日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【February 2016 No.386】Japanese-language Ministry—Its Importance in the U.S.


by Yoshioka Yasutaka, Kyodan missionary

Sycamore Congregational Church

Sycamore Congregational Church was founded in 1904 in El Cerrito, California by Pastor Okubo Shinjiro and several Japanese students who were studying in the U.S. It was originally a church “by Japanese and for Japanese” and had only a Japanese-language worship service. However, as the number of nisei (second-generation Japanese) and sansei (third-generation Japanese) increased, an English-language worship service was added, as English was the first language of these people. Now, the pastor of the English-language section is a full-time position, with the Japanese-language pastor being only part-time. The English-language section also plays a more central role in the church, bearing the responsibility of managing the church.


In the local community there are several other churches for people of Japanese descent. However, the Japanese-language section of many of these churches has been discontinued because although there is a need for Japanese-language ministry, the churches cannot afford to hire a pastor for the Japanese-language section. Even Sycamore Congregational Church can hire only a part-time pastor for the Japanese-language section. In spite of the difficult financial reality, I believe that because this church has been given the opportunity for Japanese-language evangelism, the scope of its mission should be broadened.


Actually, my work is not limited to Sycamore Church. There are people who, though they belong to the kind of Japanese church I mentioned earlier, still seek opportunities to use the Japanese language. They gather together once a month and have a time of Bible study in Japanese. I am invited there to explain the Bible, and the participants look very happy as they spend time studying. It is the one and only time during the month that they can join in prayer, sing hymns, and enjoy the word of the Lord in their native language. How important it is for people to turn to God using a language that is familiar to them! Again, I am thankful for fellowship outside of church, and I also realize the significance of doing mission work in the Japanese language while in the U.S.


At present, the Japanese section of Sycamore Congregational Church has about 20 people who participate in the worship service every week. Of that number, one third are members of the church, one third are non-Christians, and one third are children. Because a university is located nearby, there are many people who have come from Japan for research for a short term of one or two years. Some of them have never been to a church in Japan but see the sign written in Japanese on the front of our church while they are in the U.S. Others come because they are just looking for a community of Japanese people. However, these people go back to Japan again in one or two years, which causes us to feel lonely. Although for a short time the church becomes very active, when many people return to their home country, we even experience some anxiety. However, amazingly, it seems that whenever someone returns to his or her home country, a new person shows up at our church.


One member described our church with these words: “Our church is one that invites many, sows seeds of the gospel in many, and sends out many.” I think that is really true. There are people who never encountered Christ in Japan but are wondrously led by God to encounter this church, come to know Christ, and then return to Japan. Some people receive baptism here and then transfer their membership to a church in Japan. Others return to Japan and later report to us that they have been baptized. When such things happen, I really feel that Sycamore Congregational Church has been given a special mission.


It has been just half a year since I was appointed to this position. I still have a lot to learn about the culture and history of both the U.S. and the Japanese Americans. However, one thing is clear to me. Japanese-language mission is still necessary in this land. I used to think that a missionary is someone who learns the language of the location where he or she is sent and then does mission work. However, mission is more than just that. When one is in a foreign culture, there are things that become attractive because those things are in the language of the land where one was born and raised but not in the language of the place where one is now. There are people who are drawn to such things. I think exposure to the gospel is like that. Why do people who have never encountered the gospel in Japan, encounter the gospel when they come here? One reason is that while they are in a foreign culture, they hear the language of the land where they were born and encounter the gospel as they are experiencing excitement and nostalgia.

Please remember us in your prayers and pray that the Lord will bless and guide Sycamore Congregational Church and use us so that our work will be even more fruitful. We also will remember the churches of the world in our prayers.

(Tr. KT)


シカモア組合教会日語部牧師 吉岡恵生

  米国カリフォルニア州エルセリート市にあるシカモア組合教会は、1904年に大久保真次郎牧師と数名の日本人留 学生によって創立されました。かつては日本人による日本人のための教会として日本語礼拝のみを行っていましたが、英語を第一言語とする2世3世が増えてくると、英語礼拝も行うようになりました。今では英語部牧師はフルタイム、日語部牧師はパートタイムで招聘を受けており、規模的にも英語部が中心となって教会運営を担っています。

 この地域には他にもいくつかの日系教会がありますが、多くの教会が日語部牧師を経済 的に招聘できず、既に日語部を閉鎖しています。日本語のニーズはあっても、経済的に日本語の牧師を招聘できないのです。シカモア教会 も日語部牧師はパートタイムでしか招聘ができず、この厳しい流れを感じますが、それでもなお日本語伝道の機会が与えられている教会として、より幅広く宣教をなしていかなければならないと考えています。

 実際、私の働きはシカモア教会だけにとどまりません。先に述べたような日系教会に属 しながらも日本語を求める方々は、月に一度共に集まり日本語での聖書研究の時を持って いるのです。私はそこへ招かれて聖書の説き明かしをするのですが、彼らはとても嬉しそうにその時を過ごしています。彼らとっては月に 一度だけ、親しみ深い母語で祈りを合わせ、讃美歌を歌い、御言葉を味わえるのです。慣れ親しんだ言葉で神と向き合うことがどれほど重要なことなのか。改めて、教会を超えた交わりを感謝すると共に、アメリカの地で日本語での宣教をなしていくことの意義を知りました。

 シカモア教会日語部は、現在20名ほどで毎週の礼拝を守っています。その内3分の1が教会員、3分の1がノンクリスチャン、そして3分の1は子どもたちという構成です。近くに大学がある関係で、1~2年の短期間で日本から研究に来られる方が多くいます。この方々の中には、日本では教会に行ったことがない にもかかわらず、アメリカに来て教会前に掲げてある日本語の看板を見たり、何かしら日本人コミュニティを求めて教会に来てくださる方 もいます。けれども、そうした方々は、また1~2年で日本に帰ってしまうのです。それは、とても寂しいことです。一時教会が盛り上がっても、帰国する方が 多くいると不安を覚えたりもします。しかし不思議なことに、誰かが帰国すると、また新たな方が教会に来てくださるのです。

 ある教会員は、この教会を次のようにたとえました。「私たちの教会は、たくさんの方 を招き、たくさんの方に福音の種を蒔き、たくさんの方を送り出す教会だ」と。本当にその通りだと思います。日本ではキリストに出会う ことがなかった方々が、不思議な導きでこの教会と出会い、キリストに出会って、また日本に帰って行くのです。こちらで洗礼を受け、日 本の教会に転会される方もいれば、日本に帰国してから洗礼を受けたと報告をして下さる方もいます。私は、この教会のあり方に、シカモ ア教会に与えられた特別な使命を感じています。

 私はまだ着任から半年を迎えたばかりです。まだまだアメリカや日系アメリカ人の文 化、そして歴史を学ばなければなりません。しかし、今唯一明確であることは、この地にはまだ日本語による宣教が必要であるということ です。宣教師というのは本来、遣わされた現地の言葉を習得し、そこで宣教をなしていく存在であると考えていました。しかし、それだけ ではなかったのです。現地の言葉ではなく、生まれ育った故郷の言葉だからこそ、異文化の中で輝く何かと出会う人がいる。福音もそうだ と思うのです。日本では福音に出会うことのなかった人が、こちらに来て福音に出会うのはなぜか。その理由の一つは異文化の中で生まれ 故郷の言葉を聞き、その懐かしさと感動の中で福音に出会うからなのです。主がシカモア組合教会の歩みを祝し、私たちの働きを更に豊か に用いて下さるように、どうぞ祈りにお覚え下さい。私たちも、世界中の教会を覚えて祈っています。

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