by Sasaki Ryoko, pastor Cologne-Bonn Japanese Protestant Church
I was sent as a Kyodan missionary to the Japanese Protestant Church in Cologne-Bonn and arrived here in April of this year. In 2015 the church experienced the trial of having no pastor for a year but was able to continue the observance of worship services every week, without fail, because of God’s leading and the help of many persons, such as area ministers and persons from overseas who were studying in Germany, for which the church members and I are very grateful.
The Japanese Protestant Church in Cologne-Bonn is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ on the German Rhine riverside in Cologne. The first worship service was held in a room at the University of Bonn seminary student dormitory and afterwards was moved to Cologne, where worship services and house meetings have continued for the past 38 years. Historically, it is an overseas, foreign-language church. Of course, the fact that a small Japanese group has carved out this kind of history is due to the Lord’s support, but the second factor is that the church is affiliated with the German Evangelical Church (Evangelishe Kirche in Deutschland [EKG]), the Rhineland Evangelistic Church (Evangelishe Kirche in Rhineland [ERiR]), and the Kyodan, which have been blessed through their Mission Cooperation Agreement. Furthermore, due to the fellowship’s regular combined worship services, etc., with the church here lending us a place of worship at no cost, the fact that our Japanese church on German soil is not independent has deep meaning. Experiencing the long years of unity in Christ can also be said to be a special characteristic of overseas churches.
In regards to the German religious community, which has offered us this kind of blessed situation, we have come to think that giving a witness as believers to the outstanding nature of the Japanese church, with its emphasis on “prayer, Bible reading, and offerings,” is the mission of the church built in this land. A few days ago, the pastor in charge of foreign-language churches in the Rhineland Evangelistic Church conducted a ministerial installation service, and I was very happy to hear many people say that they are learning much from the Japanese church. My work is a tiny part, but while witnessing together with the church members, we are seeking church growth.
Family members of company transferees and students studying abroad are at the core of most overseas foreign-language churches, and since transfers of church members are frequent, I have heard that church structuring is difficult. However, almost all of our church members are married to German persons or are making their home in Germany, so for an overseas foreign-language church, its situation is very stable and church structuring can be done. While we have fewer than 20 church members, with their God given gifts, they are together doing the best they can to attend worship and support the church, but from here on the existence of the church financially as well as numerically will be a serious issue.
At one time, we received financial help from the religious sector of the German state, but five years ago that was discontinued. Even in the church in the Christian country of Germany, which will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther, many people have left the church, and the church is weakening. Thus, the German church is in a very severe financial situation and unable to reach out to Japanese churches. Previously, we were protected even financially under the umbrella of the German religious sector, but now lacking this support, we have fallen into financial trouble. However, due to this very situation, the believers’ faith is being tested. It is a chance to come to one’s senses, and I think this will be a new challenge for several years to come.
At the same time, we must also realize that the time has come to return to our beginnings. Church formation is not we humans working diligently to evangelize and increase the number of persons; instead, it is the body of Jesus Christ that anticipates the leading of the planner of the foundation, Jesus Christ. For that reason also, I believe that if the faith of each church member is blessed abundantly, it follows that the Lord will work and make use of it. The Lord Jesus is going ahead and leading us through a situation considered ended, so we should not live as though we were walking a darkening path. Rather I am earnestly hoping for a walk that is taken while waiting for the sunrise. We would be blessed if you remember and pray for this small German church that will be facing future challenges. (Tr. RT)
私は日本基督教団の派遣宣教師として今年の4月からケルン・ボ ン日本語キリスト教会(Japanese Protestant Church in Cologne-Bonn)に着任いたしました。教会は昨年、