by Kato Makoto, executive secretary
In March 2017, Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS) personnel, namely, Rev. Dr. Kerstin Neumann (Head and Deputy General Secretary of the Department of Mission and Partnership), Rev. Solomon P. Benjamin (Liaison Secretary for East Asia and India), and Dr. Carola Hoffmann-Richter (EMS member) visited Japan. The purpose of their recent visit was to attend the anniversary meeting that was to be held in remembrance of the East Japan Disaster—to attend it on the date that the disaster occurred (March 11) and at the actual place it happened—and further, to meet leaders of the various Japanese churches and institutions affiliated with EMS and deepen their friendly relationship with them.
From March 10 to 13, I accompanied them as we followed an itinerary that took us to Sendai, Ishinomaki, Fukushima, and Asian Rural Institute (ARI). Since Secretary Neumann and Secretary Benjamin joined in the work of EMS last year, this was their first visit to Japan. As a former EMS mission co-worker, member Hoffmann-Richter had previously spent eight years in Japan, working primarily in the Kansai area. This time she came to Japan to provide translation and serve as a guide. At 2 p.m. on March 10, we met at the Kyodan Tohoku Disaster Relief Center, Emmaus in Sendai to hear presentations by Tohoku District (which has shouldered the burdens of Emmaus), the Aizu Radiation Information Center, and the Kyodan Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster Relief Task Force, Izumi concerning their work. Following these presentations, the ensuing discussion period was marked by a lively exchange of opinions.
On the morning of March 11, we moved to Ishinomaki to observe directly what is currently being done in the disaster area. At Ishinomaki Yamashiro-cho Church, from 2:30 in the afternoon, we participated in the East Japan Disaster Six-year Memorial Worship Service, which was sponsored by Tohoku District. Rev. Sato Masashi, who had been sent by the Kyodan to serve as a director of Emmaus, delivered the sermon.
On Sunday, March 12, we moved to Fukushima Church, where we participated in another worship service commemorating the sixth anniversary of the East Japan Disaster. Rev. Hoshina Takashi, pastor of Fukushima Church, gave a sermon entitled, “Especially in Weakness.” He is also vice-moderator of Tohoku District and head of the Izumi Room of the Kyodan Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster Relief Task Force (which deals with radioactivity issues).
Late afternoon on the same day, we visited ARI in neighboring Tochigi Prefecture and shared in the dinnertime fellowship. We stayed in the guest room; however, the construction of the building was different from that found in Germany, and the coldness of the night in Nishinasuno caused some difficulty. The next morning, we participated in the morning program. After experiencing various farm chores, we had breakfast and shared in the morning worship service led by missionary Jonathan McCurley, who comes to us from the United Methodist Church. There are no students there at this time of year, so this gave us an opportunity to hear from the staff concerning ARI’s programs.
On March 13 we met with Kyodan Moderator Rev. Ishibashi Hideo and a number of other pastors and executive secretaries at the Japan Christian Center. After that we visited the Korean Christian Church in Japan, the National Christian Council in Japan (which is in the same building as the administrative offices of the Kyodan), and in the afternoon, the Tomisaka Christian Center.
Later EMS personnel visited the Kansai region; (I did not accompany them for this portion of their schedule in western Japan). On March 18 they completed their scheduled activities and returned to Germany. (Tr. DM)
Kato Makoto, executive secretary加藤 誠