【December 2018 No.400】The Response of the Kyodan and Its Districts to the 2018 Natural Disasters

In the early morning hours of September 6, a severe earthquake struck the eastern part of the Iburi district of Hokkaido. Measuring in spots up to a magnitude of 7.0 on the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Seismic Intensity Scale, the earthquake caused large-scale landslides, complete power failure across the entire island, and various disruptions of lifelines, resulting in 41 deaths. Reportedly, many families are still suffering with after-effects. Damage to churches and related buildings was not so severe, but with the help of other districts, Hokkai District has been transporting relief supplies to the heavily damaged areas of the eastern part of Iburi and is calling for funds from the entire church. Kyodan Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi paid an official visit to the affected area, and the Kyodan is actively supporting Hokkai District in its efforts to provide mental and spiritual care.

There has been a spate of natural disasters in recent months. In July, the Kyodan set up the “West Japan Emergency Relief Fund” and called on all Kyodan churches to contribute. The donations received were added to the financial support received from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and has been used to repair damage to churches and for general relief efforts related not only to the floods in western Japan but also to the earthquake in northern Osaka, Typhoon 21 (Jebi), and now the East Iburi Earthquake. So the request from Hokkai District is being dealt with carefully to avoid wasteful overlap.

Unlike the response to the Great East Japan Disaster of 2011 and the Kumamoto-Oita Earthquake, when the Kyodan set up a Response and Support Center under  the Executive Committee, this time a “Relief Planning Committee” has been formed under the general secretary, who will oversee these operations. In this time of climate change, there will no doubt continue to be large-scale natural disasters, so the Kyodan needs to take a further look at how best to respond.

Already the Kyodan is proactively working in mutual support with each district to send relief supplies and volunteers to disaster areas. Likewise, solidarity and exchanges are being furthered not only among Kyodan

churches but also interdenominationally—particularly among churches near affected areas —and internationally, as various church-related relief organizations send volunteers to assist. Thus, based on such experiences so far, the goal now is to further the development of this network of Kyodan churches and districts, together with other denominations both in Japan and overseas, to deal with these situations.

As mentioned above, the PCT as well as the United Church of Christ in the U.S. has sent funds to help with the relief efforts following the western Japan floods. Likewise, the Kyodan responded to the earthquake disaster in the Donggala district of the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia by sending funds through the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa (GMIM) [Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa]. Also, the Kyodan sent $10,000 through the Evangelisches Missionswerk in Solidaritat (EMS) to help with the relief efforts in the state of Kerala in India deal with the floods that occurred there in July, which took the lives of over 20,000 people. (Tr. TB)

—Akiyama Toru, general secretary

(Excerpt from a report given at the 41st Kyodan General Assembly)



秋山 徹総幹事






【December 2018 No.400】Union Japanese Church of Westchester in New York

by Ueda Yoko, Kyodan missionary Pastor, Union Japanese Church of Westchester

Union Japanese Church of Westchester (UJCW) is a Japanese-language church in Scarsdale, Westchester County, New York that began worship in Japanese in September 1989. The church currently meets in the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church and receives support from the Reformed Church in America and the United Methodist Church. We are a small church, with an average Sunday worship attendance of about five people. The Japanese–language worship service is our main focus, but we also put effort into outreach activities.

It is important for Japanese Christians living abroad to have a church where they can worship comfortably in Japanese. New York has one of the largest populations of Japanese abroad, and the suburbs are home to many different kinds of people for whom Japanese is their native language, including students, businesspeople, permanent residents, and Japanese married to non-Japanese. In particular, the longer you live abroad, the more you may feel the importance of attending worship services and praying in your native language, so the majority of UJCW members and those who attend services are Japanese permanent residents of the United States. For these sisters and brothers, giving thanks and praise to God in Japanese, hearing God’s Word in Japanese, and praying together are special blessings. Worshiping every Sunday in Japanese is the reason the church exists.

Moreover, New York is the center of business in the United States, and Japanese businesspeople sent to the U.S. by their companies also come to our church. In recent years, many seem to be families with small children who have been sent for periods of three to five years. It must be reassuring for these people to have a church nearby where they can comfortably participate in worship in Japanese. In addition, because they are in the United States, some people come to church for the first time in their lives, and it is the mission of UJCW to proclaim the Gospel message to them.

With that in mind, besides our Japanese worship service and Bible study, we currently actively support the Japanese community and cooperate with the local community in doing outreach. In terms of contributing to the local community, UJCW has its own Book Club for Young Children and Families where we read English picture books to the children, and we also have a joint program with Hitchcock Presbyterian Church called Living in America in which adults can learn English and American culture. In addition, we run a soup kitchen for homeless people in the area, and together with SMJ (Special Ministry to Japanese), a mission federation of Japanese-American churches and congregations in the New York area, we hold a summer bilingual camp for youth.

Along with all these activities, last year we launched a workshop for making seasonal crafts called Workshop@Union. It is also open to people whose native language is not Japanese, and with people from many different countries participating, has an international flavor. For people facing isolation in a foreign country with a different language and an unfamiliar culture without ties to one’s surroundings, this workshop offers a place of fellowship to connect with others and the local community through making things with their hands.

An important mission of UJCW is to serve as a bridge between U.S. and Japanese churches. It is my hope that through communication and fellowship with the people of local churches here, as well as through the outreach activities of the local people, our church will continue to be used to promote mutual understanding and to strengthen the relationship between the churches in the United States that the Kyodan partners with in mission.

UJCW will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September 2019. We give thanks to God for upholding us on this 30-year journey, and on the occasion of this 30th anniversary it is my hope that with fresh desire we will be able to serve by spreading the Good News in New York. (Tr. DB)



教団派遣宣教師 ユニオン日本語教会牧師 上田容功








【December 2018 No.400】Living With Illness Ⅰ: A Woman’s Desire to Continue Playing the Piano

 by Ono Tomoko, member   Oki Church, Shimane Prefecture, Nishi Chugoku District

Nine years ago, when I was about 50 years old, I was suffering from various undiagnosed physical problems. I got tired easily; I felt lethargic; and my body hurt in various places. Furthermore, when it was cold, the tips of my fingers became white. My doctor at the hospital in Matsue told me that these symptoms were the result of scleroderma, a collagen-related disease. He further explained: “This disease cannot be healed with current medicine. We suspect that you have systemic scleroderma. Your blood flow worsens when it is cold; that is why your fingertips turn white. When that happens, be sure to warm up your fingers right away. If you don’t, your fingers may stiffen and become unable to move again. If this proceeds to your internal organs, for example, to your lungs, it could be life-threatening. Therefore, we are going to give you a large dose of adreno-cortical hormone.” When I heard this, my mind went blank.

I work as a teacher in a nursery affiliated with Oki Church, which is in Nishinoshima Island in Oki Islands. My original field of study, however, was piano, and I sometimes performed neighborhood concerts. Eventually, as my children grew up, I began to dream about spending more time on music than on my regular job; but I also often wondered whether or not I would still be able to play the piano. With fear and trepidation, I raised this question with my doctor, and this is what he said: “Stimulating your fingertips is not good. Though quitting the piano would be stressful for you, it is nevertheless very important that you change your lifestyle.”

I was speechless. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. Why did it have to be a sickness that limits my hand movements? I was sad and was often moved to tears. I spent much time praying, hoping for healing. My husband and family prayed fervently for me, and since I was in such a gloomy state of mind, a friend of mine who had heard that I was sick sent me a letter. In the letter, she said, “It’s regrettable that I won’t be able to hear you play anymore. I’m sending you a pair of cotton gloves in the hope that they will enable you to take care of your hands.” Inside the package was a cute pair of gloves. As I put on the gloves I felt a strange sense of happiness, and I wanted to play the piano. As I began to play a piece that I myself had composed, a soft sound that I had not previously been able to produce came out naturally. A Bible verse (II Cor. 12:9) resonated in my heart: “But he [the Lord] said to me [the Apostle Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

I was reluctant to talk publicly about my illness, but for reasons related to my work, I had no choice. People with the same disease, some who lived on the island and others who lived elsewhere, began to contact me. I learned that there were people who were hiding their conditions from others in their workplaces and communities. There were also people who even found it hard to go outside. At that time, I was part of the prefectural collagen disease organization; however, because I lived on an isolated island, it was difficult for me to participate in the organization’s activities. Four years ago, however, I started an organization on our island for patients with this disease. I began this organization because I wanted to create a place where people with this same disease could congregate freely. I took this step after consulting with local doctors and health-care workers. We meet together twice each year to drink tea and participate in everyday conversation. Since doctors and health-care professionals are present at these meetings, we are able to discuss symptoms and treatment options about which we have questions. Meeting people who are experiencing the same stage of the disease has taught me and awakened me to the harsh realities of this disease. However, at the same time, these people’s approach to life has been encouraging to see.

When facing the reality that I cannot do something, I think it is necessary to trust the people at church and the various specialists I am meeting, whom God has given me, and to depend on others. In addition, I have learned that having peaceful connections with a wide group of people and relying on those around us who are experiencing similar situations is important for patients.Though my family has supported me fully, their support alone would not have been enough.

The church of which I have been a member, Oki Church, is a very small congregation. However, we pray for each other’s disabilities and sicknesses, and we look at our problems in the broader context of social structures and facilities. Oki has no medical specialists for different diseases, but there have been times when I have come to realize that nevertheless, I can live my life here on this island. The island’s doctor asked me what I wanted to do from this point forward. When I told her that I wanted to play the piano she replied, “I will help you to become able to achieve that goal.” Moments like this show me that staying on this island is a reasonable choice for me. During rehabilitation for rheumatism, which developed as a complication of my primary disease, the occupational therapist often told me that although doctors want their patients to get better, even more than that, want them to live a vibrant life.

Life on the island includes having to deal with a few busybodies, and there are also inconveniences. I have come to realize, however, that the island is also a society that gives one everything he or she needs. I will continue to play the piano and write music. Music is a gift from God. I am thankful for all the encounters I have had with people, and I am glad that God has guided me to this place. (Tr. DM)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), September 2018 issue

Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko















【December 2018 No.400】Young Adult Study Tour: Vancouver, Canada

by Rev. Yoko Kihara, Kyodan Overseas Minister, Minister of the United Church of Canada

The first Young Study Tour to Vancouver was held between August 20th and 29th, 2018, welcoming ten young adults of the Kyodan, the Anglican Church, and the Korean Christian Church (KCCJ)in Japan sent by the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, Kyodan.

First, they visited Vancouver School of Theology in University of British Columbia (UBC) on August 21st, welcomed by the Principal, Rev. Dr. Richard Topping. They listened to his presentation of their theological education and their unique programs such as Indigenous studies and Interfaith studies. Then, they moved to the Museum of Anthropology to learn about the history and culture of the First Nations people in the west coast, and the  Botanical Garden to touch and smell the nature of BC’s coast.

The next day, on Aug. 22nd, they went to St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church in downtown Vancouver to participate in the Children Summer Camp called Camp Spirit and interacted with about seventy children, introducing Japanese traditional play such as Origami, top spinning and drawing pictures beyond differences of culture and language.

The highlight of the tour was their participation in Kairos Blanket Exercise on August 23rd to experience the First Nations’ history of grief, stolen lands and destructions of families and communities. The exercise was led by Janette McIntosh, a leader of Kairos Vancouver and Melaney Gleeson-Lyall, an Elder of the Musqueam nation. Everybody had a profound experience through this exercise and their experience was more deepened by listening to the sad family story of Melaney and her drum and songs inherited by her parents following the exercise.

Then, on August 24th, they also visited First United Church Community Ministry Society in Down Town East Side of Vancouver which serves homeless people providing food, shelter, and various services. All were deeply impressed by their excellent services based on the Prophetic voices in the Bible and Love of Jesus Christ.

Over the weekend of August 24th to 26th, ten young adults were divided into five families of the United Church Congregations in Vancouver and suburban area and experienced home stay and attended Sunday Worship Service in each congregation.

Although it had been terribly smoky in Vancouver due to wild fires, it was clear on the day they drove up to Whistler, on August 27th. They could enjoy the amazing view of glaciers on top of the mountains. At the end of the tour, they visited Steveston in the city of Richmond where the first Japanese people arrived to Canada and formed their community. Touched by the great nature of Canada; the mountains in Whistler and the Pacific Ocean from Steveston, they had a good reflection on the learning and experiences of the past 9 days.


*The KAIROS Blanket Exercise program is a unique, participatory history lesson developed in collaboration with the indigenous elders, the knowledge-keepers and educators who foster truth, understanding, respect, and reconciliation among indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. (Adapted from the KAIROS Homepage)




 20日に到後、翌21日はBC州立大学(UBC)(University of British Colombia)を訪ね、構内にあるバンクーバー神学校(VST)でリチャード・トッピング校長から同校の神学教育の特色をビデオを交えて説明を受けた後、先住民博物館、ボタニカルガーデンを見学し、先住民の文化と自然に触れました。


 23日はキリスト教超教派の社会正義に取り組む団体Kairos(KAIROS Canada)と先住民のリーダーを招き、植民地政策の下、土地と家族共同体のつながりを奪われた先住民の悲しみの歴史を学ぶ「ブランケット・エクソサイズ」(Blanket Exercise)を体験し、先住民の長老メラニーさん(Melaney Gleeson-Lyall )の体験談、代々受け継がれた彼女のドラムと歌に耳を傾け、多くの参加者にとってこのツアーのハイライトと言える深い経験となりました。



【December 2018 No.400】Even without a Sanctuary, Worship Held at First Member’s Tomb

Osumi Seko Church in Kyoto began its ministry as a group worshiping together at Osumi Kindergarten in Kyoto. The kindergarten itself was the result of the work of Rev. Enomoto Yasuro (1925-1977), well-known as “Pastor Chiiroba,” [chiiroba (little donkey), after the foal of a donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem] and Ms. Miyamoto Wosue (1902-1967), a midwife who was the first member of the congregation. As a member of Osumi Seiko Church, Wosue worked tirelessly for the continued growth of the church in that area. From its beginning in 1952, Osumi Seko Church used the kindergarten as its sanctuary. However, for a variety of reasons, we have not been able to use the facility for the past seven years. Because an alternate location could not be found, three of the members travel 40 minutes by car to worship once a month at the church where I pastor. On the other Sundays, worship is held at the site of Wosue’s tomb. This tomb, which is a testimony to Wosue’s faith, was built by her family in a community cemetery near the kindergarten in the 1970s. Worship is held here regardless of the weather. The Bible, hymnal, and elements for the Lord’s Supper are placed on a small desk as there is no pulpit. On “Peace Sunday,” such things as a plowshare are also put on the desk to create a special atmosphere for worship. [Referring to “They shall beat their swords into plowshares” Micah 4:3, Isaiah 2:4] Sometimes a guitar or portable organ is brought in to assist in hymn singing.

Osumi Seko Church celebrates the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. Each Sunday I bake a large loaf of bread for communion. Following worship, we divide what is left of the bread into six sections that we wrap and take to the house where Wosue lived, which is currently occupied by her nephew and his family. In distributing the “church bread,” we continue to share the memory of Wosue with the family and the neighborhood. In preparation for worship, we clean Wosue’s tomb and the area around it each Sunday. Periodically a local committee responsible for the cemetery comes to clean as well. This cleanup is usually done on Sunday mornings, but the committee understands that our worship comes first. Although none of our members is on that committee, we always cooperate by bringing a mower on a small truck and helping. Although this is an unusual way to worship, I believe this is allowing us to sow Gospel seeds. (Tr. JS)

—Kishimoto Hyouichi, Pastor, Osumi Seko Church , Kyoto District

From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), July 2018 issue



京都・大住世光教会牧師 岸本兵一





 礼拝をするにあたっては、毎週ヲスヱの墓とその周辺を軽く清掃します。年に数回あるこの区画の墓地委員総出の清掃日は、基本的に日曜日の午前中です。委員を務めている教会員はいませんが、協力するために軽トラックに草刈り機を積んで行きます。委員の方々には理解があり「教会さんは礼拝が先やな」と言ってくださいます。 変わった形の礼拝ですが、そのおかげで福音の種まきはできていると信じています。(信徒の友7月号より)

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