【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)

【April 2019 No.402】Preserving the Natural World God Made

by Miyana Koichiro, member, Kodaira Church,Nishi-Tokyo District Attendee, Hokkaido Nakashibetsu Church, Hokkai District Park Ranger Assistant Rausu Park Ranger’s Office Ministry of the Environment

I am a person who loves to be immersed in the atmosphere of forests and rivers and have been working for four years as a park ranger assistant, referred to in Japanese as an “active ranger,” in the Ministry of the Environment’s Rausu Park Ranger’s Office at Hokkaido Shiretoko National Park. The Park Ranger’s work is carried out by public officials who protect the natural environment in national parks and other places. The main work for me, as an assistant, is to patrol the national parks on behalf of the Park Ranger, gathering information on such matters as the condition of facilities and disseminating it. I also do work connected with rare species of wild animals, such as the Blakiston’s fish owl.


I use the term “patrol,” but most areas are not accessible by motor vehicle within the 38,000 hectare Shiretoko National Park. Movement is almost entirely by walking; and maybe it’s not even an exaggeration to say that the work is walking—walking through the mountains, valleys, rivers, seashore, rock walls, thickets of bamboo grass bush and Siberian dwarf pine in the higher elevations, as well as walking where there are no paths. I would like to share two things I think about during those days of walking around Shiretoko.


My first thoughts are of Shiretoko National Park, the entire area of which is registered as a World Natural Heritage Site. In the park there are various living things in each of the highly diversified environments that extend from mountains rising 1,500 meters above sea level and continue to 2,000 meters below the surface of the deep sea. A world overflowing with these living things stretches from only one step outside the office, so there is no day when I am unaware of their existence. Of course I am aware of people, but my daily life is one that involves an awareness of living things other than humans. As a result, I have come to think that not only do I long to hand to the next generation a natural environment in good condition, a natural environment in the world created by God, I want to use the strength given to me for that purpose. Likewise, I have also begun to think that this work can be accomplished through the church.


It is written in Genesis 1:28 that God entrusted to humankind the rule over all living things other than humans. A concrete way of ruling is not specified, but I think the stance for this is revealed in the figure of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. That is, within the system in which living things were created by God to carry out various purposes, we wholeheartedly, and with humility, provide the help they need. Proclaiming the good news to as many people as possible and living in service to one another is truly a magnificent thing. Isn’t it also required to include living things other than human beings in that affiliation?


My second area of thought is existence with a directed awareness of living things other than people. For this, it is necessary to have a calm and relaxed mind. It is difficult to live that way in person-to-person relationships, but furthermore, even thinking that way is completely thwarted without a relationship to God. After beginning my work, I was shown just how important it is to provide for a relationship of oneself to God. I began to realize that to continue this relationship, it is a rich blessing to have a set time for worship at the beginning of the week.


While I am walking around Shiretoko, time passes in an instant. Overwhelmed with business, exchanging ideas with various kinds of people, and sometimes in the midst of encountering a brown bear, physical and spiritual exhaustion accumulates. Then I realize how my awareness of working for the Lord has waned, how I have turned my back on the Lord during a mere week, in this very short period of time. In the midst of this realization, by welcoming worship on the Lord’s Day and in this hour having time to consider and review my relationship with the Lord, I am able to renew my commitment to work for the Lord from the bottom of my heart. A week begun in this way definitely overflows with good wisdom and, with a calm and relaxed mind, I can direct my attention to other persons and to living things as well.


Looking to the Lord, having been given a calm and relaxed mind, I have consideration for people and the existence of things other than people, and can live in mutual support. I think this is the way I want to live the life I have been given. (Tr. RT)


「20代の証し 仕事とわたし 神さまが創られた自然を支えるために」

宮奈光一郎(みやな  こういちろう)


東京・小平教会員 北海道・中標津教会出席








 主に目を向け、余裕を与えられて人と人以外の存在に配慮し、支え合って生きる。与えられた人生をそのように生きたいと思います。    (信徒の友2019年1月)

【April 2019 No.402】Seikyo Gakuen: A School Born through Prayer

The beginning of Seikyo Gakuen was unique. It started in the confusing and uncertain times after World War II. The Sunday school students of Kawachinagano Church in southern Osaka began to pray enthusiastically that they would always be able to learn according to the Bible at school. If you look around the world, you will see that it is still quite rare to find a school that was created by students and their own voluntary prayers.


In 1948, the Sunday school students started their fundraising activities by picking up sukudo (dried leaves used for kindling) and selling it in the streets to raise money to create their school. In 1950, the members of Kawachinagano Church, inspired by the enthusiasm of the students, joined the students’ efforts to establish a school based on Christianity. Two people, Ueda Shinichi and Nakayama Noboru, felt a special calling from God and decided to devote their own lives to the establishment of Seikyo Gakuen.


Ueda Shinichi (1896-1989) was the last member of the church to have been baptized by Rev. Alexander Durham Hail, the missionary who founded Kawachinagano Church.* To bring about the establishment of Seikyo Gakuen, God called upon Ueda, who had lived his life as a principal in the public school system. He full-heartedly joined the establishment efforts, donated the majority of his public school retirement bonus to the campaign, and drafted a statement in January 1950 to concretize the vision of Seikyo Gakuen. According to this statement, a clear goal was set in everyone’s mind: “We will create a genuine school that can cultivate true Christian spirit, that is to say, a school that can enhance true intelligence through loving God, loving people, and pursuing the truth.” After that, many people continued to dedicate themselves to this purpose, and in April 1951, only a year and three months after the draft of intent, through the miraculous intervention of God, Seikyo Gakuen Junior High School was founded. Ueda became its first principal.


Despite being a small school with only 49 students, it was a joyful place where the presence of God was embraced. As its location was in the countryside of southern Osaka, it was unable to gain enough students for smooth management, even though the Japanese economy was growing rapidly. Because of this, Ueda endured many difficulties as he continued to try to keep the school open. However, he continued to serve faithfully, in accordance with the words of the Lord, by setting an example and taking on many jobs, such as working at the school building’s construction site. In 1968, God once again miraculously gave the members dedicated to this cause the opportunity to establish a senior high school.


By the 1980s, Seikyo Gakuen had grown into a school with more than 1,000 students. Ueda thanked God for His divine work. In 1989, the Lord took him home at the age of 93. Until the end of his life, he continued to be an active principal. He loved to spend time with students and continued to speak with enthusiasm. His educational attitude made students sense the importance of passion. “Our students are our billboard” is a phrase that everyone in the southern part of Osaka knows.  It is our tradition at Seikyo Gakuen. This is the legacy brought about by Ueda’s faith.


Another founder, Nakayama Noboru (1925- ), was Sunday school teacher of the students who campaigned for the establishment of Seikyo Gakuen. He strongly believed, due to his experience of the devastation caused by World War II, that it was necessary to nurture human beings to be truly humane; he also believed that the enthusiasm of the Sunday school students showed him his God-given path.   Nakayama did not need time to reach this decision. In January 1950, his parents, who knew their son’s will, decided to dedicate their house to the church, although it was supposed to be passed on to their son. The donation was a big step forward for the establishment movement of Seikyo Gakuen.


As vice-principal, Nakayama dedicated himself to enhancing Seikyo Gakuen’s educational content for nearly 40 years under the leadership of Principal Ueda. Nakayama’s lessons and chapel sermons embodied the true mission of the school and were filled with thoughtful approaches. He pondered deeply and discussed with students the way to live a life that expressed the glory of God. In particular, the third graders in junior high school would spend more than a month interpreting and discussing Uchimura Kanzo’s The Greatest Legacy in their Japanese literature class. This gave students the opportunity to know about the importance of living with faith. In addition, the lessons helped foster the students’ ability to think independently and properly about things, and to make use of the gifts given to them.


Many of the students who grew up receiving an education from Nakayama had these words from the Bible deeply engraved upon their hearts: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (I Peter 4.10). These students participated actively and served in society following graduation. After Ueda had passed on, Nakayama led Seikyo Gakuen as president and principal. He continued to work towards the improvement and enhancement of the school. Humbly asking for God’s will and with great effort, Nakayama worked towards creating an educational curriculum that would enable all students to make full use of their own talents.


In the first decade of the new century, when the results of his school administration were fruitful, Seikyo Gakuen grew to approximately 2,000 students and became one of the most trusted schools in the southern Osaka area. Even now, Nakayama often says, “God was pleased with His creations. In His likeness, we will find joy when we are able to make something new. We have endured a lot of hardships since our founding, but we prayed continually and devoted ourselves to making our school with everyone, and eventually we all got supreme joy from God.”


Seikyo Gakuen, for which everyone kept praying and working together, still continues through the grace of the Lord. This is the real testament to Nakayama’s faith.


                           —Ueno Kimitoshi, secretary-general

                            Seikyo Gakuen


*Rev. Alexander Durham Hail: a missionary of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, located in the United States


清教学園の創立 ~祈りから生まれた学校~






【April 2019 No.402】A Meeting with One Heart for Cooperation (PCUSA Asia Pacific Partner Consultation)

by Saito Naomi, missionary (education) Reformed Church of America, Kyodan representative

In the warmth of the early sun, I arrived at Chiang Mai International Airport in Thailand on Sunday, Jan. 27th, and quickly spotted the sign that read “PCUSA.” Soon after, I met a fellow participant in the consultation, and immediately I found the joy of fellowship with a brother in Christ. Though I was very nervous about the work I would have to do in the coming days, especially since I was still quite inexperienced, this fellowship at the very beginning of the journey reassured me that with God’s strength and vision it was going to be an extraordinary conference. It wasn’t long before I knew this ethos was shared by all those involved in the 2019 PCUSA Asia Pacific Partner Consultation.


The welcome dinner began at 7 p.m. that same day. Most participants had arrived at that point, and since the resort at which we stayed was very large, we rode on a tram to the venue. As we gathered, we sat in groups of eight and promptly began conversations with anyone near us. It was a blessing to be able to meet so many partners from various countries (South Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan), and as we prayed that first night, the spirit of cooperation was palpable. Eating and conversing throughout the evening, we prepared for the hard work to come the next morning.


The first meeting started early and promptly at 9 a.m., and we sat in groups of eight once more, though the seating was assigned. Around me sat representatives from Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, and South Korea. Before getting down to business, we started with a morning worship service, where we brought forth gifts representing each of our cultures or churches. Praying and singing together before the day’s work was a potent reminder of why we were all there, to share with each other not only our voices but our hearts and minds.


After a quick recap of the Presbyterian World Mission Strategy Process, we jumped right in with a tough question: “How effective has PCUSA been as a partner sharing together in God’s mission?” Many of the participants in my work group spoke of the amazing work the PCUSA had done in their respective countries, from works of reconciliation to the creation of educational and medical institutions. It was the opinion that there could always be more ways in which to be partners in our countries, but the overall consensus was that we welcomed more involvement of the organization.


Then we had stirring presentations from two representatives, Fiji and South Korea, showing their interpretations of the signs of the times. With these visions of the work needed in God’s world, we continued on to the next question, “Where is God calling us to put our energy today?” Many spoke of further works of reconciliation between countries as well as working to communicate better between associated organizations. There were also voices for more effort in the stewardship of our planet and support for minority groups in all the countries represented. Soon after, we came to our last question of the day, “What does it mean to be partners in God’s mission today?” In defining partnership, themes of equality and communication were central to the discussion. After discussing and presenting our opinions to the rest of the consultation participants, we ended the day with prayer in time for dinner. After a long day, many needed as much rest as they could get for the next day, but the evening meal was a joyous event with further fellowship and laughter.


The second day of the conference was just as busy as the first. After our morning worship, gift exchange, and Bible study, we did a quick recap of all that we had discussed the day before. Once our memories were refreshed, we dived right into the practicalities of the work ahead with the questions “What might this look like in practice?” and “What resources are needed and what can we contribute?” Many suggestions revolved around mutual responsibility for communicating needs and evaluating mission work in progress. Of course, there was always the need for financial support, but along with that, there was also a call for physical human resources and technical support for changing cultures and times. In the end, each group was tasked with creating a take-home message for the PCUSA World Mission. My group’s take-home message was very clear: “Sustainable Partnership for Reconciliation.” Sustainable because we require partnerships that will not fizzle out over time; partnership because all parties involved require an equal stake in the outcomes of the mission, all for the reconciliation within ourselves, our churches, our communities, between countries, and all of creation. With a closing prayer and worship, we concluded our discussions and enjoyed a final meal together.


That same night and through the rest of the next day, we all departed for our respective countries. Though there was sadness in our departure, we all left with the willingness and commitment to continue working together, no matter how distant we may be from one another. The time that we were able to spend together was truly a blessing, not only for considering the Presbyterian mission but also for the international fellowship that makes it so easy to bring glory to God. With one heart, we came together, and with one heart we departed. Thanks be to God, and may each mission be blessed through the hands that work there.




                          斎藤 直実(RCA宣教師(教育))

 1月27日(日曜日)朝日に照らされたチェンマイ国際空港に降り立った私の目に「PCUSA」の文字が飛び込んできた。すぐに参加者の一人と出会い、主に在る兄弟との親睦を楽しんだ。これから数日間に渡る未経験の責務に緊張している中、到着早々交わりの時を持てたことに、神の御力を感じ、並外れた会議だという予感がするが、後にこれは2019 PCUSAアジア太平洋連携協議会に関わるすべての人に共通する思いであったと分かってきた。




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