日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【April 2019 No.402】From the General Secretary's Desk: My Reunion with Missionaries in Michigan


At the beginning of February this year, I informally visited Etta Hesselink, wife of the late Dr. I. John Hesselink, with my wife Hoshiko. Dr. Hesselink passed away on Oct. 28, 2018 at the age of 91. He worked in Japan for 20 years and, after teaching at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary (TUTS), held several prominent positions, including the presidency of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) in Holland, Michigan. He left a large footprint as a scholar of the Protestant reformer John Calvin, and his books Calvin’s Concept of the Law and Theologian of the Holy Spirit introduced pastors, laypersons, and researchers not only in the U.S. and Japan but also throughout the world to new aspects of Calvin. I studied under Hesselink at WTS in 1993-94 and have also continued to have a long and close association with his wife Etta.


A memorial service was held for him in Holland, Michigan on Nov.16, 2018. TUTS President Osumi Yuichi attended; however I was unable to be in attendance. Japanese who studied at WTS and all who had close associations with the Hesselinks at TUTS feel deep gratitude to both of them. Likewise, many other people feel a special closeness to them, so I also wanted to convey those feelings on this visit. When we left Tokyo, the mid-western states had been experiencing record cold and heavy snowfall since the week before, yet somehow the plane managed to land in Grand Rapids via Minneapolis on time. The temperature was between minus 20 to 30 F., as an Arctic air mass had descended, leading to the coldest temperatures in 100 years. As far as the eye could see there was a total winter landscape, a white and gray world covered in snow. We were met at the airport in Grand Rapids and driven to Holland, and despite driving in the middle of a whiteout caused by the blowing snow of a blizzard, we finally managed to make it to Holland.


While there, Mrs. Hesselink told us about her husband’s final days and her present condition and about the disposition of his extensive personal library, among other things. In addition, we were able to attend a chapel service at WTS, have a look at the new library, and see President Timothy L. Brown again for the first time in a long while. On Sunday, we attended services and received Communion at Holland’s Third Reformed Church and were asked to say a few words of greeting. We were grateful for the chance to get together, to fellowship with missionaries who had worked in Japan, and to talk with all of them and hear about their experiences in Japan.

Holland, Michigan is a special place in that a large number of missionaries sent to Japan by the Reformed Church in America (RCA) are spending their golden years there after retiring and returning to the United States. In addition to Etta Hesselink, those who attended the gathering included Eleanore Norden, who worked at Ferris Jogakuin; George and Joyce Magee, who worked in Hokkaido; William Max and Sarah Unzicker, who also worked in Hokkaido; John Edward and Helene Gaye Zwyaihuizen, who worked six years in Tsuyazaki, Fukuoka; Phyllis Glenn Bruggers, who among other positions served as Kyodan Executive Secretary; as well as Gordon Laman, who taught at TUTS, and his wife Natalie. (Note: his first wife Evon, who served with him in Japan, died in 2011).


With the addition of Rev. J.P. Sundararajan, who became director of the RCA Global Mission last October, it was a grand gathering. These are the people who enthusiastically supported the Japanese-language worship service at WTS that we started with our friends while studying there, which continues today. All of them served in Japan for 30 to 40 years, beginning after World War II at a time when Japan was still a poor country, up through the period of rapid economic growth in the 1950s  and the beginning of the conflicts within the Kyodan. Each one reported to J.P. Sundararajan on the work they had done in Japan, and we also talked about current issues in mission to Japan.


At the end, everyone prayed passionately for evangelism in Japan. While in this prayer circle, I was able to visualize clearly how much resolve and preparation it must have taken these missionaries before they were sent to Japan and how intense the struggle must have been to engage in mission in Japan. Overcoming struggles with the Japanese language, with a different culture and customs, and with the many obstacles to preaching the Gospel, they experienced the joy of mission and fellowship and loved Japan and the Japanese people. In order to tell of the love of Christ, they literally gave their lives and their families in dedication to that path. I was deeply touched, remembering the goodness of God and our Lord Jesus Christ in giving each of these lives a time like this, in pouring out His love, in summoning these individuals and giving them the mission to spread love. I sincerely recognize that the existence of our Kyodan today rests on this kind of work and prayer.

(Tr. DB)

                              —Akiyama Toru, general secretary


 2月の初めに故Dr. I. John Hesselink先生の遺されたEtta 夫人を、妻、星子と共に、非公式にご訪問しました。ヘッセリンク先生は、昨年10月28日に91歳をもって天に召されたのです。先生は20年間日本で働かれ、東京神学大学で教えた後ウエスタン神学大学の学長などを歴任され、宗教改革者ジャン・カルヴァンの研究者として日本やアメリカだけでなく世界の教会の多くの牧師や信徒、研究者に「カルヴァンの律法理解」や「聖霊の神学者カルヴァン」の新しい側面を伝えて大きな足跡を残した方でした。わたしは1993~94年にウエスタン神学校でヘッセリンク先生のもとで学びをし、エッタ夫人とも長い親しい交わりが続いています。2018年11月16日にミシガン州のホランドでMemorial Serviceが行われましたが、そのときは東京神学大学の大住雄一学長が参加しましたが、わたしは参加できませんでした。日本からウエスタン神学校で学んだ者、神学大学でヘッセリンク先生と親しく交わった者はすべてご夫妻に大変のお世話になっており、また特別な親しみを感じている人も多いので、この度の訪問でみんなの気持ちもお伝えしたかったのです。東京を発つときに、米国中西部は前週から記録的な寒さと大雪でしたが、なんとか予定通りに飛行機は飛び、ミネアポリスを経てグランド・ラピッズに着きました。気温はマイナス20~30度(F)、北極圏が下りてきたとかで100年ぶりの寒さだとか。見渡す限り全くの冬景色、雪に覆われ白と灰色の世界。吹雪の中を巻き上げる雪のせいでホワイト・アウトになる中を、迎えに来てくださった方の車でグランド・ラピッズからホランドまでやっとたどり着くことができました。

 ホランド滞在中、ヘッセリンク先生の最後の状況についてうかがったり、エッタさんの最近の状況や、残されたお宅にある膨大な蔵書の整理のことなど語り合う時間を持ちました。ウエスタンセミナリーで学生の礼拝にも参加し、新しくなった図書館をみたり、ティム・ブラウン学長と久しぶりに再会を果たしました。日曜日にはホランドのThird Reformed Church の主日礼拝に参加し、聖餐にあずかり、挨拶もさせていただきました。


 それにRCAの海外宣教幹事と して昨年10月から働くようになったRev. JP Sundararajanも加わって盛大な会になりました。これらの方々はわたしたちがウエスタン神学校滞在中に仲間と共に始め、今も続いている日本語礼拝でも熱い思いで支えてくださった方々です。それぞれ戦後1950年代前後から30年~40年間、日本がまだ貧しい時代から高度経済成長を迎える時期、また、教団紛争の初めのころの日本で奉仕してくださった方々です。一人一人が日本でどのような働きをしたかをスンダララジャン幹事に伝えるかたちで報告、日本の宣教の現代の課題についても話しました。終わりに一人一人が日本の伝道のために熱い思いで祈ってくださいました。その祈りの輪に加わりながら、それぞれの方が日本に遣わされるまでにどれほどの決断と準備の時があったか、日本での宣教の闘いがどれほど厳しいことであったか、その情景をありありを思い浮かべることができました。日本語との闘い、文化や習慣の違いとの闘い、福音が伝わらない厚い壁との闘い、これらを超えて宣教の喜びと交わりがあり、日本を愛し、日本人を愛し、キリストの愛を伝えるために、まさに生涯を家族をあげて献身した歩みがあったのです。それぞれの人生にこのような時を与え、また、その愛を注いで、愛を伝える使命を与えて呼び出してくださった主なる神と主イエス・キリストの計らいを覚えて胸がいっぱいになりました。わたしたちの教団の今日があるのはこのような働きと祈りに支えられてあることを思い起こさせられました。

秋山 徹

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