On the 17th of March, 2009, I attended the dedication service of the Togi Mission Church--one of the churches whose buildings were destroyed by the Noto Peninsula earthquake. This mission church is an outlying mission point of the Hakui Church and is a place of unforgettable memories for me.
For 20 years I was the former pastor of a church in Kanazawa, Hokuriku area's major city. During that time, I was closely related to the churches scattered along Noto Peninsula, which lies in that same area; and took part enthusiastically in their evangelistic activities. The building used by Togi mission at that time was an ordinary Japanese house, and the members of the small congregation sat on zabuton (cushions) on the tatami (straw mat) floor during the worship services.
This was just after World War II had ended; and Togi, which became the location of the mission, was a seacoast town rich with the beauty of nature. The gospel was preached there, and the small church was founded. But recently, the condition of the town has deteriorated; the church members are aging; and in addition, the population of the town is rapidly decreasing. Just as concern about the future was deepening, the Noto Peninsula Earthquake struck, and the old building was so greatly damaged that there was no alternative but to demolish it. Rebuilding seemed to be impossible.
However, the Kyodan immediately set up a special committee, the Committee on Aid for Reconstruction of Churches Damaged in the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, and appealed to all the Kyodan churches nationwide to send donations to an emergency aid fund, setting a goal of 150 million yen (about US$1,500,000). The response was wonderful. Contributions were received at a rate that exceeded all expectations, and it became clear that achievement of the goal was assured. By means of these offerings, prayerfully given, Togi Church's new sanctuary was built, and a completely new era of mission work has begun.
As I attended the dedication ceremony, two scripture verses came to mind. One is Ecclesiastes 3:11: God "has made everything beautiful in its time." (RSV) The other verse is Isaiah 43: 19: "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
God lives. God rewarded the labor of those who went before, and who so long and persistently bore the burden of evangelism in difficult circumstances, and gave them a lovely new sanctuary as a gift. Already some of the town's people have asked to hold their weddings ceremonies in the new sanctuary. I earnestly hope that with prayer and with thankful hearts, the church will continue and expand evangelism in this area. (Tr. RB)
Kyodan General Secretary