by Reiko Okuma , pastor La Gloria Church Colonia Okinawa, Bolivia
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
It has been 33 years since I was led to come to Bolivia, and during this time, these words of God have continued to support and encourage me daily. I have nothing in my heart but thankfulness to the Lord.
There are three incidents I would like to relate in which the Lord helped me.
1. The first one happened 25 years ago. That day, there was a conference in Santa Cruz, about 100 kilometers away from our village. I was coming home late at night. In those days, there were few cars, and by 10:00 at night, there were no cars at all on the roads. I noticed that in front of me, there was a man standing next to a motorcycle in the middle of the road, holding a long gun, and looking at me. On both sides of the road, there was only jungle, and not a single house. In a moment of surprise, I said, “Huh?” In my heart, I cried, “Oh, Lord, help me!” I drove by the man, and as soon as I passed him, I increased my speed and continued driving. I drove about 40 kilometers from that place, and returned safely to the parsonage and breathed a sigh of relief. I said, “Thank you, thank you!” to the Lord for protecting and helping me.
2. One day I visited a home, and we were able to have a very good conversation. After that, I returned home, giving thanks in my heart. In front of my car, there was a boy riding a bicycle. Perhaps he did not notice my car. Without looking behind him, he suddenly tried to cross the road. I cried out “Oh no!” as my car bounced over something twice before I was able to stop the car. I thought, “I ran over someone with my car. Now I will not be able to do evangelism here.” I got out of the car and noticed that I was right in front of the police station. I looked under the car, afraid of what I might see. The boy was crouching there. The boy was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, and I went to the police station and reported my name and occupation. Then I hurried to the hospital. While I was sitting in a chair and waiting at the hospital, I kept praying, “Lord, please spare the boy’s life.” Soon, the head nurse came out of the medical consulting room and asked me, “Ms. Okuma, did you really run that boy over with your car?” Surprised, I answered, “Yes. I clearly remember the car bouncing over something twice.” The nurse said, “The boy is all right. There are some scratches on his abdomen, but there is no pain when his abdomen is touched.” Apparently, because the car’s frame was high off the ground, the boy’s body stretched out and fit neatly under the car, and the tires and other parts of the car did not touch him. Also, fortunately, the front and back wheels of the car rolled up onto, and rested upon the bicycle, and because of that, the boy’s body was miraculously protected. When I heard what had happened, I prayed, “Lord, it was you who helped him. Thank you! Thank you!” And I thanked the Lord again and again.
3. The regular worship service (those days it was evening worship) had ended. As I was going to bed, I was thankfully praying, “Lord, thank you for watching over me today.” Outside, I could hear music with the volume turned up very loud. It was about one o’clock in the morning. Suddenly I thought I heard a banging sound. The next thing I knew, somebody opened my bedroom door and came in. I thought, “What? Who’s that? If that person has a knife, I’m in big trouble!” The text for that day’s sermon had been Psalm 121, and I had been blessed with the opportunity to speak these words: “The Lord will surely protect us and help us, so instead of feeling uneasy about the future, let us give thanks to the Lord, and with joy in our hearts, let us live to the fullest, every day which has been given to us.” I cried out in my heart, “Lord, I trust in your protection.” Then, the man came onto my bed. Instinctively, I sat upright. The next instant, I was grabbed and held tightly by the man. Struggling was useless. That man was much too strong for me. Right away, I gazed steadily into his face, even though it was dark in the room and I could not really see anything. Then, perhaps because the man’s face had been seen, he suddenly left me and ran away outside. As he was leaving, he did not notice the offering money lying on the desk, so the offering was also protected. Of course, the Lord protected me too, completely, and kept me safe. Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you!
There are still many more times when the Lord helped me. I have had on a daily basis such experiences as I have described here. I am strongly, strongly reminded that there is power in the word of the Lord. Daily, I continually cry out, “Lord, I give thanks to you!” This place which I was led to is an Okinawan settlement. It is now officially recognized as “Okinawa Village”. When Okinawa was under the rule of the American military forces, a policy was under consideration to encourage people to emigrate people overseas, and Bolivia was chosen as the destination of the emigration. On August 15, 1954, in accordance with the primary emigration program of the Ryukyu(Okinawa) government, 275 emigrants were relocated to a settlement in Bolivia. This emigration was continued until the 19th emigration program in 1998. A total of 584 families, including 3385 people, emigrated. In 1998, the Bolivian government established “Colonia Okinawa” as an administrative district, and the Okinawa Village City Hall was erected within the first settlement (there are three settlements in total), and this City Hall remains until this day. I live in the first settlement. All the people of Okinawa have emotional scars caused by the war. Therefore I (from Saitama prefecture), of course as a follower of Christ, and also as a fellow human being, am happy to cooperate in any way I can.
In our village a big event is held every year, called “Colonia Okinawa Jukan(traverse) Ekiden”, which is a long-distance relay race. A sash is passed along by a team of 29 people for a distance of about 38 kilometers. The anchor leg is designated to be run by a man who is in his 60′s, but in recent years, by the request of the village sports committee, I have had the honor of running the anchor leg. The anchor runner runs one kilometer along the main street of the village. Last year, the mayor, who is Bolivian, cheered me on with a loud voice, saying, “Pastora Reiko, ganbare!! (Let’s go, Pastor Reiko!)” I responded by waving my hand. We do not compete as a team; rather, prizes are awarded to the top three runners of each leg of the race, so even when I come in last place, it is no problem. However, the people on the sports committee never forget to prepare a special prize for “the woman who ran the leg that is designated for a man”. I am honored to be able to work in a village which has such considerate people, and I am thankful, so thankful for the blessing of being able to serve gladly the people of this area, in any way that I can. This is due to the fact that I am blessed because the Lord gives me strength, and helps me.
The church has a kindergarten attached to it, which holds a worship service every morning from Monday to Friday. The kindergarten children memorize scripture in Japanese and Spanish, and also sing hymns in Japanese and Spanish. The Lord watches over these energetic children, and we are thankful, so thankful every day. As for the church, at last year’s Christmas worship service, a high school girl was baptized, and this year, at the end of November, a boy who has just graduated from his third year of junior high school will be baptized. In this way, the Lord provides souls for baptism, and all of us rejoice together. Also, we pray that the Lord will use many young people in many ways in future worship services, including leading worship services, and giving offertory prayers. Because I will soon be 73 years old, I put in a request to the World Mission Board for someone to serve as the pastor here, and one woman responded, and she is now scheduled to come here as a pastor in May of next year. She is from Yomitan in Okinawa, so the members of the church are already waiting for her with great joy and prayer. (Some members are from Yomitan.) We can do nothing but bow our heads in admiration of the Lord’s wondrous work, filled with love. We have only thankfulness to the omnipotent and loving Lord, who knows our needs better than anyone else, and works everything out to be perfect for us. Thanks be to the Lord! (Tr. KT)
“恐れてはならない。わたしはあなたと共にいる。驚いてはならない。わたしは あなたの神である。わたしはあなたを強くし、あなたを助け、わが勝利の右の手をもって、あなたをささえ る。” イザヤ書四十一：十
一、今から二十五年前のことです。その日は、私達の村から約百キロメートル離れた サンタクルースの町で会議があり、夜遅く帰って参りました。当時は車も少なく、夜十時ともなれば全く走っ ておりません。前方を見ますと一人の男性が、オートバイを横におき、長い銃を持って道の真ん中で、こちらを見て立っているではありま せんか。道の両側はジャングルで、家など一軒もありません。「ええっ？」と一瞬びっくり致しました。「主よ、助け給え。」と心の中で 叫び、車を走らせてその人を通り過ぎたとたん、スピードをあげて走り続けました。その場所から約四十キロ走り、無事牧師館に到着し、 ホッと致しました。まず主のお守りとお助けに感謝・感謝でした。
二、ある日、家庭訪問をし、良き話し合いが出来たことを感謝しつつ家に向っておりました。私の車の少し 前を自転車に乗った少年が走っていました。少年は私の車に気付かなかったのでしょう。後ろも見ずに急に道を横切ろうとしたのです。 「ええっ、何、何？」と二回バウンドをした後、車を止めました。「私は人を轢いてしまった。もう ここでは伝道できない。」と思いつつ、車の外に出ました。そこは丁度交番の前でした。恐る恐る車の下を見 ますと、少年が蹲っていました。少年はすぐ近くの病院に運ばれ、わたしは交番に行き、名前と職業を語りました。その後、私も病院へと 急ぎました。
病院の椅子に座って待っている間、「主よ、少年の生命を助けて下さい。」と祈り続けました。暫くして婦 長さんが、診察室から出ていらっしゃり「大熊さん、本当にあの少年を轢いていますか。」と尋ねるではありませんか。私はびっくりして 「はい、二回バウンドをしたのを、はっきり覚えておりますから。」と答えました。「少年は大丈夫です。腹部にかすり傷はありますが、 腹部を触っても痛みがありませんよ。」と。
車高の高い車であった為、すっぽり車の下に少年の体が伸び、タイヤや他の部分が少年に接触していなかっ たようでした。さらに、幸いにも、自転車に車の前輪と後輪が乗りあげた為、少年に体は奇跡的にも守られたのでした。それを知らされ 時、「主よ、あなたがお助け下さったのですね。ありがとうございます。ありがとうございます。」と何度も主に感謝致しました。
三、聖日礼拝（当時は夜の礼拝）が終わり、「主よ、今日もお守り下さりありがとうございます。」と感謝し つつベッドに入りました。外からはボリュームを上げた音楽が聞こえてきます。午前一時頃になりました。急にバタンと音がしたような気 がしました。すると、どうでしょう。私の寝室のドアをギーと開けて誰か入ってきたではありませんか。「ええっ？誰？誰？刃物を持って いたら困るわ。」と思いましたが、聖日礼拝でのメッセージは、詩篇百二一篇からで「主は、私達をしっかり守り助けて下さいますから、 未来に不安を持つのではなく、主に感謝しつつ、喜びをもって与えられた一日一日を精一杯歩んで行きましょう。」と語らせて頂いたばか りでしたので、「主よ、あなたのお助けを信じます。」と心の中で叫びました。すると、男の人は私のベッドの上に来ました。私は思わず ガバッと起き上がりました。次の瞬間、男の人に私はきつく抱き締められてしまいました。もがいても駄目でした。やはり男性の力にはか ないません。私は、すぐに近くにあるその男の人の顔をじっと見つめました。室内は暗いので、全然見えなかったのですが・・。すると、 男の人は顔を見られたからでしょうか。急に私から離れ、外へと逃げていきました。逃げて行く途中の机の上には、献金があったのですが それには気付かず、献金も守られました。勿論、主は私をしっかりお守り・お助け下さいました。感謝・感謝・感謝。
アンカーの走る場所は村のメインストリートで走る距離は一キロメートル。昨年はボリビア人の村長が「パ ストーラ（女牧師）レイコ、ガンバレ?」 と大声で応援して下さいました。私は手をふって応えました。