While Wesley UMC began as a “Japanese Church,” it gradually became a “Japanese-American Church,” as 2nd, 3rd and 4th-generation Japanese-Americans joined the church. With the change of demographics in the area, Wesley also became much more of an ethnically diverse church as African-Americans, Caucasians, and those of other ethnic backgrounds joined the church. There are approximately 200 members attending services in English, and approximately 30 who attend services in Japanese. As is clear from these statistics, far more members attend the English-speaking division than the Japanese-speaking division, which continues to gradually decline. There are many other Japanese-American churches that cannot afford to have a full-time Japanese pastor on staff, and some have stopped having Japanese-language services altogether. I was sent to Wesley UMC to serve as an associate pastor as well as to serve the Japanese-speaking congregation, but the issue of continuing ministry in the Japanese language in this area is one that will continue to be before us.
There are a number of Japanese companies in San Jose and the surrounding Silicon Valley, so there are quite a few Japanese families who have moved here for job-related reasons. One of the missions of the Japanese division is to serve this new expatriate community. For instance, we have a story-time group for their children, when we read books in Japanese, sing Japanese children’s songs, and play with the children. There were 15 children and 16 adults who attended the April meeting, the best attended since I have been here. The parents of these children want them to retain their Japanese language skills and cultural heritage. I have two young children of my own, and I want them to have good relationships with these children while they
Serving communion to a homeless man in a park near the church
by Yamamoto Hajime, Kyodan missionaryWesley United Methodist ChurchSan Jose, California, U.S.A.
Mothers and children enjoying story time in Japanese at the church
also retain their cultural heritage. Wesley UMC has begun discussions on the possibility of beginning a bilingual preschool.
Even though San Jose is known for high-tech companies, the homeless population has increased in recent years. In 2011, there were 4,034 homeless people in San Jose, but by 2013, this number had increased to 4,770. The gap between the rich and poor continues to increase. There has also been a 20-30 percent increase in land value, which has resulted in more people becoming homeless.
Even though technology companies are doing very well, there are still people who are working in menial jobs and cannot afford a home because land values are so high. When I visited the biggest such homeless camp in the United States, called “The Jungle,” I met families, women, youth, and even a baby in a stroller.
To minister to this homeless population, members of the church bring sandwiches and toiletry items to a nearby park. We also talk to the people there and have some fellowship time with them, chatting and singing and giving them communion occasionally; 20 people received communion at the last gathering. A few made the sign of the cross while others simply put their hands together in prayer, and no one made light of it or complained.
In my opinion, the homeless situation was created by our society, and the homeless camp and parks represent the wilderness where Jesus went after being baptized. I believe that Jesus’ love and grace is given to everyone, including these people who have been abandoned by the rest of society.
In America, this tiny Japanese-speaking division is a small minority, but God has said, “Do not be afraid, little flock.” I would like to work with the people of San Jose, and especially this homeless population, to create a better society. We continue to ask for your prayers and support.
であったホームレスの数は2年後の2013年 には4770名に増加しています。私がこの地 にある全米最大のホームレス村に足を踏み入れたときには、