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

Faith Journey of the New Japanese Church in Brussels


by Okada Naotake, Kyodan missionary
As a missionary from the Kyodan, I started a Japanese church in Brussels, capital of Belgium, in the spring of 2006. Before I came, the people there had been gathering for worship one Saturday a month for 24 years. I studied in Trier, Germany from 2000 to 2005. Sasaki Satoshi, who had been helping with this gathering, became ill in October 2004 and asked me to take over his responsibilities. Sasaki was the pastor of Cologne Bonn Japanese Church from 1987 to 1992 and had remained in Germany after that. Around Easter in March 2005, Sasaki was called to heaven. In the belief that my calling is to share the Good News with the 4,000 Japanese people living in Brussels, I decided to help build a church. I had a chance to see Sasaki one last time, two weeks before Easter, in a hospital in Bonn.
When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sasaki, who was stationed at the Naval Academy in Edajima, witnessed the mushroom cloud from afar. After the war, he saw the ruins of Hiroshima before returning home. Sasaki said to me, "I will leave everything up to you," and prayed fervently for my wife and me. I still remember his smile as he gave me a firm handshake. At Bonn Station, I felt strongly that the Lord was calling my wife and me into ministry with Japanese people in Brussels.
I contacted an evangelical organization, the Belgian Evangelical Mission (BEM). Following an examination of my documents and an interview, I was given provisional status under the auspices of that organization. After passing a French language test two years later, I was officially admitted to the BEM, which lent me the use of their chapel, and I started to hold services on Sunday afternoons in Brussels. As with most Japanese churches in Europe, our church sought support from Japan. I had an opportunity to meet Tanabe Masataka, an evangelical pastor of the Liebenzeller Mission, who served not only the Japanese Church in Frankfurt but also the Japanese Church in Switzerland. From him I learned about missionary work and the formation of Japanese churches in Europe as well as practical things, like newsletters and support groups.
I spent six months in Japan preparing for this assignment, making presentations in about 20 different churches on reaching out to the Japanese people in Brussels. I was a bit anxious, wondering if I would receive the necessary support. Through God's grace, I was given all that I needed .In the beginning there were only ten people who came to our service, but in 2007 two women, a scholar and a student studying music, were baptized on Christmas Day. In 2009, two men, bankers located in the area, were baptized on Pentecost Sunday. Now, we have about twenty people attending our services, ten people attending Sunday school, and three or four seekers. I have gone back to Japan twice, making presentations in 40 to 50 churches and giving reports for eight to ten weeks each time, something I will continue to do every second year. It was a joy to be able to meet with people from different denominational backgrounds, regardless of whether or not they were members of the Kyodan. During that time I experienced diversity and rich companionship.
Our church is the only interdenominational Protestant Japanese church in Belgium. As we have comparatively large numbers from both evangelical backgrounds and those who have not yet made a commitment, from the beginning of this ministry I have placed great importance on keeping balance and flexibility. Also, since this church has been functioning as a gathering for a long time, I have been careful to refer back to the traditions of evangelical Protestant churches with respect to confession, doctrine, and orders in order for it not to just be a community center. Later we established our own confession and bylaws. Our church pursues the Reformed doctrine, yet our ministry aims at a balance between the Kyodan and evangelical denominations. Once a month, we have the youth lead our worship. In addition, we have what is called family worship, when we use a picture-story show. In our services, we regularly sing worship songs.
There are about 30 Japanese churches and gatherings in Europe. The majority of these are of evangelical denominations. I believe their piety, views on the Bible, devotions, testimonies, and worship have had quite an influence on the spirituality of this church. Yamakita Nobuhisa, the former Kyodan moderator, has mentioned the importance of interdenominational cooperation between the Kyodan and local evangelical churches. As long as these churches can maintain balance and flexibility while respecting each other's traditions, I believe they will create a new way to minister to the Japanese. I am certain that the tradition of evangelical Protestant churches will play an important role in the Kyodan and interdenominational churches.
For the first time, our church had an overnight retreat near Brussels this September. In October, three people will be getting baptized: a woman who is a musician and a couple in the medicine profession. I would like to ask you to continue to pray for and support this Japanese ministry in Brussels. (Tr. DV)
ブリュッセル日本語プロテスタント教会牧師 岡田直丈
 その後、Belgian Evangelical Mission(BEM)という福音派の団体とコンタクトをとるようになり、書類審査と面接を通って仮の所属が決まり(ベルギー着任から2年後に仏語審査があり、正式にBEMの所属が認められました)、ブリュセル市内で日曜日午後にBEM関係の教会堂を借りることができるようになりました。私たちの教会は小さな群れなので、ヨーロッパの殆どの日本語教会と同様に、私も日本に支援母体をもつ宣教師として派遣される道を歩みました。そこで、支援会やニュースレターの作り方、欧州の日本語教会の伝道牧会や教会形成などについて、フランクフルトとスイスの日本語教会を兼牧されていた福音派の田辺正隆(まさたか)先生(Liebenzeller Mission)から多くのことを学ばせていただきました。
 日本での準備期間は約半年で、約20教会で奉仕やブリュッセル邦人伝道のアピールをしました。支援が満たされるか不安な毎日でしたが、無事に始めることができました。教会開始時は約10名の群れでしたが、2007年のクリスマスに女性2名(研究者と音楽留学生)が受洗し、2009年のペンテコステに男性 2名(駐在銀行員)が受洗して、今日では礼拝出席約20名、CS約10名、求道者約3~4名とう群れに成長しました。その間、一時帰国を2回して、 8~10週間で40~50教会でデピュテーション(奉仕や宣教報告)をしました(今後も2年毎)。宣教師にならなければお会いすることのなかった教団内外の様々な教派的背景をもつ方々とお交わりをもつことができたのは、大きな喜びでした。そこで教団の多様性と共に、超教派の交わりの豊かさを学び知ることができました。

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