【April 2018 No.397】Feeling the Breath of God through Biotechnology

by Ueno Keiichiro, head of Research Planning

Kagoshima Prefectural Institute for Agricultural Development

Member, Kagoshima Kajiyacho Church, Kyushu District

 My parents met each other through the mukyokai (non-church) movement’s nationwide aino (meaning “love agriculture”) agricultural activities.  So I grew up watching my father engaged in farming, with him sometimes being in tears while at other times singing hymns. Also, my hometown of Fukuoka in Kyushu was rich in natural beauty, and I was fascinated by the beautiful world that God had made, so I chose to study science. My goal was to go to a university in Hokkaido, but the school I was able to get into was down south, in Kagoshima, where I studied agriculture for six years. During that time, I met my wife at an event that was attended by young people from several churches, and then we got married. I put down roots as an agricultural researcher of Kagoshima Prefecture, and I have been here in Kagoshima ever since.

 Because I am the eldest son in my family, even after I got married and got a job, I thought about returning to Fukuoka. However, I kept in mind the words of my parents. “What you can save by returning to your hometown is only our household, just one farming family. You must do work in Kagoshima, as that will bring joy to many farming families.”

 That is how I became engaged in my job as a researcher. For many years, I have been working on using biotechnology to produce improved varieties of chrysanthemums, sweet potatoes, and other types of produce. I think there are many people who, when they hear the word “biotechnology,” feel that it is against the laws of nature, or that it infringes on God’s domain. However, biotechnology is something that draws out the power that living things originally possess. Whenever we encounter some new knowledge or discovery, we can become more skillful in realizing the depth and splendor of God’s creation. And we can feel the breath of God.

 To give a concrete example, from autumn until spring, one can see white ring chrysanthemums at flower shops and funeral homes all over Japan. Those chrysanthemums are mostly a variety called jinme, (literally “sacred horse.”) They are pure white and beautiful, but it is necessary to remove the side sprouts one by one by hand, which is a very time-consuming task. So I began my research by producing thousands of chrysanthemums from the leaves of jinme chrysanthemums and then choosing only the best of those. Among the types I chose, two varieties had few side sprouts, making the task of removing them much easier. Then I started to have a little fun with the words. I said, “Now we have a new jinme.” I took the word “now,” which is ima in Japanese, and the jin of jinme, and put them together to make imajin (which is how the English word “imagine” is transliterated into Japanese). Then I took the word “new,” which is ara in Japanese, and the jin of jinme, and put them together to make arajin (which is how “Aladdin” is transliterated). I called the two new varieties “Imagine” and “Aladdin.” The flower of Aladdin is big, and this new type of jinme is now being produced all over the country, as if it really did come out of a magic lamp!

 Ten years ago, I relocated to Tanegashima Island. At that time, though it was the beginning of the sweet potato boom, the quality and yield size were unstable. Through repeated research, we developed a way to stabilize the yield and provide a steady flow of healthy, excellent seedlings to farming families. Now, moist Anno sweet potatoes are lined up in stores all over Japan. I am so happy that people appreciate the delicious flavor of the authentic Anno sweet potatoes produced in Tanegashima.

 This kind of achievement is greatly influenced by the presence of the members who worked together with us. It is not just about research and technology. When many people—including municipalities, agricultural cooperatives, and producers—combine their efforts, they can create something new. In the same way, my life was greatly influenced by getting to know my research companions. Thirty years ago I made some friends from all over the country when I went to Tsukuba for training to learn biotechnology, and this experience resulted in me going to America 20 years ago to study for one year. It was my first time to live overseas in an unfamiliar place, and I was so anxious. However, when I found out that it was the same city as Amherst College, where William Smith Clark had served as president, and where Uchimura Kanzo and Niijima Jo (also known as Joseph Hardy Neeshima) had studied as international students, it impacted me greatly. I felt that God was telling me this about my life: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) I realized that God’s plan, though it may start out as just a point, the point becomes a line, the line becomes a plane, the plane becomes a solid, and God’s plan transcends the dimensions and comes close to us. God said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” As for me, I left my household in Fukuoka, and now I can finally accept that these words are also about myself.

 The church I belong to, Kagoshima Kajiyacho Church, operates a kindergarten called Keiai Yochien on the same property. My wife was a teacher there, so I also got involved in the events at both the church and the kindergarten. Again this year (2017), I am on the committee in charge of the Christmas events. The candlelight service, complete with the sound of the pipe organ playing hymns, has been held on Dec. 24 in the evening, every year. This event has a 40-year history. Including visitors, more than 250 people attend this event, which is more than three times as many as attend our normal worship service. The sanctuary is overflowing with God’s blessings! Christmas is a time to wait expectantly for the Lord of reconciliation, blessing, and peace. This year’s theme is “Joyful News From Heaven.” We want to prepare to spread the joyful news to as many people as possible! (Tr. KT)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), December 2017 issue












 私が所属する鹿児島加治屋町教会は、併設する敬愛幼稚園と共に歩んでいます。敬愛幼稚園の先生をしていた妻とともに、私も教会や幼稚園の行事に関わってきました。今年も、委員として担当するクリスマスが近づいています。12月24日夜のパイプオルガンと賛美歌が響くキャンドルサービスは、40年ほどの歴史があります。一般の方も含め、当日は普段の礼拝の3倍以上、250名を超える人々が集い、礼拝堂が恵みに満ちあふれます。和解と祝福、平和の主を待ち望むクリスマス、今年のテーマ「天のかなたから、うれしい知らせ」を、ひとりでも多くの方々に伝えられるよう、準備を進めていきたいと思います。 (信徒の友2017年12月号より)

【April 2018 No.397】500th Reformation Anniversary Celebrated by Tokyo District

 On Oct. 9, 2017, the Tokyo District 500th Year Reformation Commemoration and Gospel Evangelism Convention was held in Goucher Memorial Chapel at Aoyama Gakuin University. Sponsored jointly by Tokyo District and the Tokyo Association of Laypersons, the convention was planned as an event to commemorate the Reformation, calling together not only churches in Tokyo but also the various churches in the suburbs. It was a half-day meeting, structured in three parts.

 For the first part, “Commemorative Worship,” Yamakita Nobuhisa, chair of the Kyodan Board of Publication’s Board of Directors, gave the message. He informed us that looking back at the amazement and love revealed in the meeting of Jesus with the paralyzed man and his four friends can be seen as the basis of what occurs in the midst of present-day progress and not just what occurred during the Reformation in the past.

 “The Commemorative Concert,” the second part, was performed by the Japan Bach Collegium. Suzuki Masato led the group with their four soloists, accompanied by organ, as they presented Bach compositions. With the guidance of Suzuki’s commentary between the compositions, we were able to trace the praise of the churches born during the Reformation. At the end of the concert, the performers and concert attendees united their voices in praise, singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

 In the third part, the “Sharing Time,” reports were presented by Kyodan youth participants in both the Japan/Germany and Japan/Taiwan Youth Mission programs, and an appeal was made for the Kyodan Young Adult Convention to be held in the spring of 2018.

 It was a large gathering, even for the Tokyo District, as there were 150 churches represented among the 822 participants. There were 126 participants who did not register a church affiliation, so there were probably many seekers and future believers among them. This not only will bring encouragement to pastors and believers but also appropriately relates to Gospel evangelism! (Tr. RT)

—From Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)No.4872



 1部「記念礼拝」は、出版局理事長・山北宣久(Yamakita Nobuhisa)氏が御言葉を取り次いだ。キリストと中風の人、4人の友人の出会いに示される驚きと愛に立ち返ることが、宗教改革を過去のものとせず現在進行中のこととして捉えることの根源にあると知らされた。




【April 2018 No.397】Tokyo Youth Plan First Ecumenical Program (EcuPro) in 2017

by Sugino Nozomi, member of Tokyo Kiyose Catholic Church
Representative, Ecumenical Project Executive Committee

 The youth of the Tokyo area—Catholic, Japan Evangelical Lutheran, and Kyodan—have had some connection with each other by attending each other’s events over the years. In that connection, we (the youth of the Tokyo area churches) decided to do something together on this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

 It was this initiative that became the genesis of “EcuPro” (short for Ecumenical Program, which is an inter-denominational gathering of young people). The first official EcuPro event was held at Seijo Catholic Church in Tokyo on Aug. 19, 2017 with over 120 people in attendance, and we were able to schedule a meeting for 2018.

 We realized that we probably have not known enough about each other, including our faith. As one of the founders of EcuPro, I realize that this became part of our motivation. In an era when there is violence and repression in the name of religion, we considered that perhaps it is important for our generation to understand our religion correctly and to try to understand each other. We felt it necessary, especially at this historic milestone, for the young people to come together.

 The Ecumenical Project Executive Committee was established in February 2017. We planned “joint worship” and “conversation sessions” as the two pillars of this effort. In planning a joint worship service, the most difficult thing was the matter of the sacrament of communion, which the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist. We recognize that it might have seemed reckless for us as immature young people to tackle this question of communal sacrament, which has been a challenge all around the world. But this is precisely why we came to consider this a most appropriate theme for working toward a mutual understanding of the contours of our faith.

 Our long discussion resulted in the decision not to hold the sacrament together during worship but to share bread together. However, when we sat at table together, it was indeed a precious time. We would learn about the differences between us. We could make something together, and we could experience at least in some small scale what is so hoped for in ecumenical work.

 The 2017 program consisted of a joint worship service, “sharing bread” (the huge loaf we had all baked together), and a conversation session. On the platform at the service were Kyodan pastors, Catholic priests and sisters, and Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church pastors. Together we deepened our understanding of our various denominations and shared our common challenges and hints for Christian living. (Tr. NB)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), December 2017 issue




すぎの  のぞみ/東京  カトリック清瀬教会信徒、








1       合同礼拝

2       パンの分かち合い


3       トークセッション


【April 2018 No.397】Ways to Bring Churches Together: Three Examples

The following examples of efforts to bring churches together were shared by a city church, a church in the far-reaching Hokkaido region, and a church inviting the participation of its local community. These appeared in three separate Shinto no Tomo articles that were condensed by the KNL Editorial Committee.

I. Children of Churches Deepen Friendship 

by Oshio Hikaru, pastor

Kamata Shinsei Church, Tokyo District

 For the past 50 years, Tokyo District’s Minami (southern) Subdistrict has held an annual “Sports Day” to promote friendship among members of local church schools. One extant record shows that in 1977, 442 children from 12 churches gathered for this event. As this event was held outdoors until 2000, there were times when inclement weather caused cancellations. Since 2001, however, we have been using the gymnasium of Tamagawa Seigakuin, making weather irrelevant. Of the 160 participants from nine churches who attended the Sept. 24, 2017 event, about 100 were children, ranging from toddlers to high school students. We played six games, including charades, tamaokuri (using spoons to pass a ping pong ball along a line), tamaire (throwing balls or beanbags into a basket on a high pole), and so on. Then we separated into “children’s relay” for elementary and younger children and “adults’ relay” for middle school and older participants. Each person had to run once around the gym. All did their best.

 In earlier days, we awarded points to competing churches, but the opinion surfaced that competition is not in line with deepening fellowship, and so each church divides its members into white and red teams, with the only competition now being in relay races. So this year, most events included all members with no competition between churches, and the relay race was divided into red and white teams. In this way, even if there is only one participant from a particular church, that person will not be competing alone. Through this way of holding our Sports Day, children are made aware of the vertical relationship with God and the lateral relationship with other friends under God.

From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), December 2017 issue


II. Stamp Rally*

by Han, Soohyeon, pastor

Asahikawa Toyooka Church, Hokkai District

 Hokkai District’s Dohoku (northern) Subdistrict is made up of ten churches and the Dohoku Mission Support Christian Center. Three churches are located within seven kilometers of Asahikawa City’s center. The other churches are 30 to 80 kilometers away from Asahikawa, and the northernmost, Wakkanai Church, is 160 kilometers away. In such a broad area—especially one that experiences harsh winters—it is particularly important for churches to have a sense of connection. It was suggested at our November 2015 subdistrict meeting that we “hold a Stamp Rally as a fun way of connecting churches with each other.” So we took up the challenge and passed out Stamp Rally cards from May to gather stamps from the 16 places named in the “Dohoku Subdistrict Stamp Rally.”

 On the Stamp Rally card are the ten churches, the Christian Center, the Ainu Information Center that is located inside one of the small churches, and the names of gatherings in Dohoku Subdistrict. People can get their cards stamped for participating in worship services or gatherings at the locations listed. As we wish to strengthen our ties with distant churches, participants got two blanks stamped for going to distant churches.

 We prepared rubber stamps for each church. For example, the Asahikawa Tomioka Church stamp was created from a combination of its children’s drawings of their own faces. Various prizes were given according to the number of stamp impressions acquired, and participants were recognized at the Dohoku Subdistrict Gathering in October. Goda Mitsuyuki was recognized for completing the card in four months. Goda lives next door to one of the small churches without a pastor and attends worship without fail at its once-a-month worship service, even though he has not yet received baptism. However, Goda was so excited about the stamp race that he was willing to pay for a hotel room in order to be able to attend Wakkanai Church.

 There were even some participants from outside Dohoku Subdistrict, which was very encouraging to us. In order for churches to know and support each other, we wish to hold this event in coming years as well.

*”Stamp Rally” is a term coined from English in Japan and refers to a card with blank squares, each of which can be marked by a rubber stamp naming a specific place. The resultant collection of marked squares shows that the person holding the card has been to all the places named by the stamps.

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


III. Toy Exchange for Children 

by Funabiki Mikio, member

Suzurandai Church, Hyogo District

 Suzurandai Church, which is about ten kilometers from the center of Kobe, was founded 53 years ago. We have held a bazaar each year since our founding to provide a good place for people to meet and for church members to work together and fellowship with one another. An event we started about ten years ago as part of our annual bazaar is our Toy Exchange for Children, which was designed to include neighborhood children so that they could feel comfortable in church.

 At the event, one point is stamped on the children’s cards for each toy they bring, and with their points, they can “buy” a toy that another child has brought. Because of this, the more toys a child brings, the more can be bought. Children who do not bring any toys can get points for watching a picture story, painting a picture, or playing with a taketombo (a simple helicopter-like bamboo toy that flies when spun by hand) or paper airplane, or by playing with acorn tops (little tops made from acorns that can spin). For toys that are really popular, we hold an auction in which the child who bids the most points gets the toy.

 We held our most recent bazaar on Nov. 23, 2017. People who live nearby provided the taketombo and acorn tops. Next year, we are considering not only holding the toy exchange but also creating a handicraft corner that these people can help lead as well.

 On this day only, the church sanctuary fills with people from the area. Children come every year to this event, but we have yet to have a child participate in the worship service or church school. We pray that evangelizing by sowing this seed will bear fruit. (Tr. WJ)

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

—Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko



東京・蒲田新生教会牧師 大塩光




北海道・旭川豊岡教会牧師 韓守賢







「子どものためのおもちゃ交換会」 兵庫・鈴蘭台教会員 船曳仁雄





【April 2018 No.397】From the General Secretary’s Desk:Anticipating My New Role and Its Responsibilities

by Akiyama Toru, general secretary

 From April 2018, I assumed my responsibilities as Kyodan general secretary. I am writing this manuscript in March, spending my last month in the Lord’s church where I have served for 23 years as pastor of Ageo Godo Church and Ageo Fujimi Kindergarten, tying up the work I have done until now. The need to say goodbye to the close church fellowship I have enjoyed for so long while not yet feeling fully prepared for my future work is overwhelming. I will be preaching at Ageo Godo Church until the April 1 Easter Worship Service and from April 2 will begin my work as general secretary. On that day, I will greet the staff, and on April 16, I will leave to attend the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan’s General Assembly, so now I am looking forward to whatever kind of days may be awaiting me ahead. I will be beginning a new step in serving the Lord, and I want to answer His call faithfully each day in whatever type of situation the Lord Jesus Christ is calling me.

 The position of Kyodan general secretary had been vacant for over a year, and there is a mountain of issues that must be quickly handled with the assumption of office. First of all, the reform of the Kyodan’s organizational structure, which has already been raised at Executive Council meetings, and the critical situation of membership and finances are immediate concerns, while considering the future of the Kyodan and how to make needed structural changes. As general secretary, the issues I must deal with thoroughly are the reorganization of the current Executive Council’s structure and a broad reform of the Kyodan’s structure and procedures, etc. We must wrestle with structural downsizing and proceed to reform the structure in ways that will actually assist evangelism. A revision of the Constitution and Bylaws will accompany this, so I will bear the responsibility of explaining the purpose of restructuring to gain broad consent. I think the days ahead will continue to involve the acrobatics of catching up with and jumping on a train that has already left and immediately explaining the situation to its passengers.

 Until now, I have been serving as the chair of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries as well as moderator of Kanto District. I was also involved in the aid to and restoration of the churches damaged during the Great East Japan Disaster. In this work, the damaged churches struggled to their feet in the midst of the unique, painful situations each one faced, and we stood by them in their efforts to carry out restoration and rebuilding. But at the same time, this also became an opportunity to deepen our connections with churches around the world and to realize how important those connections really are.

 In the midst of the fellowship of global ecumenical churches, my work as general secretary will include responding sensitively to the issues of the various churches while not being indifferent to their mission advances and the various pains and struggles they face, thereby widely opening a window to move toward a joint living fellowship. I want to pursue this intentionally.

 An urgent issue of our Kyodan is how to develop a kind of evangelism of hope in the midst of an aging society in churches that are even more aged, so that young people will meet the Lord Jesus Christ and discover a place and chance to live vibrantly within the church. Therefore, seeking an evangelism activated in both these directions is what is needed. I would appreciate your prayers for my new work as general secretary.

 “Oh, Holy Spirit, who can even revive a mountain of dried out bones into a large crowd of the Lord’s flock, come and blow from all directions.” (Tr. RT)







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