The 4th Executive Council meeting of the 37th General Assembly Period (10/2010-10/2012) was held at the Kyodan headquarters in Tokyo, Oct. 17-18, with all 30 members present. Council members include representatives from 16 of the 17 districts nationwide. The meeting was opened with worship led by Nagasaki Tetsuo, who spoke about the close relationship between evangelism and fundraising/relief operations, both in the past and in the present, based on II Cor. 8:9.
General Secretary Naito Tomeyuki’s report generated considerable discussion concerning the issue of earthquake retrofitting of the Japan Christian Center building, and a proposal was made concerning that issue. As a result of the, preliminary examination of the building done recently, various questions and opinions continued to be raised in regards to future options, such as rebuilding or moving to a different site, and a task force was established to continue the deliberations. The names of the six members of this task force were announced on the second day, and the committee is to be called the “Subcommittee on the Issues Surrounding the Japan Christian Center Building.”
It was reported that the joint conference of financial officers from each district and executives from the Kyodan headquarters had deliberated the reduction or temporary elimination of annual assessments for the districts affected by the March 11 earthquake, as well as the establishment of a council on the distribution of support funding for district activities. With respect to the National Christian Council in Japan, there were many questions concerning the fundamental issues of its activities, its relationship to the Kyodan, and the financial assessments it is requesting. There were strong criticisms leveled against the way the NCCJ operates.
The following motion came from the Committee on Evangelism. “In response to requests from numerous Kyodan churches, we propose that a Board of Evangelism be established within the Kyodan structure. This is based on the need to have a budget for evangelism and a full-time position that would take responsibility for ongoing research and planning for evangelism within the Kyodan as a whole. Thus we propose two motions: first, to continue looking into the possibilities of establishing a Board of Evangelism, and second, to move towards restructuring the Kyodan so that the Committee on Examining Evangelistic Strategies would become the new Board of Evangelism.”
As this relates to the Kyodan’s annual income and expenditures budget, the moderator of Kyoto District expressed the need to “keep the total budget for salaries of the secretaries, etc., as low as possible.” To this, Ito Mizuo, chairperson of the Commission for the Examination of Financial Reports, replied, “It is not easy to cut into the salary budget, as it cannot be handled with flexibility.”
The Research Institute on the Mission of the Church reported that work on rethinking the “Basic Principles of Mission,” that had been temporarily interrupted by the need to finish the publication Handbook of Faith, has now been restarted. At present, the process of establishing the table of contents, writing the guidelines, and deciding the basic outline of the basic principles of mission has been finished, and the completion of content is underway. Questions were asked about the guidelines, and the discussion focused on the semantics of the terms “mission” and “evangelism” as well as on issues surrounding the concrete applications of the basic principles.
On the second day, deliberations centered on the report from the Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters and the items related to dealing with the earthquake and tsunami damage. With respect to the Disaster Relief Planning Headquarters, vice-chairperson Okamoto Tomoyuki reported on the Symposium Preparation Committee and the 11246* Prayer Meeting, as well as on the damages suffered within the four affected districts, the steps being taken, budgets, etc. Executive Secretary Kato Makoto also reported on relief efforts, including the volunteer activities of the Tohoku District Relief Center (Emmaus), the increasing number of requests for volunteers in Ishinomaki Tsukiyama, support activities for the Tono Suicide Prevention Center, and steps being taken to support those affected by radiation resulting from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. The damages suffered within the four affected districts were spelled out in a summary list. Those in Kanto District were particularly detailed, with total damages to all the churches and related kindergartens, together with Asian Rural Institute, totaling 1.8 billion yen ($23 million). The total number of churches damaged in the four districts was 66. (Tr. TB)
—Kato Makoto, executive secretary
*Editor’s note. The numbers 11246 refer to the date and time of the earthquake: March 11 at 2:46 p.m.
報告者 加藤 誠
第３７総会期第4回常議員会が、10月17，18日、教団会議室に於いて、常議員30名全員の出席と、17教 区中16教区議長の出席をもって開催された。議事に先立ち長崎 哲夫議員による開会礼拝が持たれた。コリントの信徒の手紙Ⅱ8章9節より、昔も今も伝道と募金・救援が密接に結びついていると語られた。
総幹事報告を巡っては、キリスト教会館の耐震工事について提案がなさ れた。過日行われた簡易診断の結果により、建て替え、移転等の将来的展望に関わる質問や意見が続き、対策員会を設けることとなった。翌日 には6名の委員の名前が発表され、名称も「会館問題小委員会」となった。
全国財務委員長会議報告では、被災教区の負担金減免について審議され た事と、教区活動連帯金配分協議会が開催された事が報告された。日本キリスト教協議会（NCC）については、活動の現況、教団との関係、負担金につ いてなど、根幹に関わる事柄に及ぶ質疑がなされた。特にNCCの姿勢に批判的な意見が強く述べられた。
伝道委員会からは以下の提言がなされた。「教団には諸教会の要望に応 え、伝道のための予算を持ち、更に長期的な研究や計画を作成し実施できる、教団全体の伝道体制に対し責任と継続性を持つ部署が必要であ る。その意味で伝道局の必要性を確認した。今後は、伝道局設置の可能性について継続的に検討することと、伝道方策検討委員会へ伝道局設置 を含める機構改正を伝道委員会から要望することの2点を決定した。」
宣教研究所からは、「信仰の手引き」発行作業によって中断していた 「宣教基礎理論」の見直し作業を再開しているとの報告があった。現在の状況は、目次立て、ガイドラインの作成、宣教基礎理論に盛り込む主 要項目の決定を経て、原案作成中である。「ガイドライン」についての質問があり、宣教と伝道という言葉の問題、基礎理論の具体的な適応の 問題に議論が集中した。
二日目には「救援対策本部報告の件」と「震災対応に関する件」が併せ て上程され、審議された。救援対策本部に関しては、主に岡本知之副議長より「シンポジウム準備委員会」「１１２４６祈りの時」の報告があ り、また、被災地域を有する４教区からの被害状況及び対応、会計等の報告がなされた。震災対応に関しては、加藤誠幹事より、東北教区被災 者支援センター（エマオ）におけるボランティア活動、石巻築山ワークのボランティア要請が増加していること、また遠野自殺防止センター活 動支援、福島第一原子力発電所事故による放射能被害への対応などの報告があった。被災した４教区の報告については、被害状況が一覧により 詳細に報告された。特に関東教区からは、被害額合計は、教会・伝道所、幼稚園・保育所、アジア学院を入れると10億8千万円に及ぶとの報告があった。尚、４教区の被災した教会数は６６教会である。
It has been eight months since the great earthquake and tsunami that occurred along the length of eastern Japan on March 11. Restoration following the unprecedented destruction in the various areas, and especially with the additional accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, has been extremely difficult. People are in pain and despair and are struggling to see the light of future prospects ahead in the midst of their grief.
God has sent his Son Jesus Christ as the Savior to be the light of true hope shining in the darkness, precisely in the places where we are suffering in sadness in that world of darkness. He has shown us the way to live together and share love. At this time, in response to this Christmas message, let us see how we as Christians will ask again what we can do and how we can relate to the people who are now in the midst of this troubled situation. Many persons, in various ways, have done what they could. From their reports, I want to share the following two specific ones. (Tr. RT)
—Nishio Misao, member
Suginami Church, Nishi Tokyo District
I Was a Volunteer
by Miyahara Yu, teacher of
Musashino Soai Kindergarten, Nishi Tokyo District
I experienced the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake  when I was a third-year elementary school pupil, and that became the impetus for me to be a volunteer.
Since the day of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, even if no earthquake was happening, I always carried that fear in my heart: “An earthquake may occur.” However, I remember that due to the occurrence of that earthquake, relief came from not only inside the country but also from overseas. Many temporary housing units were provided in the parks, and emergency food services were provided at such places as schools and other institutions. As much as an elementary school pupil could, I felt that both my mind and body were being saved.
Febraury 2011. At a worship service at the kindergarten where I now work, I spoke to the children about this actual experience and about the many things God gives us that are not just a matter of course but are things we should be grateful for and take care of. Exactly one month after the day I gave that talk, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. “I want to help in some way.” With only that thought, I decided to take part in the volunteer effort.
The House where I was in Charge. The entire inside of that house was filled with mud, and none of the furniture could be used. Dishes, writing materials, pictures, clothing, hangers, books, pieces of wood—various things were drawn out of the mud. The fact that the house itself survived was a miracle. Throughout the area are the remains of houses that were destroyed, and through the work of the Self-Defense Forces, at last a road appeared. I worked to separate the unusable broken furniture that had been removed from the mud and put them in the designated disposal areas.
An Elderly Man’s Words. This Arahama is the place where it was first reported that 300 bodies had been washed up ashore. A husband here tells about being so caught up in saving his own life that his wife and child were swallowed by the tsunami right before his own eyes, and he was unable to save them. Even if survivors went to the place where the bodies were being cremated, it was impossible to distinguish one from another. No one could tell who had died. Even tears would not come. “If I were to try to clean up this house by myself, I think it would have taken me half a year. You have saved the day. Thank you.”
His said that after the earthquake, an elderly woman would not even go outside and made no effort to get into the ofuro (Japanese bath). One day, as a result of a volunteer calling to her, she began to go outside a little and got even to the point where she said to him, with a smiling face, “Maybe we could try to plant some tomato seedlings.”
Throughout the town there was mud, sand, and rubble. But in an area where no grass was growing, dandelions silently bloomed. I noticed as I looked around that they were blooming here and there. From a town where people and vegetation had given up hope, they were looking forward and were trying to move ahead. A person cannot move ahead very easily alone, but people relating to one another, with support, can look ahead and go on living.
It was a five-day period of being touched by the warmth of the volunteers all over Japan as well as by the warmth of the people in the area. I am praying that as soon as possible the hearts of the victims may be healed and that they may be able to live a peaceful life. (Tr. RT)
From Nishi Tokyo Kyoku Dayori
(Nishi Tokyo District News)
Urayasu Church School Children Find Ways to Help
A desire to help someone leads to action
by Ohno Toshiko, church school teacher
Urayasu Church, Chiba Subdistrict, Tokyo
I believe that the desire to be helpful is an important gift that God has given to each of us to equip us for living together. The disasters of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the tsunami and the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant have caused even children to consider what they can do to help. For the Church School children of Urayasu Church, the answer was for them to pray for those affected, to continue remembering them, and to give of their time and efforts to help. After further consideration, they came up with the idea of making bookmarks and picture post cards. They would then sell them and send the profit as aid to the disaster areas.
By cutting paper, using tweezers to set and glue the paper, opening a hole and putting the ribbon through, and then putting it in an envelope, the children were able to make bookmarks. To make the picture post cards, the children made a design for the pictures they had drawn. They then made prints and put them in envelopes as sets. Every child in the Church School was involved in the project, and they are now hoping that many people will purchase these items so they can send the proceeds as aid to the disaster areas. (Tr. JS)
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
今年の３月11日 に東日本一帯をおそった大地震と大津波は、各地に未曾有の被害をもたらし、さらに福島第一原子力発電所の事故も加わって、8ヶ月経った今も復興は困難をきわめている。人びとは絶望と苦悩、悲 嘆の闇の中で、前途に光を見つけようと苦闘している。
神は、まさにこの暗黒の世に、悲しみ苦しんでいる人びとのもとに、御子イエス・キリストを、闇を照らす真の希望の 光、救い主として送ってくださった。そして私たちが互いに愛し合って、共に生きていく道を示してくださったのである。このクリスマス のメッセージに応えて、私たちはキリスト者として、今も困難な状況の中にいる人びとにどうかかわって生きたらよいか、私たちができる ことは何かを改めて問うてみたい。大震災直後から、悲しみ苦しんでいる人びとと共に歩みたいと願って、自分たちに出来ることをいろい ろな形で行ってきた多くの人たちがいる。その中から、次の二つの実践報告を分かち合いたいと思う。西尾操（杉並教会員・KNL編集委 員）
あの日以来、地震が起きていなくても「地震が起きるかもしれない」 という恐怖は常に心の中にありました。しかし、その地震発生により、国内だけでなく海外からもたくさんの人たちが救援にきてくれたこ とを覚えています。公園にはいくつもの仮設住宅が備えられ、学校や施設という場では炊き出しがなされ、心身共に助けられたことを小学 生ながらに感じていました。
家の中が泥だらけで全ての家具が使用できない状態でした。泥の中 からは、食器、文具、写真、洋服、ハンガー、本、木材・・・さまざまな物が混ざって出てきました。家が残っているだけでも奇跡的であ り、辺り一面になぎ倒された家屋の残骸がいっぱいで、自衛隊などの働きにより、やっと道路が見えてきたという状況でした。家の中から 出した泥と、倒れて使用できなくなっている家具を、分別して決められた場所に置く作業をしました。
ここ荒浜は一番初めにニュースで三〇〇人の遺体が打ち上げられた と報道されたところですよ。近所では、自分の命を守ることに精一杯で目の前で津波にのまれていった妻子を助けられなかったと話す夫も います。火葬場に行っても誰か見分けがつかない。誰が死んだかもわからない。もう涙も出ません。この家を一人で片付けたら半年以上か かると思っていたけれど、助かりましたよ。ありがとう・・・。
地震が起きてから、外にも出ず、お風呂にも入ろうとしないおばあ さんがいたそうです。ある日、ボランティアの人から声を掛けられたことがきっかけで、少しずつ外に出るようになり、おじいさんに「ト マトの苗でも植えてみようかしら」と笑顔で言えるまでになったそうです。また、町は辺り一面泥と砂とがれきで、草も生えていない状態 となってしまいましたが、その中からひっそりとたんぽぽが咲いていました。見渡すとあちらこちらに咲いていることに気づきました。人 も植物も絶望的になった町から、前を向いて進もうとしていました。人はひとりではなかなか前に進めませんが、こうして人と人が関わ り、支え合うことで前を向いて生きていけるのです。北は北海道、南は沖縄からやってきたボランティアの人たちの温かさに触れ、また、 現地の人たちの温かさに触れた五日間でした。一日も早く、被災された方々の心が癒され、安心した暮らしができますようお祈りしていま す。（相愛教会）（西東京教区だより）
東日本大震災・津波・原発事故と続く つらい出来事は、子どもたちにも「私たちも何かをしよう」という気持ちを引き起こしました。そこで浦安教会の教会学校でできることは 何かな、 と考えました。出てきた答えは、祈ること・覚えていること・自分たちの時間や労力を提供すること……。そしてその中から、しおりと絵葉書を作 り、販売をして、その収益を寄付しようというアイディアが生まれました。
紙をカットし、ピンセットで切り抜き を貼りつけ、パウチして穴をあけ、リボンを通し、袋に入れるとしおりの完成です。絵葉書のほうは、子どもたちが描いた絵をデザイン し、印刷を し、袋に入れてセットにしました。教会学校総出で作りました。多くの方々に購入していただきたいと思います。（信徒の友）
（大野寿子 おおの としこ／浦安教会 教会学校スタッフ）
In January 2011, Iai Gakuin celebrated its 137th anniversary, making it the oldest girls’ junior high and senior high school in Hokkaido. The first missionaries to work here were Merriman Colbert Harris and his wife Flora Lydia Best Harris. They were sent by the American Methodist Episcopal Church and arrived in Hakodate on January 26, 1874. Flora Harris quickly gathered a group of young girls together and began Hibi Gakko (Day School) where she taught English, the Bible, sewing, and manners. There were only five girls at first, but this group was an unforgettable source of joy to Harris.
The students at Day School continued to study at Aiiku School, which was started somewhat later, but Harris felt teaching only daily life skills was inadequate and desired to start a formal school for girls that would include a dormitory. She prayed and wrote an article about it in the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society’s (WFMS) magazine Heathen Woman’s Friend.
After reading the article, a woman named Caroline R. Wright, who had just lost her daughter to illness, was deeply moved. She had been living in Germany as wife of the American Legate to Germany, but she was informed that her daughter, who had been left back in the US, had become seriously ill and was in a critical state. She went back to the States in hopes of nursing her child for even one day. Meanwhile, her daughter, who was lying ill in bed, prayed that she could see her mother again. The prayers were answered. She was able to nurse her daughter and to embrace her with a thankful heart as her daughter was called to heaven.
Wright wanted to express her deeply felt gratitude to God by being of service in some way, and when she read Harris’ article and saw that girls the same age as her deceased daughter were learning in another country, she felt a call to contribute to that mission. She contributed to the school in Hakodate the savings she had set aside for her daughter’s education, money raised from selling knitted and embroidered items sold at church bazaars, and money she raised by calling upon friends. In total amounted to $1,800.
In October 1878, Mary A. Priest was sent to Hakodate as an educational missionary. In 1879 the school was formally opened with an enrollment of 12 students, but on December 6 of the same year, the school and the adjacent church were both destroyed in a great fire. Priest continued to teach, using her bedroom as a classroom, but perhaps the shock of the great fire had overwhelmed her. By 1880 she was having health problems and left Japan to return home.
However, once again prayers were answered, and in February 1882, the school was officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and formally incorporated as the Caroline Wright Memorial School. The first principal was Kate Woodworth. The school began with an enrollment of 6 students, but by September of that year there was a total of 16 girls living in the dormitory as well as several others who commuted to school each day.
Although the initial name of the school had been Caroline Wright Memorial School, because resistance to using the alphabet at the time was negatively affecting enrollment, the school changed its name to Iai Girls’ School in its third year. Iai means “a remembrance of love.”
The first principal, Kate Woodsworth, left after only one year to get married and was replaced by Mary S. Hampton. Hampton had been like a mother to the students, embracing them with her kindness, but when she became principal, she had to struggle to improve the facilities and to increase enrollment. She went from door to door in Hakodate and even went as far as Hirosaki in northern Honshu. She was kept very busy and when she asked for assistance from the U.S., a missionary by the name of Florence N. Hamisfar, who was also a medical doctor, was sent to the school in 1883. Hamisfar was the first female doctor in Hokkaido. She saw patients in Hakodate from 6 a.m., taught at Iai in between and also taught an English class for one hour each day at Hakodate Teachers’ School. In part due to Hampton’s efforts, by 1887 enrollment was up to 94 students. In this year, Ella J.Hewett became the third principal of the school and Hampton returned temporarily to the U.S. Returning to Japan in 1888, she was assigned to Hirosaki Iai Girls’ School for a brief time before finally returning to Iai Girls; School in Hakodate. She assisted the fourth principal, Augusta Dickerson, and together they worked to acquire the present campus and to improve the school and kindergarten buildings. In total, Hampton gave 34 years of her life to education at Iai.
More than any other person, it was the missionary named Dickerson who laid the foundation for the education carried out at Iai and who nurtured a tradition of service. She became principal in 1890, began a preparatory school in 1891, and in the following year, a kindergarten program. A sister school named Raitoku was established in Hirosaki, and Hampton and Dickerson were sent there to teach from May 1889 to March 1991. Dickerson was principal for 35 years, and she was the one who made “Faith, Sacrifice, Service” the motto for Iai. For girls living in the dormitory, she established a “Princess Group” and, with the young girls, engaged in a number of social service activities. They helped out at church school, provided assistance for people living in poverty, visited the sick, and taught young children.
In 1918 they took flowers to the sick in hospital, and they sent money earned by selling knitted and embroidered items to children in Siberia who were suffering during the state of confusion that followed the Russian Revolution. In 1923, at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake, both teachers and students made and sent clothing, along with financial contributions, for people in the affected areas, and when there was serious flooding in the Korean Peninsula in 1925, they sent clothing and accessories.
Dickerson was also closely associated with the Hakodate School for the Blind and Deaf. The predecessor to the school had been established in 1895 by Charlotte Pinkney-Draper of the Methodist Church, and Dickerson had supported this school both financially and by assisting with the instruction. For a short time Iai even took over the management of the school, and graduates were hired by the school as staff.
Iai Gakuin now has 23,591 graduates, and the spirit of the first missionaries who gave us the motto “Faith, Sacrifice, Service” remains the sure and firm foundation of Iai’s educational philosophy. (Tr. RW)
—Fukushima Mototeru, principal of Iai Gakuin
遺愛は2011年１月に創基１３７周年を迎えた北海道で最も長い伝統をもつ女子中学高校である。創基に関わったＭＣハリス夫妻が米国メ ソジスト監督教会から伝道のために日本に派遣され、函館に到着したのが1874年1月26日であった。ハリス夫人はすぐに子女を集め『日々学校』を始 め、英語や聖書、裁縫、作法などを教えた。最初の生徒は５人であったが、ハリス夫人にとってはこの５人の生徒を得たことは生涯忘れる ことのできない歓びの一つだった。
『日々学校』の生徒達は、その後、ＭＣハリスの開いた私塾『愛育学校』で学んだ。ハリス夫人は平常教育は行っていたも のの不十分と考え、寮つきの正式な女学校を作りたいと願い、祈り、アメリカメソジスト監督教会の婦人外国宣教協会（WFMS）の『Heathen Woman’s Friend』という機関誌に寄稿した。
その文章が当時、愛娘を病気で失い悲しみのなかにあったカロライン・ライト夫人の心を動かした。夫人はドイツ駐在アメ リカ公使夫人としてドイツに住んでいたが、アメリカに残してきた子どもの1人が重病になり、危篤の知らせを受けた。驚いた夫人はせめて、1日でも看病したいと祈りつつ帰国した。病床にあった娘も、母に 一目会いたいと祈っていた。この祈りがかなえられ数日看病することができ、母の手のなかで感謝しつつ召された。
ライト夫人は主の深い恩寵に応えるために、何か奉仕をしたいと考えていた時に、ハリス夫人の一文を読み、娘と同じ年齢 で教育を受けられないでいる異国の少女のために尽くすことこそ、その使命であると考えた。それまで蓄えていた愛娘のための教育資金と 編み物や刺繍をおこない教会バザーで販売した益金、信仰の友への呼びかけで集まった献金をあわせて1800ドルを、函館の女子教育のために献げた。
初代校長のウッドワースが結婚のために1年で日本を離れたため、代わりに第2代校長にハンプトンが就任した。ハンプトンは在校生にとっては優しく包み込む母親のような存在であったが、校長になった 当時、学校の整備に生徒募集に相当苦労をした。函館の一般家庭を回ったり、弘前にも出かけていった。とても忙しく、助け手をアメリカ に求めたところ、1883年にハミスファー宣教師（医師でもあった）が派遣された。ハミスファーは北海道で最初の女医であり、朝6時から函館の人々のために診療をし、合間に遺愛の生徒に教え、函館師範学校でも毎日1時間英語を教えた。1887年にはハンプトンの努力のかいもあり、生徒数は94名になった。この年、ヒューエットが第3代校長となり、ハンプトンは一時帰米するが、1888年に再来日し弘前遺愛女学校に赴任するが、また遺愛に復帰する。その後、第4代校長デカルソンを助けながら、現在のキャンパス、遺愛の校舎および元町幼稚園の整備に貢献し、34年間、遺愛の教育に身を捧げた。
遺愛の教育の基盤をつくり、奉仕の伝統をつくったのは第4代校長のオーガスタ・デカルソンといっていいであろう。デカル ソンは1890年（明治23年）に校長に就任し、1891年予備科、翌年に小学校をつくり、1895年に幼稚園を併設した。また弘前に姉妹校の「来徳女学校」がで き、出張し指導にあたっていた。遺愛では35年間校長職を務め、『信仰・犠牲・奉仕』を遺愛の校訓として位置づけたのはデカルソンであった。デカルソンは寮生を中心 に王女会を組織し、教会の日曜学校を手助けするとともに、貧民救済、病人慰問、幼児教育のために生徒とともに奉仕をしていた。
現在、卒業生を2万3591人輩出しているが、『信仰・犠牲・奉仕』を身をもって示した初期の宣教師達の精神が、今も確かに継承されている。(遺愛 学院 校長 福島基輝）
by Sagara Masahiko, Kyodan missionary pastor
I was sent to New York to work in Japanese Ministry for three years, from the spring of 2008 to 2011. I served as program director of the Special Ministries to the Japanese and as the pastor of the Union Japanese Church of Westchester. SMJ is an outreach program for Japanese families and people with care and love in Christ. SMJ has been supported in the Tri-State Area by the Kyodan, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Methodist Church for over 30 years. Programs and services have been supported by such individual churches as, in New York, the Japanese American United Church in Manhattan as well as the Union Japanese Church of Westchester and Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, both in Scarsdale; in Connecticut, Long Hill UMC in Long Hill and Golden Hill UMC in Bridgeport; and in New Jersey, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Bergenfield and Tenafly Presbyterian Church in Tenafly. There have always been prayers and support for the outreach of this Japanese ministry.
As one of the main SMJ programs, a two-week bilingual summer camp is held every year at Camp Quinipet, Long Island, in the UMC’s New York Annual Conference. As a result of the summer camp, a youth Bible gathering in Tenafly and the Bergen County area in New Jersey was begun to help nurture the growth of the junior counselors who attended the summer camp. There are several cultural programs, such as Japanese classical art performances and lectures about U.S. history and religion, which hopefully will serve as a bridge between the two cultures in U.S. and Japanese society.
SMJ’s summer camp is named “the Discovery Camp.” We hope that the campers will discover or find something important for them. But the truth is that each of them are found and embraced by our Lord there. We have the good news for all people to tell, live out, and share–that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord. As we gathered amongst our own uniqueness and special talents for helping each other, we became one family before the Lord. During the camp, we experienced cooperating and complementing each other with our abilities as well as with our inabilities. From there, we experienced praising and worshipping the Lord every moment in our camp. The camp is a good opportunity to be nurtured and grow in the presence of the Lord, especially for the parents and family of the campers but also for the counselors and the campers. For those who have not heard the good news, the camp is an experience of Christian fellowship full of joy and the richness in living our daily lives as praise and worship before the Lord. This photo was taken in the dining hall during the 2009 camp. Even in the midst of the noisy lunchtime preparations, this camper was intensely reading the New Testament. It was the first time he had ever held a Bible in his hands. The Word of God had been given to him. The encounter with Jesus Christ in our daily lives has surely started here at this wonderful place.
According to the mission statement of the Union Japanese Church of Westchester (founded in 1989 out of an SMJ worship group), where I served as pastor, the church was at first a particular congregation of the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Methodist Church. The purposes of this church are to worship God, to help Japanese-speaking people study the Bible, and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people around us. To this end the church aims to be joined firmly together with Christ as our sole head, to be one in prayer, to love our God, and to serve our neighbors. Also, as a church planted in the U.S., the church strongly desires to have Christian fellowship with its brothers and sisters here and to serve our neighbors in the U.S.
The programs held at UJCW include a weekly Japanese prayer meeting and a monthly English book club that is intended to help and to support young mothers with small children by introducing good books for them to read to their children, as well as by introducing life in the U.S., such as enjoying the change of seasons and festivals.
There are also programs and meetings held outside the church building. In New York City, there is a home worship service in Manhattan, with a communion service for members in need, another home meeting at a parsonage in the Bronx. In Connecticut there is a multi-lingual worship service in Ansonia, a home meeting in Greenwich, a home gathering and prayer meetings in Trumbull, and as requested by members of the Trumbull meeting, a family Bible gathering was started at Bridgeport with the cooperation of Golden Hill UMC.
We are given a different and unique faith as we are all unique in the eyes of the Lord. What we need to see in each of us is whether our faith in the Lord is alive in us. The important and blessed truth within us is that when we truly love our Lord and God, we can understand that our faith is sufficiently genuine before the Lord. That love makes us people of worship and one family of God. We want to continue to hold worship services and to celebrate the Lord’s Day here because of this love. We pray that we may love our Lord more as we continue to walk in the Lord’s presence and as we experience the grace of our Lord day-by-day.
“So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:1-7
As long as there are people waiting for the Good news of the Lord, our ministry continues there. After my return to Tokyo this Spring, Rev. Takako Terrino serves SMJ as program director and Rev. Yoko Asada serves again as UJCW pastor.
The coastal area of Fukushima along the Pacific Ocean, called hamadori, is reeling from the triple disasters of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a tsunami, and nuclear radiation from the damaged nuclear power plant. Staff of the Kyodan’s monthly magazine Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend) visited the eight churches located near the power plant and shared with their readers the following testimonies of two of those churches.
Odaka Church and Kindergarten, located within the 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant
When the earthquake struck on March 11, five kindergarten children working on their yearbook album and their parents and ten other children were in the church and kindergarten buildings. As soon as the shaking stopped and all were confirmed safe, everyone evacuated the area. Seeing that conditions were beginning to stabilize, all agreed to return again the following Monday. However, the next day a hydrogen explosion occurred at the nuclear power plant, and an evacuation recommendation was issued.
“Almost everyone expected to return home quickly. People had gone to a variety of places of refuge, and many had not taken their cell phones. At first, there was no way to contact church members or related people. While I was out in a car, searching for people, one member spotted my car by chance in Iwaki City. We were then able to connect with others, one by one. Now I have a list of where our members are located,” reports Oshimo Masato, pastor of Odaka Church.
Because, like the kindergarten staff, the kindergarten children and their families were all widely scattered and it was no longer possible to continue administration of the kindergarten, Oshimo himself also returned to his parents’ home in Chiba until he received communication from Seifu Kindergarten in Iwaki City, a sister kindergarten under the same license, which is part of the same Christian kindergarten association. Regretfully, from May 1 the staff had to be dismissed. However, one of the teachers was employed by Seifu Kindergarten in Iwaki City.
Regarding the church, requests for transfer of membership have come from some of the members. “We really need to call a congregational meeting, but that is now impossible with our members so widely scattered. Our thought is to convene an emergency meeting with our subdistrict and district moderators and as many members of the church board who can attend. The real desire of our members and myself is to return to Odaka and reopen the church and kindergarten, but we are stuck in a position of uncertainty, not being able to foresee our future. For Odaka, time has stopped since the earthquake. We are unable to do anything. To be honest, when people say, ‘Just keep trying,’ I think, ‘What can I do to keep going?’ Still, when I am stuck in this mood I am thankful for prayer. Somehow, keep praying with us. In this situation of not knowing what to do or how to do it, I can only try to see God’s purpose in all of this,” says Oshimo.
Iwaki Church, damaged by the tsunami
According to a later report, things have quieted down, but people are still not able to look ahead. In the disaster, Iwaki City sustained damage from the tsunami that left sunken fishing vessels in the harbor and homes washed away. Also, the ground under the city has liquefied, or changed in other ways. The ground under the parsonage of Iwaki Church is tilting. The new pastor, Uetake Yuko, was called to the church from Kanagawa Prefecture in April. Despite changes in the level of the ground in Iwaki City, the restoration of electric and water supply was relatively fast. However, here too, the radiation from the damaged nuclear power plants has caused widespread anxiety among citizens, especially those raising small children, and many families have evacuated. It is the same with church members. Fortunately, the city, being south of the power plants, has experienced relatively low levels of radiation, so people are becoming calmer, and from April some began to return. In a later report at the beginning of June, most of the church members had returned. Still, their feelings about the radiation issue are varied, especially for families with small children, and the decision to stay or evacuate is complicated. Some are staying and others are leaving. A few children are attending church school, but the church kindergarten teachers are in a state of anxiety about reopening, reports Uetake.
Later, Seifu Kindergarten, adjoining Iwaki Church, was able to accept children and on May 9 began its new school year. The building was damaged by the earthquake, but repairs are being made. Also, to ease the concerns of the staff about radiation, all the top soil of the kindergarten playground was removed, and now the whole kindergarten grounds are lower.
Because Seifu Kindergarten and Odaka Church Kindergarten share the same license and are part of the same Soso (soh-soh) Christian Kindergarten Association, Seifu Kindergarten is supporting Odaka Kindergarten and is offering free admission to children younger than kindergarten age whose families had evacuated from Odaka to Iwaki and remained close enough for them to attend. There were some cancellations of enrollment for the new school year, but not as many as was feared.
So Uetake is gratefully welcomed for accepting a call to the disaster area. “My own regret is that I was not present during the crisis immediately after the disaster. Among those members who have evacuated and those who have remained, I sense an ambivalent feeling,” she mentioned. “Now, members of Odaka Church and Pastor Oshimo are worshipping together with Iwaki Church. The spirits of all are reviving, with some now able to look ahead while others still see no way forward. The heavy responsibility of bringing God’s word to these people in this difficult situation continues.” (Tr. GM)
From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
三月十一日の地震の時、伝道所・幼稚園には、卒園アルバムを作る ために園児五名とその保護者、ほかに預かり保育の子どもたち十名がいた。揺れが収まった直後に全員の無事を確認してただちに避難。状 況が落ち着いたのを見て、「また月曜日に会いましょう」と言ってその日は別れたという。しかし翌日、原発が水素爆発を起こし、避難勧 告が出た。
「ほとんどの人はすぐに帰るつもりで避難しました。施設に入所し ていた人は施設ごと避難しましたし、携帯を持たずに出た人もいて、当初は会員・関係者との連絡がとれませんでした。ある会員とは、私 が車であちこち探していた時にいわき市で偶然車を見つけて再会できました。あとは人づてに連絡をとり、今は全員どこにいるかを把握し ています」と大下正人（おおしもまさと）牧師。
牧師自身も一時は千葉の実家に帰ったが、いわき市の清風（せいふ う）幼稚園（小高教会幼稚園と同じ学校法人である相双（そうそう）キリスト教学園に属する）から声がかかり、今はいわき市で小高教会 幼稚園の園長として事務をしている。とはいえ、会員同様、幼稚園児の家族も散り散りになったために幼稚園の事業継続は不可能となり、 やむをえず五月一日付で職員を解雇した。ただ、今春採用予定だった保育士一名を清風幼稚園が採用してくれた。
伝道所のほうはすでに何人かの会員からは転会願いが出ていて、今 後のことを考えるために総会を開かなければならないが、会員が各地に散っていてそれもままならない。近々、教区議長、区長、大下牧師 に加えて役員の何名かに出席してもらい、臨時役員会を開きたいと思っている。
「会員も私も、本音を言うと小高に戻りたい、幼稚園を再開したい のです。でもその未来が見えない不安の中にずっと置かれています。小高は地震から時間が止まってしまいました。何も手つかずです。正 直、『がんばってください』と言われるたびに、『どうがんばったらいいんだろう』と思うのです。でも、そんな中でやはり思いを寄せ続 け、祈ってくださるのがありがたい。どうか今後も祈ってください。何をどうしたらいいかわからない今の状況の中で、神さまのなさる業 を感じ取っていくしかないと思っています」と大下牧師。
震災によりいわき市も津波の被害を受けており、取材時、沿岸の漁 港内にはまだ船が沈み、家が流されたままだった。また市域全体に液状化を伴う地盤の変動があり、磐城（いわき）教会の牧師館の地盤も 傾いている。その教会に、四月に上竹裕子（うえたけゆうこ）牧師が神奈川県から赴任した。
幸い、原発の南に位置する同市は放射線量が比較的低レベルにとど まったことから人々も次第に落ち着きを取り戻し、四月に入ると徐々に戻り始めた。取材した六月上旬の段階では、ほとんどの会員が戻っ て来ているとのことだった。
ただ、放射能に対する対応は人によってまちまちだという。「特に 子どもを持っている家族の思いは複雑で、ここにとどまる方もいれば避難される方もいます。教会学校には数名の子どもがいましたが、保 護者の方が心配して今は開催が不安定な状況です」と上竹牧師は語る。
会堂に隣接する清風（せいふう）幼稚園では五月九日から子どもを 受け入れて新年度を始めた。地震による建て物の被害があったが補修をすませている。また、保護者の不安を取り除くために園庭の土を 削っており、庭全体が一段低くなっていた。
清風幼稚園は小高教会幼稚園と同じ学校法人の相双キリスト教学園 に属しているため、小高教会幼稚園を支援している。また被災地より避難してきた家族の幼児を無料で受け入れている。新年度、入園キャ ンセルもあったが、心配していたほどの数ではなかったそうだ。
こうした被災地の教会に赴任した上竹牧師は、「よく赴任してくだ さったと歓迎されました。でも、私は震災直後の一番大変なときにはここにおらず、教会員の中でも避難せずにとどまった方や避難された 方、それぞれに複雑な思いを持っていると感じます。今は小高伝道所の教会員や大下先生と共に礼拝を捧げています。元気を取り戻してい く人がいる一方、まだ前向きになれない人もおり、こうした方々にみ言葉を語る重責があります」とその難しさを語る。