by Kawai Nozomu, ministerial appointee Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco, CA
In 2016, I was appointed to serve Pine United Methodist Church in San Francisco as a Kyodan missionary. However my visa has yet to be issued. As of January 2017, I still remained in Japan. Given this situation, the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries decided to send me to visit Kyodan-related Japanese churches abroad to learn more about their circumstances and chose three churches in Europe. I visited the Cologne-Bonn Japanese Church in Germany; the Kobylisy Church in Prague, Czech Republic; and the Brussels Japanese Protestant Church in Belgium. In each of the churches, I had richly rewarding experiences. There are many things I would like to share, but here I will focus on two in particular.
First is the fact that people gathering together in Japanese churches abroad are yearning for relationships in the Japanese language. All of them are working and experiencing daily life in German, French, English, and other languages and generally have no serious difficulty communicating in a foreign language. However, there is still a strong desire for a church where they can hear a sermon in Japanese and enjoy fellowship in their native language. I think this is based on that deep influence and love of one’s mother tongue. A person who has been living in Germany for more than 45 years told me, “When speaking in German, there’s considerable mental and physical energy required. But when speaking in Japanese, it’s so easy.” These words are deeply embedded in my memory.
Secondly, I found that the missionary pastors serving in those churches are also experiencing loneliness. In Japan, there are neighborhood pastors to whom one can go and seek counsel and cooperation. However, when abroad, visiting a Japanese pastor might require hours by car or public transportation. Missionaries feel difficulty in talking about their worries and hardships with their congregants. As a result they keep these feelings inside and begin to experience added stress. If possible, I think the Kyodan should provide pastoral care for missionaries abroad by sending qualified personnel periodically to their areas of service.
Let me add a personal thought. When I was at the Brussels Japanese Protestant Church, I was the celebrant for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This congregation too has been waiting for a missionary to come from Japan, but also due to the delayed visa for that missionary, it had been a long time since the congregation had been able to celebrate communion. During the service, I served the cup and the bread to each member individually, and I could not help but feel the parishioners’ strong sense of joy and thanksgiving as they received the elements. Their deep desire for communion together was palatable. As a pastor, that moment filled me with exultation. I realized anew that I love this ministry to which I am called.
Even if distance separates us from each other on earth, our distance from God is always the same. All of us who share this earth together are held in the warm embrace of God. However, even believing this, Japanese Christians living abroad experience loneliness, alienation, and discrimination. Insuring that Japanese Christians abroad have more concrete means of experiencing God’s love is one of the tasks of the Kyodan. Through this trip to Europe, I thought to myself, “If there is anything I can do to accomplish this goal, I really want to do that."
*Editorial note: In mid-March, after this article was written, the missionaries being sent to Brussels (Rev. Kawakami Yasushi and Rev. Kawakami Masaki) have received their visas. However, Rev. Kawai's visa has not yet been received.
川 合 望（かわい・のぞむ）
私は、日本基督教団の宣教師として、アメリカ・サンフ ランシスコにある「パイン合同メソジス ト教会」へと、2016年中に派遣される 予定でした。しかし、なかなかビザが 発給されずに、2017年1月 の今でも日本に留まっています。そこで、この時間を利用して、
もうひとつは、それぞれの教会に仕える宣教師（牧 師）も孤独を感じているという点です。日 本であれば、近所に仲間の牧師がいて、気軽に相談したり、
個人的な 思い出をひとつ。ブリュッセル日 本語プロテスタント教会の礼拝で、聖餐式が執り行われました。
聖餐式 で、私は、一人一人に直接、パンと 杯を手渡したのですが、教会員のみなさんは、