families to an immediate solution, we can strive together with them in their suffering, and hopefully become a place where they will feel they can gain some loving support. And more than anything, we hope that through our service, pastors and their families will be able to receive the blessings of Jesus Christ and the joy that comes from him. If they have already lost that, we want to be instrumental in bringing them back to that state of blessedness. (Tr. WJ)

          —Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No.4896













(加藤幹夫 教団新報4896号)

【April 2019 No.402】Kyodan Participation in Disaster Relief in Japan in 2018

The following three accounts, taken from Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), describe the initiative and involvement of the Kyodan, its district, and its churches and members in disaster relief, with ecumenical and sometimes international cooperation, during 2018.

Carpenters from Taiwan Volunteer for Okayama Relief

by Osawa Motomu, pastor

Yamaguchi Church, Nishi-Chugoku District

When western Japan experienced disastrously heavy rain in July 2018, the Nishihirashima area in Okayama Prefecture, was the second worst in terms of aftereffects of the disaster, with 2,230 homes being damaged by flooding. Immediately after the devastation occurred, Kato Makoto, executive secretary of the Kyodan Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, among others, inspected the damage on several occasions. The commission began activities in August in the Nishihirashima area to promote relief efforts that met the needs of the people in the most appropriate ways.

We always keep in mind that it is “the person-to-person connection” that makes it possible to provide support. On Friday, July 6, heavy rain fell continuously, resulting in the overflowing of Suna River’s banks, and NGO Team Haru Haru entered the area on Sunday, July 8. The relief efforts continued nonstop, without taking even one day off, so a relationship of trust was established with the district. Wake Church Pastor Nobuto Yoshihide had already been participating in this work for several days, so the commission too was able to begin relief activities.Some people said that compared to other nearby disaster areas, reconstruction of the Nishihirashima area progressed more quickly. This was partly due to the help received from experienced volunteers. They soon finished removing mud, disinfecting, and drying floors. By August, they were at the point where the carpenters could begin necessary repairs. With the help of the Kyodan, volunteer carpenters from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan were dispatched to the disaster area.

During a period of 39 days, from Monday, Aug. 27, through Thursday, Oct. 4, major and minor repairs were carried out on about 20 homes by a total of ten volunteers and three inspectors. I cannot forget the sight of the members of one family shaking hands with a carpenter from Taiwan, their eyes filled with tears as they said, “When we were looking at the ground covered with mud every day, we could not motivate ourselves to do anything. But now it seems that we can finally take one step forward.” During this same time period, a lot of damage was being caused by natural disasters occurring also in Taiwan. I want to thank the members of the family of God in Taiwan, who sent the carpenters to help Japan.


大澤求 山口教会牧師






*               *               *

Kyodan Churches Join Interdenominational Relief in Hiroshima

by Kobayashi Katsuya, pastor, Kure Heian Church,

      Nishi-Chugoku District

       Steering committee member, Hiroshima Christian Church

       Disaster Relief Projects Planning Headquarters,

        Kure Volunteer Center

The flood-causing rains also severely damaged Kure City in Hiroshima Prefecture. In cooperation with several churches in Kure, the Hiroshima Cooperative Mission, Hiroshima Disaster Response Office, which had worked hard to offer support during another muddy disaster five years ago, launched an interdenominational organization called the Hiroshima Christian Church Disaster Relief Project Planning Headquarters, Kure Volunteer Center, which provided immediate support following the disaster.

The center provided housing for volunteers, limited to the first four weeks. This time limit was decided before starting so that the pastors and other people in the damaged areas would not collapse from exhaustion by doing relief work. Kure Heian Church also became a place that offered lodging. Many Christians, and many people interested in Christianity, crossed denominational lines and came from all over Japan, and from overseas too, to participate in the volunteer work. They met the needs of the victims, first helping churches, church members, the families and acquaintances of church members, and the regions where the churches are, in that order, by removing mud, disinfecting, etc. They carried out activities that included cooperating with the Social Welfare Council to bring in heavy equipment, like excavators and dump trucks, etc. In addition, since Akitsu Christian Church of the Nihon Fukuin Senkyodan (an independent evangelical denomination) was damaged, the volunteers also helped with its reconstruction project.

The volunteers intended to take responsibility for all the areas to which they had some connection until the end of the crisis. So they continued activities, such as removing mud and disinfecting, volunteering two days a week until the end of September. After that, the focus of volunteer efforts shifted to providing support for daily activities and providing emotional care. They started by giving out blankets to meet the needs of people in temporary housing. The circle of fellowship got bigger until it included the people in temporary housing and the members of the residents’ association who had experienced a lot of damage. The volunteers were able to send kotatsu sets (a small table with an electric heater underneath and covered by a quilt) and insulation sheets, along with Christmas cards. Akitsu Christian Church finished the construction, and on Dec. 24 a celebration was held to give thanks for the work completed and offer praise for the Lord’s mighty deeds.


呉平安教会牧師 小林克哉





  *               *               *

Kyodan Churches Work with Ecumenical Relief Group in Okayama

by Otsuka Shinobu, moderator

                                           Higashi Chugoku District

                                           Pastor, Okayama Church

One week after the downpour in western Japan, the Okayama Prefecture Mission Gathering, a group made up of several evangelical churches in Okayama Prefecture, held a meeting. I was invited and attended as moderator of Higashi Chugoku District. There was discussion about how to support the churches in the prefecture that had been damaged, and the Okayama Mission Gathering, Okayama Christian Disaster Support Headquarters was set up. After the meeting, the Kyodan’s Higashi Chugoku District also confirmed that it would assist with reconstruction together with the other churches. The Support Headquarters was moved into Nihon Seiyaku Kyodan Hiroe Seiyaku Christ Church. Volunteers gathered there at 7:30 a.m., and after holding a worship service, headed toward Mabicho, one of the disaster areas. Oda River and Takama River had overflowed, so some houses were submerged in water up to the second floor. Volunteers removed mud, cleaned the inside of the houses, and between periods of work, listened to the voices of the people who had experienced harm. In the Hirashima area of Okayama City’s Higashi Ward, both the Kyodan and the Taiwanese Volunteer Team assisted with reconstruction. Support work was continued until November, and as a result of discussions among the Okayama Christian Disaster Support Headquarters, the YMCA Setouchi, the Kyodan and Kyodan Nishi-Chugoku District, it was decided that the base of activity would be located in Mabicho, so it has served as our base of operations. On Saturday, Dec. 8, a ceremony was held to celebrate its opening. It was decided that the base would be active in the disaster areas for two years. Some of our volunteers who had started in the last half of July 2018, were baptized at Christmas. It was a source of great joy for all of us, too. As we listen to the voices of the people who have suffered harm, praying and talking with them, we want to follow through on the task that has been given to us.(Tr. KT)


大塚忍 東中国教区総会議長 岡山教会牧師


【April 2019 No.402】Missionary Commissioned to Serve in Paraguay

The Commissioning Ceremony for Missionary Ehara Yukiko was held at 3 p.m. on March 10, 2019 at Asagaya Church. Rev. Kato Makoto, executive secretary of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, presided over the service, and Rev. Kokai Hikari, a commission member, gave the sermon. The commissioning service was attended by more than 100 persons from Asagaya Church as well as several pastors of other nearby churches. Asagaya Church Pastor Furuya Haruo is heading up the support group for Ehara.


Ehara is scheduled to be sent to Sakai Keishi Memorial Free Methodist Church in Pirapo, Paraguay in early May. The nation of Paraguay is located in the central part of South America, and Pirapo is one of seven areas where Japanese immigrants settled, beginning in 1937. Pirapo is about an 8-hour drive from the capital city of Asuncion.


The church had been without a pastor for about 40 years until 2016, when Missionary Chibana Sugako was sent there and served until January of this year. After completion of the process of purchasing property, construction of a new church building was begun in October 2018. The sanctuary is to be finished by the end of March. After her arrival, Ehara will officiate at the dedication service of the new church and at a wedding.

(Tr. TB)

Kato Makoto, executive secretary







【April 2019 No.402】Atami Church’s 100 Years of Witness and Ministry

As Atami Church celebrates its centennial anniversary year, the current pastor shares its history and present ministry, and a long-time member remembers its nurturing role in his own life.

A Church Built in a Resort Area

by Noguchi Kei, pastor

                                       Atami Church, Tokai District

The Atami Church, located on the Izu Penninsula, is believed to have begun as a house meeting at the home of Morimura Ichizaemon, an entrepreneur who was a Christian. In 1919 the location was changed, and it was formally established as Japan Christian Alliance Association (Nihon Domei Kirisuto Kyokai) Atami Church. In 1941, it was incorporated within the Kyodan, and when several of the former Alliance churches withdrew after World War II, Atami Church decided to remain in the Kyodan, as it is today.

Over this period of 100 years, Atami Church has survived several trying periods, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923), World War II, and the Great Atami Fire (1950), while continuing to shine the Gospel light. Atami (meaning “hot ocean”) is a rural hot springs area that rode on the wave of economic growth after World War II and was transformed into a town of buildings standing in a row, flourishing as a tourist area. But in the 1990s, it was adversely affected by the collapse of the bubble economy and other factors.

At present, Atami is a small town with a population of 37,000 people. The trend is toward a decrease in population, with signs of few births and an aging society. There are very few colleges in the area, and since there is limited work outside of tourism and service occupations, many young people are leaving for Tokyo or other large cities. The present condition of the town also directly impacts the vitality of Atami Church. Due to the aging of its members, every year there is a decrease in the number of believers who frequently attend church. And since this is a tourist area, believers cannot take off work on Sunday, so many are unable to observe Sunday worship.

However, the resurgence of activity in Atami in recent years is a very hopeful sign. Tourism has revived in the shopping area where there were many closed stores, and with the restoration of the town’s business condition, tourists and newcomers to the town are attending worship frequently. The baptism of four persons at Christmas in 2017 and one person at Christmas in 2018 were great blessings for us. We have done nothing special. We have only spoken the Word in a slow but sure way, observed worship services, and entrusted everything else to God. I think the seed sown, after the passing of many years, now at last has borne fruit.

The people of Izu Peninsula have been raised in a scenic region. On the one hand, they are gentle and affectionate, and on the other hand, they love freedom and have a thriving spirit of independence. Enrolled together as members at Atami Church are many who were reared in Atami as well as more recent arrivals from Tokyo and elsewhere. To become one in heart, believers with different personal histories, personalities, and church backgrounds have made the Word of Jesus Christ their foundation and are intentionally developing a worship-centered corporate body structure.

The year 2019 is the 100th anniversary of our church’s establishment, and in January we held a founding celebration worship service. The sanctuary was built 20 years ago and now needs repair. For a small church, we are fortunate to have a splendid sanctuary. Repairs are not an easy thing, but as a witness to our faith, we plan to tackle a “2020-and-beyond” goal. (Tr. RT)



熱海教会牧師 野口 敬(Noguchi Kei)






*               *               *

The Sown Seed

by Fujima Takao, member

                                      Atami Church, Tokai District

Now 87 years old, I am healthy and continue to attend worship services every week and do various church jobs. However, for a long time my life of faith was one of continual twists and turns.

I remember going to Sunday school sometime before World War II, but when I became a fourth grader, education became militaristic. The dream boys had of the future was to become an army general. After the war, the church gate that had been locked was opened once again. Many young people seeking culture with a foreign fragrance gathered at the church, and I myself was also among them.

Mukoyama Jisuke, Atami Church’s pastor at the end of the war, had not yet returned from the war-front, and every Sunday, Pastor Matsumoto Hiroshi of Ito Church preached at Ito Church in the morning, Atami Church in the afternoon, and Usami Church for evening worship. I went to church half-heartedly, attending worship services while hoping that the sermon wouldn’t be long. One day, while surrounded by other young people, the subject of baptism was raised. Not even understanding what it was, I thought, “Well, if we all receive it…,” and was baptized together with a group of five or six persons. When the service was over, members of the church said “Congratulations” and gave words of blessing. I still was not understanding this very well, but when we went to the parsonage on the second floor and I saw that a meal had been prepared, at last the meaning of “congratulations” became real. (At that time there was little rice to eat each day, and it was distributed according to a rationing system.)

Atami is a town of hot springs and rest and was not an object of B29 bombing; we only experienced a few times the deafening roar of the Grumman F6F Hellcat planes on strafing runs. But following the war, in 1950, the central part of the town was almost totally burned by a great fire. Atami Church was also in danger, and as we prayed a parting prayer at the church, thinking the church would soon be burned, a fire truck from another town rushed in, and it was saved. After graduation from high school, I became a salaried
worker for a short time, but as being “self-employed” had become a trend in Japanese society, I dared to begin my own business.

The life of faith for me has been like a single thin stake driven into the current of a river, and every day like constantly fighting the current. Isn’t what I am today the product of the Sunday school of my boyhood, and before that the single seed sown in the church kindergarten, being nurtured over a long period of time in the midst of weeds, having come into bud?

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them…..” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

(Tr. RT)


熱海教会員 藤間孝夫




 熱海の町は温泉と静養の町なので、B29の空爆対象ではなくグラマン戦闘機(The Grumman F6F Hellcat)の雷のような轟音で機上掃射が数回あっただけでしたが、戦後の昭和25(1950)年に大火で町の中心部がほとんど焼けました。熱海教会も危険となり、もはやこれまでと会堂でお別れの祈りをしていた時に、よその町から応援に駆け付けた一台の消防車によって類焼は逃れたのでした。私は、学校を卒業後しばらくサラリーマンになりましたが、世の中に“脱サラ”の掛け声が広がり、思い切って事業を始めました。


(東海教区報No. 167, 18.11.2)

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