Tokai District Raises Potatoes to Raise Its Support Fund

Tokai District is situated in the center of Japan. Agriculture features high among its activities. About a month before the District General Assembly for the year 2009, the four members of the Tokai District Executive Committee (the chair, the vice-chair, the secretary, and the chair of the Committee on Evangelism) gathered at a farm owned by Yamamoto Masanobu, a pastor of Shinonoi Church and at that time also chair of the district Committee on Evangelism, to plant seed potatoes. Members of Shinonoi Church welcomed us, having made everything ready. The chair took a hoe and started digging. The vice-chair and the secretary placed on the ground halved seed potatoes sprinkled with ash and put some soil on them. Nearby, 70-year-old Pastor Yamamoto, sitting on a straw mat, watched with a smile on his face. He talks about “Easy Farming.” When we trust God, we will get a 700-kilogram harvest from 70 kilograms of seed potatoes. It started to make sense to me. Feeling the warmth of the spring sunshine, we enjoyed the rice balls and green tea, while breathing the delicious aroma of the green onions just harvested.
About four months later, on Aug. 3, volunteers who responded to the appeal of the new Executive Committee, came to the Yamamoto Farm to harvest potatoes. It has often been the case that onions and potatoes from the farm are offered to churches in the district, to help those in need. The produce, which could well be sold in markets, is distributed and sold at churches at less than half the market price. Unlike the previous day, when it had rained, it turned out to be an extremely hot day. We gained about 700 kilograms of harvest amidst the steam rising up from the wet earth, by digging the ground and shaking off the heavy soil every time we lifted up our shovels.
All of us, 20 persons including children, were deeply satisfied at the sight of mountains of potatoes, regretting at the same time the lack of exercise in our daily lives. After taking a bath at a nearby hot spring, a barbeque party was held in the garden of Shinonoi Church. Pastor Yamamoto, in fact, is an expert at making fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles. A member of his church made us soba noodles, which we enjoyed. He is soon due to open his own soba shop. Soba wheat is, of course, another product of the Yamamoto Farm. Young soybeans and corn were also harvested and served to us freshly boiled. We were lost for words to try to describe how tasty it was.
It might have been only a small part of the total Support Fund that Tokai District budgeted. However, I felt a great potential, seeing that volunteers were able to work together for a common purpose, not in some stressful situation but while enjoying themselves. Having a good time eating and drinking tea together, we talked about our dreams, which led to some tall stories, then on to a vision of evangelism. Pastor Yamamoto and some members of the Executive Committee are hoping to grow and distribute rice for the next project. (Tr. YY)
―Kato Makoto, pastor
Shizuoka Ichibancho Church, Tokai District
KNL Editorial Committee chair
Based on Shinpo (Kyodan Times)
東海教区の試み
       「重い課題にも楽しく向かい合う」
 東海教区は日本のほぼ中央に位置する教区である。特徴の一つは「農」を大切にしている事である。2009年度の教区総会が開催される一月ほど前、執行部の4人(議長、副議長、書記、伝道委員長)は山本将信牧師(伝道委員長・当時)の所有する農場に集まった。ジャガイモの種を植えるためである。すでに山本牧師が牧会されている篠ノ井教会の会員数名が準備万端整えて待っておられた。議長は鍬を取り、土を起こし始めた。副議長と書記は二つに割られた種芋の断面に灰を付けて耕された土の上に置き、そこに更に土をかぶせた。御年70歳の山本牧師は枯れ草のマットの上にどっかりと腰を下ろしニコニコと作業を見守っておられる。楽農(楽な農業)を目指しているという山本牧師の言葉が少し理解できた。後は神様にお任せして、順調にいけば70㎏の種芋から700㎏の収穫が見込まれると、山本牧師は言う。心地よい春の日差しの中、収穫されたネギから漂う命あふれる香りに包まれていただくお握りとお茶の味は格別であった。
 およそ4ヶ月後の8月3日(月)、新執行部の呼びかけに応えた有志が再び「山本農場」に集まりジャガイモの収穫作業を行った。これまでもそうであったがタマネギやジャガイモなどの収穫物は、しばしば教区に提供され、謝儀互助の一助となる。どこの市場に出しても見劣りしない立派な作物が、教区内の教会に配られ、市価の半値以下で販売される。生憎と当日は、前日までの雨が上がり猛暑となった。湿った土から立ちのぼる熱気と、シャベルにこびりつく土の重さと戦いながら約700㎏の収穫を得た。積み上げられていく芋の山に子どもを含めて20名の参加者は、日頃の運動不足を嘆きつつも大きな充実感が与えられた。
 銭湯(温泉)で汗を流した後は、篠ノ井教会の庭でバーベキューパーティーを行った。実は山本牧師は講師に招かれるほどの蕎麦打ちの達人である。近々店を構える予定の篠ノ井教会員である彼の弟子の1人が打った十割蕎麦もいただく。蕎麦粉は勿論山本農場産である。他にも枝豆、とうもろこし、全部穫れ立てゆで立て、その美味しさに言葉も出ない。
 東海教区が必要とする謝儀互助資金額に較べたら、何ほどのことではではないかも知れない。しかし、皆が一つの目的ために汗を流して働くということ、しかも、それは悲痛なものではなく楽しいこと、そこに、大きな可能性が秘められているように感じた。美味しいものを食べながら、飲みながら、話題は当然ながら建設的な方向に向いて行く。夢を語り、ちょっとほら話も混じり、伝道の幻が生まれ、育てられて行く。山本牧師はじめ執行部有志は、次は是非米を作り現物支給したいと言う。静岡一番町教会 牧師 加藤誠(KNL編集委員長)