【December 2019 No.405】Visiting Churches Damaged by Recent Typhoons

by Kato Makoto, executive secretary

Typhoons 15 (early September) and 19 (mid-October), referred to in Western media as Faxai and Hagibis, caused damage from Kanagawa District and Tokyo District’s Higashi and Chiba subdistricts to areas northeast and even beyond Tohoku District. I will report on only some of the districts that were affected.


As I had been planning to visit Tohoku on a missionary personnel matter, I combined that with visits to the offices of both Ou and Tohoku districts as well as to Kawamata and Motomiya churches in Fukushima prefecture during the time period of Oct. 16 to 18. I was personally able to deliver relief funds from General Secretary Akiyama Toru to each of those districts and, at Tohoku District’s Mission Committee meeting on Oct. 18, heard the report listing all the damage suffered throughout the district. Although the damage was widespread and severe, I was left with the impression that the lessons learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Disaster had been well implemented so the response had been swift and effective. On Oct. 17, I visited Kawamata Church, which was hard to find, so I depended greatly on my car’s navigating system. I had heard that the river had flooded over its banks, but at first the effects were rather difficult to discern. The church parking lot was covered with sand from the flooding, but it was only as I was led inside the building that it became evident that the water had risen above the floor. Fortunately, the sanctuary and the newly rebuilt manse were high enough to avoid damage, but the Bibles, hymnals, etc. on the lower floor, along with the furniture, toilet, etc. all had water damage. While I was there, two representatives from the city hall came by, but one said that while the living quarters were eligible for assistance in the removal of debris from under the house, the church building itself was not. Nevertheless, removing debris and drying out and sanitizing the space under the floor is necessary, so financial assistance is still needed. I then went to visit Motomiya Church and kindergarten. Because of the flooding of the Adatara River, both the kindergarten and church were under water. The waterline could clearly be seen along the walls and windows, and it was almost at the same level as the church had experienced when it was inundated during the 2011 tsunami. The fatigue of the people involved in cleaning up the mess was clearly evident on their faces. The church, which had just recently been rebuilt, had been reduced to ruins, so one can only imagine how dejected the pastor and parishioners must feel. Thus we need to ask ourselves how the Kyodan and the district should respond. (Tr. TB)



加藤 誠




【December 2019 No.405】Japanese and Korean Christians Jointly Pray for Reconciliation and Peace

Christians between Japan and South Korea held a joint prayer meeting at Nihon Kirisuto Kyokai (Church of Christ in Japan) Kashiwagi Church in Shinjuku, Tokyo on Oct. 9, amid the recent worsening political, economic, and societal relationships between the two nations. In addition to the Kyodan, representatives from the Korean Christian Church in Japan, the Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan, the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Japan Baptist Convention, the Japan Baptist Union, the Japan Christian Church, and the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace formed an organization committee to sponsor the event, and the more than 170 participants surpassed expectations.


This event was in response to prayer meetings held on Aug. 11 in South Korea  by church people concerned about the present situation between Korea and Japan. They expressed the hope that Christians in Japan could also hold such a prayer event. About 20 Christians from South Korea came to attend the meeting in Japan. So as fellow Christians who look up to our Lord, who brought reconciliation through the breaking down of barriers through the shedding of his own blood, we joined our hearts together in prayer.

Following messages by Kyodan Moderator Ishibashi Hideo and General Secretary Rev. Dr. Lee Hong-Jung of the National Christian Council in Korea (NCCK), written prayers from ten representative South Korean and Japanese churches and organizations, including the YMCA, were read as part of a litany of prayer. A choir from South Korea also sang hymns of praise, which made the prayers for reconciliation and peace all the more powerful. Likewise, there was a report from a team that had visited Pyongyang in North Korea in July, and although the flow is indeed only a trickle, the Lord of reconciliation and peace is working in that situation. (Tr. TB)

—Akiyama Toru, Kyodan general secretary





また、この集会で7月に平壌を訪れた訪問団の報告会も行われ、北朝鮮人民共和国のキリスト者との交流の、まだ細い流れではあるが、和解と贖罪の主の導きによる歩みが始まっていることの報告を受けた。(秋山 徹)

【December 2019 No.405】Regional Meeting Addresses Impact of Empires and Mission Responses

The Taiwan Ecumenical Forum for Justice and Peace (TEF) was constituted and inaugurated by the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), partner churches, and ecumenical organizations to work with the PCT on its mission concerns related to the transitional justice and internal isolation of Taiwan. In order to deepen solidarity in northeast Asia as well as to provide and to clarify the issues involved, the TEF Steering Group has highlighted the nature of empires and its impact on Taiwan.


The Northeast Asia Regional Meeting on the Impact of Empires and Mission Responses is a small group of experts from northeast Asia (namely South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan) whose aim is to discern the nature of international conflicts and national oppressive forces and to formulate common mission strategies and cooperation. This year the group met Oct. 11-14 in Shinjuku, Tokyo in the Kyodan Conference Room and the TKP Star Rental Conference Room. The 13 attendees were from Taiwan [6], the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) [3], Hong Kong [1], and the Kyodan [3]. The following speakers addressed the impact of empires and mission responses to that: Rev. Toru Akiyama (Kyodan), Rev. Dr. Jae Chon Lee (PROK), Mr. Ljavakaw Tjaljimaraw (PCT), and a professor from Hong Kong.


Unfortunately, as Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo Saturday evening, Oct. 12, the conference schedule was shortened. On Sunday morning, participants joined the worship service at Waseda Church, which is adjacent to the Kyodan office. One-eighth of the population of Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo is from overseas. PROK representatives were so glad to meet their church members at Waseda Church. A public meeting was scheduled to be held at Ephphatha Church in Shinjuku, Kameoka Ken, pastor of its Church introduced its history. It was a significant time for us to learn about the local church.

—Kato Makoto, executive secretary

【December 2019 No.405】Connecting with the Worldwide Church A Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend) special series

Asking a Missionary to Japan

The editorial staff of Shinto no Tomo asked this missionary, who had been

sent to Japan and ministered for almost 40 years, about how he viewed

the Japanese Church and what issues he sees that need attention.


A Church where Almost Everyone can Feel at Home


by Timothy D. Boyle, retired missionary

United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church USA

During the 1960s, there was a growing recognition in the US of the importance of relationships with Asia, and thus a program was begun at the East-West Center in Hawaii to invite college students entering their third year to study either Japanese or Chinese. I applied and was one of twelve to study Japanese for 15 months. I had no idea how learning Japanese would be useful to my future career, but the attraction of living in Hawaii for a year at government expense was certainly a big part of my motivation. The last three months of the program was a “homestay” in Tokyo, and this was my first time to come to Japan.


I later came back in 1971 as a short-term missionary with the United Methodist Church and was assigned to Sapporo in Hokkaido. I had a great time interacting with other young people in Japan (eventually marrying one of them) and returned to the US in 1974 to study theology and become a pastor. My wife and I returned to Japan in 1982 as regular missionaries with the Kyodan and served until retirement in 2016.


During the first term of service back in Japan, I served as the pastor of Shintoku Church in Hokkaido, and after that, we transferred to the “international city” of Tsukuba as missionaries with the Ibaraki Subdistrict of Kanto District for 21 years. Scientists, researchers, students, and their families come to Tsukuba from many countries for extended periods, and so much of our work centered on meeting the needs of these people. I started Tsukuba International School to serve those with children and aimed to make their stay in Japan a more stable and fulfilling one, irrespective of religious background or lack thereof.


One other area of mission that stands out in my mind is that of helping with the ministry of Bethlehem Church of the Indonesian Minahasa Church in Oarai. As Kanto District was very active in helping to establish this work, I often went to that church to help, including preaching there numerous times. I even went to Indonesia to visit the Minahasa Church headquarters. The Kyodan, including many lay persons, played important roles in establishing and maintaining this ministry to Indonesians living and working in the area, and so it was with great joy that I heard that in November of 2018, the Kyodan and Minahasa Church signed a formal joint mission agreement that will facilitate further development of mutual ministry and fellowship.


Finding it Hard to Fit in

There is one thing I’ve often heard from Japanese students who have studied abroad and came to faith in overseas churches. And that is that when they come back to Japan, they often find it hard to fit in when they try to become part of Japanese churches. Like many foreign students coming to Japan, they find the atmosphere of Japanese churches to be rather dull and somber. I sometimes still help out at Kobe Union Church, which was the second church to be founded in Japan after it opened up to the outside world at the beginning of the Meiji Era. Services are conducted in English but are also translated into Japanese over earphones, and so in addition to people from many countries, there are many Japanese, having either spent time overseas or being interested in becoming more international, who participate in the lively service.


A number of these people have had little exposure to Christianity before, but they are interested in improving their English and experiencing the foreign atmosphere, and so they come. Some people might think that this is not the mission of the church, but having such a place where people can feel comfortable and be welcomed into a fellowship that can be used by God to draw them to himself is surely pleasing to God.


I am, of course, not saying that Japanese churches in general should become like North American churches that are lively, open communities, as Japan has its own culture. Having a certain amount of solemnity in worship is a worthy goal. But it is also important to recognize that many people desire a more casual atmosphere, and so there are things that can be done to try to accommodate this.


This desire certainly isn’t limited to students. While it is not true of all Japanese churches by any means, what I have seen in many of the Japanese churches I have visited is that there is something about them that creates difficulty for outsiders to enter in. It’s not that such people are not welcomed, but it’s difficult to go much beyond that. Churches with few members naturally develop strong ties with each other, which is a good thing. However, I think it is important to be on guard that these don’t become exclusive relationships. For instance, if members subconsciously think that someone should understand something, even if it is not explained, that may make things difficult for newcomers who don’t have the necessary background information.


While I did experience some minor difficulties in adapting to Japanese churches, the “preacher’s wife” had even more. We were both commissioned as missionaries, but Japanese Christians often didn’t really understand that. Likewise, church members often had expectations of the pastor’s wife that were vague and not clearly explained. When this was pointed out, they would say they understood, but we didn’t really see any improvement.


Making the Church a Welcoming Place for Everyone

In the future, Japan will experience more and more people coming from particularly other Asian countries to work in Japan. Whether they like it or not, Japanese churches will need to recognize that they have a mission to reach out to these people. So, how are they to do that? While it may be difficult for Japanese Christians to visit and directly learn from overseas churches, they can visit churches such as Kobe Union Church and see how they can incorporate useful elements of other cultures and traditions, while not denying their own, and through this make their own church into one that can serve all people.



『信徒の友』特集 10月号




















【December 2019 No.405】The Pirapo Church in Paraguay Dedicates A New Church Building

by Rev. Ehara Yukiko, Kyodan missionary

In May 2019, I arrived in Pirapo, a southern city in Paraguay, South America, to become a full-time pastor of the “Pirapo Free Methodist Church,” also known as the “Sakai Keishi Memorial Free Methodist Church.”

The church had virtually been vacant for forty years until 2015, when the Kyodan sent missionary, Rev. Chibana Sugako, as a full-time pastor. Her encounter with the church was dramatic: she met one of the congregants from the church, nothing to attribute this to other than a plan of God. Within the next four years, she purchased a piece of land and built a new church building there. I am her successor and was installed as the new, full-time pastor. On June 23rd, a new church building was dedicated with thirty-five Christians attending as witnesses from all over Paraguay and Brazil. The settlement of Japanese immigrants in Pirapo began on August 2nd, 1960.  Mr. Sakai Kotaro, a Christian employee of an NGO named JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, along with his wife planted a church in Pirapo and started Sunday worship services.


Rev. Tsukamoto Minoru visited from Encarnacion Free Methodist Church to lead monthly worship services at Pirapo Church. Rev. Tsukamoto served many years in Paraguay, baptizing many Japanese immigrants. At one time, nearly twenty people attended at Pirapo Church.  Rev. Tsukamoto eventually left in the mid 80’s, and then pastors from various denominations ministered to the church. In the 90’s JICA withdrew from Paraguay. The church land had belonged to JICA, and the ownership was transferred from JICA to the city of Piparo. The church was first allowed to use the building, but in the end, had to leave. They borrowed another building, formerly a dormitory for an elementary school in the 23KM district, as their new church building. When Rev. Chibana first met them, there were only a few congregants. They were gathering on Sundays to listen to tapes of recorded sermons.


Currently we have five congregants attending the Sunday services. The small change in the population of Pirapo allows little renovation. Inviting residents to church is never easy if they have known each other for so many years. Many communal events also fall on Sundays. Congregants as communal members usually attend such events and miss out on Sunday services.


Among the three Japanese Free Methodist churches in Paraguay, the church in Asuncion, which is in the capital of Paraguay, has been preparing to incorporate these three churches as affiliates of the Brazil Free Methodist Church organization. The Pirapo Church is reluctant to become an affiliate. Instead, they are on the verge of taking a new step toward independence. The process of becoming an institutionalized as a religious corporation will be another challenge.


Yguazu is another city founded by Japanese immigrants with a small Christian population. Once they met for worship at a Christian family’s home, but the family returned to Japan, and they had not been able to meet since then. I visited them in September, and we held a worship service there. Riding a bus from Pirapo to Yguazu for over three hours, I finally arrived around noon. We had lunch together, followed by a worship service. We enjoyed our fellowship and tea. I stayed overnight, and we had dinner together. We hope to meet regularly for monthly worship services. For Christmas and Easter, they will be invited to Pirapo Church for a joint worship service with communion. Please keep the Pirapo Church in your prayers.(Tr. DB)







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