This year I have participated as an official observer in several general assemblies, including of course, the Kyodan General Assembly as well as several district assemblies where I gave greetings and participated in the discussion. Most memorable for me personally, however, was participating in two such assemblies in sister churches in Korea, where I went for the first time in my life. Those were the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), Sep. 22-25, and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), Sep. 23-26. Even though I have many friends in Korea and have had opportunities when I could have gone for visits, I had not been able until now to actualize them. Part of the reason for that was simply my inability to travel to the places where Japan had done such terrible things as though nothing like that had transpired.
Come to think of it, however, when I mentioned this in my prayer at the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan in April, as well as when representatives from churches in the Philippines and Southeast Asia paid visits to the General Secretary’s Office, they seemed quite surprised by my references to this issue, as it was to them ancient history from the generation of their grandparents. So I mention it as something that is an integral part of my remembrance as one who lived through that generation.
With respect to the two denominations that I visited in Korea, there were numerous roles that I played. One was to give greetings to the Saemoonan Presbyterian Church, which had so quickly responded with aid after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and also to preach a sermon at the Japanese-language service they have there. Dr. Nag Woon-hae of the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary of the PCK had set things up for me. At the regular service, I was introduced and welcomed so kindly by the head pastor, Rev. Dr. Lee Soo-Young. Then at the much smaller Japanese-language service that afternoon, the church elders came and listened via simultaneous translation into the Korean language.
The other thing I did there was to accompany General Secretary Kim Byung-Ho of the Korean Christian Church in Japan to a presentation ceremony at the Yonsei University Medical Division’s Severance Hospital to receive the generous offering they had collected for the relief of foreign women victims of the East Japan Disaster. We really had a deep and warm time of fellowship there, and in my greetings to them, in addition to expressing our gratitude for their generosity, I described the situation of the many foreign women in the Fukushima area who are not fluent in Japanese and whose families have become separated.
The general assemblies of both these Korean churches involved gatherings of more than 2,000 delegates each, with the PCK Assembly taking place in Seoul at Somang Church. A main topic of discussion there was the issue of pensions for pastors. The PROK Assembly took place at the Bien Xanh Resort along the coast, where more than 300 lives were lost in the Sewol Ferry disaster, and the issue of retroactive laws concerning that was one topic of discussion. However, what is important to note about these two assemblies is the atmosphere that was established in the opening and closing worship services, which were well beyond my expectations.
The way the general assemblies were conducted was in both cases superb, and I sensed how both were in continuous prayer for the reunification of their country. As guest observers, we able to fit several presentations into breaks in the proceedings, including one at the PCK Assembly on “Healing and Reconciliation,” along with commemorating the 30th anniversary of their joint mission agreement with the KCCJ and touching on such issues as hate speech in Japan and the “comfort women” issue. We were also able to visit the work the PCK is doing with immigrant evangelism among many ethnic groups.
While at the PROK Assembly, we visited a ministry site where the evangelism of foreigners, mostly Chinese, is taking place, and we also went to the memorial site that has been set up by the government for the victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster to share in the grief of the Korean people over their great loss. Of the more than 300 victims, about one-third of them were Christian high school students. Thus, even though our two countries have difficult political relations at the present time, as fellow Christians, we were able to complete our mission in daily gratitude for being so warmly received. (Tr. TB)
—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary