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

【June 2019 No.403】2019 Missionary Conference Highlights Current Concerns


The 2019 Missionary Conference was held at Seisen-ryo in Yamanashi Prefecture March 25-28 and was attended by 25 missionaries serving in Kyodan churches or associated schools, 9 of their family members, and 8 Kyodan staff members.


The Missionary Conference is an annual event offering a chance for Kyodan missionaries to gather, establish mutual support, and experience physical and spiritual refreshment. This year missionaries, their family members, and Kyodan staff enjoyed wonderful fellowship and fruitful discussion in the beautiful environment of Seisen-ryo. During the discussion session, each participant joined a group focused on one of the following six topics.


1. Preaching to Young Adults at Schools

Missionaries serving at schools shared their experiences of preaching to students. Visual clues, such as PowerPoint slides, were suggested to enhance the understanding of students when the message is preached in English.


2. Bringing Young People to Church

The participants are aware that the younger generations are absent from most of the Kyodan churches. It was suggested that churches should collaborate together to organize public events like music festivals, game competitions, or intercultural parties to attract young people to church. Including contemporary music in worship services was also considered as an effective means of encouraging young people to participate in worship.


3. Serving as a Missionary at a Church

Missionaries serving at churches usually face a dilemma: whether to introduce new ideas to the congregation or to respect the tradition, culture, and authority of the church. Missionaries should be aware and learn from churches’ histories and should be in agreement with and committed to the mission of the local congregation. However, at the same time, missionaries want to share their ideas and gifts with the congregation. Participants hope to convey the message that missionaries are not trying to take over the church but instead want to enrich the community by sharing their gifts.


4. Best Topics to Talk about at Church

Participants stated that the Christian community should be vocal on social and ethical issues like abortion and the practice of homosexuality. In order to make a concrete stand, discussions among churches and communities are necessary.

5. Evangelism Events

In spite of the fact that outreach is one of the fundamental responsibilities of Christian individuals and Christian communities, outreach ministries in Kyodan churches are rather limited. Ideas on how to address this issue included organizing concerts as well as sports events following the Olympics boom.


6. The most Difficult Part of our Mission

Missionaries work with various people. Dealing with interpersonal relationships is the most difficult part of mission work. Besides cultural differences and barriers, missionaries and local pastors sometimes face offensive opinions or even attacks from the congregation. Prayer support and understanding from loved ones is essential during such critical times.


Seisen-ryo is located on spacious grounds surrounded by the bounteous natural beauty of Kiyosato in Yamanashi Prefecture, so groups take advantage of this location to hold a variety of programs. On the morning of the second day, the participants split into three groups. One group made butter on a dairy farm; another hiked through the forest under the guidance of a ranger; and a third group toured the Paul Rusch Memorial Museum. Paul Rusch was the founder of the Keep Association, which operates Seisen-ryo, and he is well known as the person who introduced American football to Japan. Rusch drilled three wells on the spacious property, and even today those three wells provide the drinking water for the main Seisen-ryo facility, the Seisen-ryo School of Nature, and the camping grounds. As the missionaries were really impressed by this place, the plans are to hold next year's conference at Seisen-ryo again.

The conference ended with a memorial worship service, a reflection session, and a closing worship service, with communion. The memorial worship service honored missionaries who served in Japan and have gone to their heavenly reward. They were individually named, along with their years and places of service. This was a very special moment when current missionaries could learn about and remember former missionaries and embrace their spirit of dedication to God and to the people God gave them to serve. A new planning committee was elected at the end of the conference to carry out the next conference and nurture the spirit of fellowship among missionaries who serve in the Kyodan.


The missionary conference has been a 2-night, 3-day affair, but this year, it was a 3-night, 4-day event. Also, as a firsttime experiment, a continuing overnight conference for mission personnel sent from Korea was held as a second session. Of the approximately 60 mission personnel working within the Kyodan, only 2 of those serving as senior pastors in Kyodan churches are from countries other than Korea, while 9 Korean missionaries serve in that capacity. Missionaries from Korea are becoming increasingly important to the functioning of the Kyodan. The Kyodan moderator, vice moderator, secretary, general secretary, an executive secretary and a staff member joined together with three representatives from the PCK and KMC and eight Korean missionaries for this important event in which the missionaries could share their concerns and issues.

                           —Kennis Lam, Kyodan missionary and

                              Kato Makoto, executive secretary





















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