by Taino Keiko, member
Kawakami Church, Ehime Prefecture
Kawakami Church was founded by a U.S. missionary in 1909 as a place for the Japan Methodist Church to hold lectures. At the time of its founding, there were already many Christian farmers. Pastor Matsuda Suzuo, appointed in 1947 just after World War II, got involved by providing land for the establishment of Galilee Home, which is part of Airin-en Special Nursing Home for the Elderly. This facility is a social welfare corporation, which at that time was still rare in farming towns. For a long time, he operated a kindergarten named “Olive Garden.” It closed ten years ago, but until then it had contributed greatly to community welfare and education. After his death in 1983, there were intermittent periods in which there was no pastor, and then the baton was passed to Pastor Mori Kenshiro, Pastor Imai Makio, and Pastor Hirosawa Mikio. Since 2015 the church has been experiencing its third period without a pastor. At present, Pastor Ota Tatsuo of Matsuyama Eiko Church in Ehime Prefecture is overseeing the church, which is a small congregation of 17 resident communicant members. He comes to hold worship services and attend church board meetings. Kawakami Church is also assisted by other pastors in the subdistrict.
I was baptized when I was 22 years old at Iimorino Church in Hyogo Prefecture. I transferred to Kawakami Church when I got married 54 years ago. I thought, “I want to marry someone with whom I can go to church.” That was the reason I married a Christian man. However, his family operated a dairy farm with 40 to 50 cows. It was all we could do to observe Sunday worship. It was about ten years ago when I was finally able to go to the prayer meetings. I am now 79 years old. Even during periods when there was no pastor, Kawakami Church maintained its prayer meetings, never once canceling them. Prayer meetings used to be held on Wednesday nights; then about 50 years ago it was moved to the afternoon, and now it is held from 10 to 11 a.m. There have been fewer attendees as time has passed because members have died or stopped coming for other reasons. Including myself, there have been three people who have always attended. Even so, there is never any talk of discontinuing the prayer meeting. We are continually encouraged by the words of Ueda Noriko, who is now 92 years old and still active as a Sunday school teacher. She says, “As long as there are people who can gather together, even if it is only one or two people, I want to continue the weekly prayer meeting.”
When Pastor Ota took on the role of overseer of the church, we considered moving it to the afternoon so that he could also participate. However, because there would have been someone else who could not attend, we decided to continue holding it in the morning, as a prayer meeting for the laity. For the first half of the prayer meeting, we study the Bible. We are presently studying the books of the Chronicles. The person whose turn it is to lead reads the Bible passage ahead of time, and then comes and shares his or her thoughts with everyone. Though there are many sad things happening in today's world, as we study this subject, we think about what Jesus is saying to us now, and we all discuss it together. After that, we follow a booklet issued by Shikoku District called “Inoro Shikoku no Kyokai” (“Churches of Shikoku, Let's Pray as One Body”). We pray for Kawakami Church, for the people connected to it, for the many children who gather in the facilities related to the church, and for each other.
Whenever I think, “Today there is a prayer meeting,” it is very encouraging for me. In life, there are many unpleasant things, but if you go to church and pray, God will listen to everything. Since my husband died I have been living alone, but it is reassuring to realize that God is with me so I am not really alone. Whenever all three of us look at each other and feel the same way about something, we are thankful and say, “It is so good that we were able to come to the prayer meeting today.” Our prayer meeting is also a place to confirm such blessings from God.
Although Kawakami Church is small, in 2014 we were able to construct a new building. The old church, built in 1934, was a two-story wooden structure that had badly deteriorated. It was also inadequately retrofitted to withstand earthquakes. It had reached the limit of how much repair could be done to stop the rain from leaking in. The church was on a mountainside, where transportation was definitely inconvenient. A long time ago, the road in front of the church building was also the main road that ran through the center of town, so there was a lot of traffic. However, since then a bypass and a highway have been constructed, and the circumstances are completely different.
We decided to rebuild, using our fund of 20 million yen that had been saved by the church for 40 years, adding donations from churches all over the country. We relocated to level ground. We had prayed for this for 40 years, and it became a reality. We were blessed because when the church was founded, missionaries had prepared for us a large sanctuary for worship and a parsonage. Proceeds from the sale of the large plot of land and the buildings could be used for covering the cost of repaying the debt. We are thankful for God's wondrous guidance. (Tr. KT)
—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), January 2017 issue. Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko
愛媛・川上教会 田井野圭子(Taino Keiko) たいの けいこ／川上教会員
私は、兵庫県の飯盛野教会で22歳 のときに洗礼を受け、54年 前に結婚と共に川上教会に転会しました。「
川上教会は小さな教会です。しかし2014年 に新会堂を建てました。1934年 に建てられた木造２階建ての旧会堂は劣化が激しく、