by Tamada Makoto, pastor Nagano Oomachi Church
Local Committee Member of The Japan Christian
Council of Evangelism Among The Blind
As the son and grandson of pastors, I had no desire to be a pastor and tried my best to run away from the call. However, I now serve as a pastor. And having observed the lives of my father and grandfather, I consider ministering to the blind my life work.
I was raised as the only son of Tamada Keiji, the founding pastor of Ashiya Sanjo Church in Hyogo Prefecture. My father’s father was also a blind pastor. Moreover, my mother's grandfather, Kumagai Tetsutaro, was also a blind pastor. Thus, I am a third-generation pastor. When I graduated from high school, and again when I graduated from university, my father encouraged me to become a pastor. However, I did not want to become a pastor and dismissed his encouragement. More than anything else, I wanted to work in film animation. As a university student, I frequently visited Toei animation studios, sharing my desire to become a producer. I asked to be employed, but I was not hired.
Due to the introduction of a friend of my father, an advertisement company gave me employment. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity there to work in animation, and my background did not prepare me for the extreme competitiveness of the advertisement industry. Furthermore, I was struggling in my personal relationships with my peers and gradually losing confidence in my ability to continue working there.
When I was 37, the company president bluntly asked me, “Do you have the confidence to continue working in this company?” Immediately I answered, “No.” In response to my answer, the company president said, “Okay. In that case, if there’s work you want to do, I’ll introduce you to a company that will fit your desire.” Again, my response was quick. “I’m going to seminary to become a pastor.” That was the moment when God took over my life.
I think one of the reasons for my decision was the persistence of the pastor of my local church and the moderator of The Japan Christian Council of Evangelism Among The Blind (abbreviated as MODEN in Japanese). Both had continued to ask me when I was going to quit my job in advertising and become a pastor.
After my decision to become a pastor, I told my parents. Surprisingly, my father expressed opposition. I suppose my father did not want me to experience the difficulties he had dealt with as a pastor. After convincing my father of my conviction, I quit my job. After 14 years in advertising, I entered Japan Bible Seminary in Tokyo and graduated in 2004. Following graduation, I became the pastor of Yamura Church in Yamanashi Prefecture.
In the beginning, I struggled. Sermon preparation, ministering to an entire congregation, and encountering the different ways of thinking of congregants with no Christian home background were challenging. However, I was encouraged by the fact that many students from a neighboring university were attending the church. Like my father and grandfather, I was also involved in ministry to the blind. Since my father had once served as moderator of MODEN, I had been in and out of the offices from the time I was a child.
After serving at Yamura Church for nine years, I accepted a call to Omachi Church in Nagano Prefecture, where I am now serving my fourth year as pastor. Our church has one blind couple, and I serve as adviser to an association of visually impaired laity in Nagano.
My work with MODEN started when I entered seminary. I realized then that I have a personal awareness of the burden the visually impaired encounter and should help shoulder it. Since coming to Nagano, I also became chair of the International Exchange Office of MODEN. In August 2016, we successfully hosted its national retreat here in Nagano.
If my father and grandfather had not been blind, I doubt that I would be involved in evangelism to the blind as I am. However, I now consider my ministry to the blind to be my life work.
In my father’s later years, he suffered with manic-depression, and in November of 2000, he took his own life. At first I thought of my father as being weak. However, in August 2014, I suffered from the same condition. I took an 18-month leave of absence from my responsibilities at Oomachi Church. A period of pain and suffering continued, and I felt like a failure as a person. I felt that there was no place for me in the ministry and seriously considered retirement. At that time the reality of the words my father had left in a note became clear to me. He wrote these words to my mother before his death: “Suicide is in opposition to the providence of God, but this disease is forcing me to do it. Please forgive me.”
According to my mother, my father’s strong sense of pride kept him from ever accepting the fact of his blindness, which had come in mid-life. However, my grandfather, who became blind as a child, wrote a tanka poem conveying the conviction that even if he could be born again, he would choose to be born blind so he could better serve other blind people. As I reflect on my father’s and grandfather’s words, I often ask myself what my words would be if I were to become blind.
Regardless, as I pastor my church, I want to continue my ministry with MODEN. I believe that this will further enrich my church ministry. (Tr. JS)
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), Nov. 2016 issue
盲人牧師 の父と祖父の歩んだ道に続いて玉田 真
そ のきっかけの1つに、私が当時通っていた教会の牧師や日本盲人キ リスト教伝道協議会（盲 伝）主 事の牧師から、「玉田君、君はいつ会社を辞めて牧師になるん だ」と言われ続けていたことがあったと思います。私は早速、