by Takiyama Kiyomi, pastor, Takanosu Church, Akita Prefecture, Ou District Director, Kodomoen Shalom, Certified Nursery School and Kindergarten
My father used to declare, “I want to be working as a pastor until the day I die.” Ironically, just as he had said, he finished his earthly journey when he was 58 years old as the head pastor of Fukushima Shinmachi Church. My father was a happy-go-lucky kind of fellow who really loved children and liked to talk with people but did not like going to the doctor. He was so happy the day of my graduation from college, but that very night a stroke caused by arrhythmia took him away to heaven. It was just four days before Easter.
On that Easter Sunday my mother, the assistant pastor, gave the message instead of my father, who had almost always preached the sermons. Before that day, I had seen my mother stand at the pulpit only a few times. I do not remember the content of the message, but I will never forget the sight of my mother, illuminated by the light coming from the crystal glass of the chapel, looking straight ahead while speaking.
My parents were the kind of people who got really excited every Sunday. My mother used to get up especially early on Sunday mornings and sing hymns. I generally hid under the covers, but as her voice gradually got closer, I would jump out of bed. For me, the hymns that my mother sang were not a lullaby, but an alarm clock. My father had a habit of saying, “The job of a pastor is the best job!” He was the kind of person who, whenever he was asked about his sermon, would not stop talking.
I do not remember ever being told that I should become a pastor, but at some point I began to feel, “It is unnatural for me to live life as something other than a pastor.” I had been thinking, “Someday I will dedicate my life. Until then, I will do what I like.” But when I lost my father, I made up my mind and said, “Now is the time!” Right away, I got an application form and headed to an interview with a committee from Tohoku District in order to apply for the “C-course” examination.* The answer of the committee members was, “You are too young. But if you go to seminary, we will give you a recommendation. You need to study.” When I think about it now, all I can do is just blush. But at that time, I was ignorant of the fact that I did not know anything at all. Angrily, I headed for home.
I could not endure leaving my home in Fukushima, so I procrastinated about going to seminary and got a job at a nearby juku (cram school). Work was enjoyable, and every day was comfortable. But somewhere in my heart there was a sense of impatience. I thought, “I should not be doing this.” However, I could not break away from what I was doing. I kept saying to myself, “One more year,” until six years passed.
Then the East Japan Disaster happened. March 11, 2011 was supposed to be a normal day without anything unusual happening. It started out no different from usual. I left home, cleaned my workplace, and began to prepare for my lessons. At 2:46 p.m. as the ground shook violently, everything changed. It was announced that everyone should return home, so I went home and found my mother cleaning the church sanctuary. But our house was a mess! My mother was worried and said, “I wonder if we can hold the worship service this Sunday.” I looked at her, dumbfounded, and thought, “She really thinks of nothing else but church.” After my father had passed away suddenly, she was worried about the worship service even as she was crying. And now, even during the Great East Japan Disaster, she was more worried about the worship service than about our own home, even though we had just had a sudden earthquake. Watching my mother, I saw that she had a divine and unwavering calling to be a pastor.
Every day, in the newspaper and on television, there were reports about the people who had died. I heard the names of people who were younger than I was. I am sure that each person had been spending that day no differently from any other day. However, days that are no different from other days do not last forever. Life in this body is going to come to an end someday. That “someday” will surely come, and it will come suddenly. As I faced the reality of so many deaths and became conscious of my own mortality, I started to think about what I wanted to do before I die. At the time of death, what would I be thinking? As I considered that, the answer was very clear to me. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jer. 1:5)
Five months have now passed since I graduated from seminary and was called to Takanosu Church. As the church had been without a pastor for three years, I was appointed right away. My first Sunday in the pulpit was March 27, which strangely enough was Easter Sunday, and I recalled the sight of my mother, standing at the pulpit. This church is just a small group of seven church members, but they support me, a novice evangelist, both physically and spiritually. They are patient and polite with me, so I am getting along fine. Also Kodomoen Shalom, a church-related center for early childhood education and care, has welcomed me warmly as its director. I am really grateful. I think that I am protected like this due to much prayer behind the scenes.
“But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” (I Cor. 15:10) The Lord is with me, so I will keep trusting in the Lord. I will endeavor to do my daily work, which has been given to me today. (Tr. KT)
—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers' Friend), October 2016 issue
*Without attending a seminary or theological school. C-course candidates are required to pass all of the exams within a certain number of years after beginning the program.
瀧山喜与実 秋田・鷹巣教会伝道師、幼保連携型認定こども園 しゃろーむキリスト教主事
「神の恵みによって今日のわたしがあるのです」（Ⅰコリン ト15・10）。共 におられる主に依り頼みつつ、与えられた今日1日の務めに励みた