Sharing the Christmas Message of Hope with Prisoners in Song

by Jin’nouchi Taizo, pastor
Tobi Church, Nishi Tokyo District
Professional Musician
It was the Christmas season. With church concerts and other responsibilities, I was busy going back and forth between Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures. In the midst of these activities came a request from a pastor who was serving as a prison chaplain. “When you have an opening in your schedule, could you come as a volunteer and sing at our prison? Please help us.”
It just so happened that I was on my way from one place to another at that time and was able to stop at Yamaguchi Prison on my way. Since I am from Yamaguchi, I knew of the prison, but this was the first time I had gone inside. It was a Christmas program, and the prisoners who wanted to were allowed to attend. A street performer and I were the entertainment.
I asked the chaplain if it would be all right to have the prisoners sing with me and keep the rhythm by clapping their hands. I was told that when such requests are made before performances, they are sometimes refused. I guess that is because music can raise people’s emotions. But then he said, “However, Pastor Jin’nouchi, if while you are singing it seems natural to ask the prisoners to sing along with you or to ask them to clap in rhythm, I think that would be permissible.” This response, however, did leave me a bit uneasy.
Close to 500 prisoners gathered that day in the gymnasium. To be honest, when I first stood on the stage, I was a bit intimidated. Everyone’s head was shaved, and everyone was wearing a gray work uniform. I felt “frozen,” like a deer caught in a car’s headlights.
Since I had been raised in Yamaguchi, I even imagined someone I might know calling, “Hey, Jin’nouchi!” My mind was racing, and I was off to a poor start. However, after I had sung a few songs, I noticed that instead of the prisoners staring at me with folded arms, they were enjoying the music. It seemed that everyone had that same kind of facial expression, and I could sense an overflow of warmth and emotion.
“Hey, if you like, why not sing with me? Let me hear the rhythm with your hands, and let’s have a good time!” I asked for requests. When that happened, everyone smiled and participated. Just imagine 500 adult men singing together and keeping perfect rhythm by clapping. With all that energy, I was overwhelmed on the stage. It felt so good, and I sang my heart out.
Then I noticed some strange movement beyond the crowd of prisoners. The prisoners were not noticing it, but the guards seemed to be moving into a defensive position. I could see this happening from the stage. Suddenly I began to wonder if the enthusiastic response to our concert was causing concern. The two groups were certainly focused on different things, but that was how much energy and excitement were in the gymnasium that night.
Afterwards, I received letters from some of the prisoners, and it was a priceless experience for all of us. If another situation like this arises, I hope to respond. These are the times in which we live. But at least at Christmas, when so many people are dealing with cold, pain, sadness, and loneliness, I pray that we can make it a season when they can feel warmth, hope, and light. (Tr. JS)
–From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)
(陣内大蔵)東美教会牧師(西東京教区) (信徒の友)

37th Kyodan General Assembly Elects New Slate of Officers

The 37th Kyodan General Assembly was held at the Metropolitan Hotel in Tokyo, Oct. 26-28, 2010 under the theme “Where is the Unity of the Kyodan? Thirsting After the Leading of the Holy Spirit.” At the opening worship service, Hikita Kunimaro, pastor of Omiya Church, preached a sermon entitled, “I will build my church on this rock,” using Isaiah 53:4-6 and Matthew 16:13-20 as Scripture readings. The main points of the message were that the confession of faith that Peter gave, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” has been the confession of the church for 2000 years, and it is that which is asked of every person. It was on the “rock” of that confession that the Lord Jesus gave his commission to build his church, and it is from that confession that the church began. Christ conquered the power of death and sin, and built his church. We may lament the present situation of the church, but it’s not really ours to begin with. The Lord declared that the power of sin and death would not prevail against his church. Thus, as long as it’s the Lord Jesus who builds his church, the church will last forever, because it is his promise that he will prevail against even death.
The elections for moderator, vice-moderator and secretary brought three new faces to the positions. Ishibashi Hideo, pastor of Koshigaya Church, was elected to replace four-term moderator Yamakita Nobuhisa. In his acceptance speech, he stated that the visible church is based in the actualization of three pillars: the confession of faith, the sacraments, and church standards, and that it is through the maintenance of these three pillars that the church exists. He further stated that if one of these pillars becomes deformed, it weakens the other two as well. He pledged to work for the strengthening of these pillars and for the encouragement of preaching and study of the scripture so that its power might increase within the congregations. He appealed for support in guiding the Kyodan into a future that is focused on evangelism.
Okamoto Tomoyuki, pasor of Nishinomiya Church, was elected as vice-moderator, and in his greetings stressed that God alone can view things impartially. Thus, since we humans are limited by our partiality, in order to discuss issues fairly, we must follow parliamentary rules when debating the issues before us. Maintaining parliamentary procedure, he said, is the calling of the officers as they take on their new roles as executive roles.
Traditionally, the selection of the secretary has been left to the discretion of the moderator and vice-moderator, and accordingly, they chose Kumoshikari Toshimi, pastor of Akita Sakura Church. In his greetings, the new secretary stated that he had been involved in pioneer evangelism for 22 of the 27 years he was in Ou District. He described the efforts of churches in outlying districts as they have labored in difficult situations. While increasing the evangelistic efforts of local churches is important, he stressed the need for mutual support in mission.
The topic that generated the most interest at this assembly involved the various proposals put forth to deal with the issue of clergy admonition. With respect to these proposals, Moderator Yamakita explained that according to rule 6 of the admonition enforcement procedures, “The judicial committee’s decision is the final decision,” and so each of these proposals was either defeated or withdrawn.
On the afternoon of the second day, there was debate on the method of electing members of the new Executive Council. The recommendation of the outgoing Executive Council had been to have spaces on the ballot for the entire number of members to be elected, but a motion was presented to allow only seven names to be written on each ballot, which was, incidentally, how the election had been handled at the previous general assembly. After a heated debate, the final decision was to allow delegates to enter names for the entire slate of 27 members to be elected. The new council consists of 14 clergy, 13 lay persons, and the 4 Kyodan executives, including the General Secretary. About 10 of these are new members.
A memorial service is held during each General Assembly for those who have passed away during the two years since the previous assembly. Ohara Muneo, moderator of Ou District, presided over this year’s service, during which 86 clergy and 9 missionaries were honored for their service. The title of the message was “God now lives with people, and they will be his people,” based on Revelations 21:1-4.
Of the 44 items on the agenda, 2 were not deliberated due to time constraints and were scrapped, which was a disappointment to the new executive officers. (Tr. TB)
–Kato Makoto, executive secretary
 第1回日本基督教団教育委員と宣教師との懇第37回 日本基督教団総会報告
                             報告者 加藤 誠

"Youth Evangelism" Topic of Education Committee Consultation

The first consultation between the Kyodan’s Committee on Education and missionaries serving in Japan was held on May 18, 2010 in the Kyodan’s conference room in Tokyo.
In his opening greetings, Chairman Kuroda explained the purpose of the meeting: “Since this is our first meeting together, I would like to hear from each of you about your work and any suggestions you may have.” Missionaries who engage the younger generation on a day-to-day basis offered various suggestions. Evangelization of the younger generation was the main concern for discussion brought by the Committee on Education.
One way of approaching students is through activities like art and sports. With young children who cannot understand spiritual things through words, the Montessori method of using wooden toys or tangible objects as a means of communication, in place of words, is being used to draw out their innate spirituality. Missionaries working with older youth explained how they employ songs and dances popular with young people and offered other such examples.
In response, committee members pointed out that these approaches are difficult to continue for very long. They also questioned how these kinds of fun activities could lead to church involvement or foster faith. The missionaries replied that with young people who reject the direct presentation of the gospel, the creation of a joyful setting is important for them to willingly accept faith. The Green House project in Yokohama was introduced as an example of how this is being done.
To the missionaries who have come to work with the church in Japan and are asking what the church requests and expects of them, we say: “With deep appreciation for the great work you do, there are many districts in Japan where there is almost no contact with missionaries. If you could travel through these outlying areas, it would be much appreciated.” There is a request that missionaries come to lecture at district education seminars. The consultation adjourned with the assurance that such discussions would continue. (Tr. GM) Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)

Japanese-Taiwanese Youth Mission Event held in Taiwan

Eight young people from Japan participated in a youth mission event held Aug. 10-23 in Taiwan. For the first four days we stayed in Taipei, where we participated in the opening worship, visited the national office of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), and heard about the activities of the church’s youth. Also, we learned about the “228 incident”1 and people’s lives under martial law following that incident.
On the third day, at the International Japanese Church, the people shared with us their experiences during the 228 incident and during the period of martial law. I was moved most when one elderly person, who had experienced the loss of a stepfather in the suppression and barely escaped, finished sharing the experience by saying, “However, Taiwan is now at peace and we should forget the past. Let’s love peace. I forgive the 228 incident.” Those words helped me sense the greatness of forgiveness.
From the fifth day, we went into the Alishan Mountains and stayed for a time. At a memorial service marking the rebuilding after a typhoon, these people who had suffered greatly sang praises with so much feeling that I could feel the power of their worship. At Lalauya Church’s Sunday worship service, Japanese words were used frequently, and I was amazed at the deep connection between the Tsou Tribe and Japan.
On the eighth day, we came down from the Alishan Mountain and traveled to Tainan, where we visited the Taiwan Church Press, Chang Jung Middle School, Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Chang Jung Christian University, and the Taiwan Blackfoot Disease Socio-medical Service Memorial House, along with other institutions. We were especially impressed with the work of Dr. Wang King-ho at the Taiwan Blackfoot Disease Socio-medical Service Memorial House. We felt his strong faith in God when he said, “Without faith and love we are nothing,” and “There is nothing more joyous than service, with no expectation of reward.”
On the eleventh day, we returned once more to Taipei. We attended Gikong Church on our second Sunday in Taiwan. This church was built at the site of murders related to what is called the “White Terror.”2 To this day the assailant has not been caught. Once more, at the end of our travels, we felt the weight of the government’s involvement both in this atrocity and in the cover-up that followed. However, as in the case of the elderly person in the International Japanese Church, it was most surprising that the relatives of the murdered family members3 also declared that they forgave the killer. Again I felt the greatness of forgiveness. Indeed, without forgiveness there can be no peace. Once again on this trip, I was impressed with the importance of forgiveness.
We were able to spend fourteen full and wonderful days. We cannot fully express our gratitude to the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. We learned a great deal from the dedication of the youth of Taiwan. Even after we return to Japan, we will continue to learn from them and to be encouraged in our studies in school and our service in church. (Tr. GM)
– Umetsu Shizuko, member
Honda Memorial Church, Tokyo
Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)
Ed. Note:
1 The 228 Incident began on Feb. 28, 1947 as the new arrivals from mainland China–the Chinese Nationalist Party and army–began a violent suppression of the indigenous Taiwanese throughout Taiwan, which the indigenous people call “the great massacre.”
2 The “White Terror” refers to the violence perpetrated against the people at the order of government leaders.
3 Three members of the Lin Yihsiung family were killed on Feb. 28, 1947.
ユースミッション報告ー本多記念教会 梅津静子
 今回のユースミッションには日本から8人の青年が参加した。最初の4日間は台北(Taipei)に滞在し、開会礼拝、総会事務所訪問、青年活動紹介などをおこなった。そして、*二二八事件とその後の戒厳令下の生活について学んだ。3日目に国際日語教会(International Japanese Language church)の方々から体験談を伺った。最も印象に残ったのは、二二八事件で義父を失い、自分も危機一髪を逃れた老人が体験談を話し終えた後に、「でも今、台湾は平和だから、昔のことは忘れて平和を愛しましょう、わたしは二二八事件のことを赦します。」と言い切ったことだ。赦すことの凄さを感じた。
 5日目からは阿里山(Alishan)の山奥で生活した。台風の再建記念礼拝では、苦難を経験しつつも明るく力強い賛美の歌声にパワーを感じた。楽野教会(Lalauya Church)での日曜礼拝では日本語の単語が頻発していて、ツォウ族(Tsou Tribe)と日本との繋がりに不思議な感じがした。
 8日目、阿里山から下山して台南へ向かう。台南では教会公(Taiwan Church Press)報社や長栄中学(Chang Jung high school)、台南神学院(Tainan Theological College and Seminary)、長栄大学(Chang Jung Christian University)、烏脚病記念館(Taiwan Blackfoot Disease Socio-Medical Service Memorial House)等を見学した。特に、烏脚病記念館で知った王金河先生(Dr.Wang King-ho)の奉仕には感銘をうけた。「どんな信仰も愛が無ければ無に等しい」「無償の奉仕ほど喜ばしいことは無い」、これらの王先生の言葉には強い神様への信仰が感じられた。
 11日目、再び台北に戻る。台湾に来て2回目の日曜日には**白色テロの殺人現場を礼拝堂にしたという、義光教会(Gikong Church)の礼拝に参加した。犯人は未だに捕まっていないという。国家による、残虐な行為と事実をもみ消す恐ろしさを旅の終盤に改めて感じた。しかし驚いたのが、この事件の遺族も、日語教会の老人のように家族を殺した犯人を「赦す」(ゆるす)と言っていることだ。これは凄いことだ。凄いことではあるが、この赦しが無ければ、平和は訪れないのだな、と改めて感じた。この旅では、赦すことの大切さをしばしば考えさせられた。

"A Message of Peace" for Peace Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010

by Yamakita Nobuhisa, former Kyodan moderator and
Choi Young Shin, Korean Christian Church in Japan moderator
100th Anniversary of the Annexation of Korea. This year of 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the forcible annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.
The annexation of Korea brought to fruition the imperial ambitions of Japan, which were based on the emperor system, and ushered in a cruel period of colonialism known as the “36 years of imperial rule.” This forced annexation and colonial rule resulted in the confiscation of the Korean Peninsula’s resources, including its property and labor of its people. In addition, use of the Korean language and Korean names was banned, and the people’s pride as well as their freedom of religion were taken from them. Due to the economic realities of this colonial period, many Koreans had little choice but to come to Japan to work, and in 1939 the policy of forcibly bringing Koreans to Japan as laborers was instituted, which intensified the persecution and oppression of Koreans in Japan.
We must not forget the deep wounds caused by the Korean Annexation in 1910 and the pain that still endures to this day.
60th Anniversary of the Korean War. The year 2010 also marks the 60th Anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.
In 1950, the struggle for supremacy over the Korean Peninsula between the fledgling powers of the Republic of Korea in the south and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north began in earnest. The battlefield extended over the entire peninsula, which had already been laid waste, with the result that the divided peninsula remained that way. While a ceasefire has been maintained, there have been skirmishes, and the military standoff continues to this day. Families have been torn apart, and the tragedy of one ethnic group fighting among itself continues. We must never forget that it was the annexation by Japan that set the stage for all of this, and that Japan utilized this tragedy to spur its own recovery after World War II.
Immigration Law and Fingerprinting Issues. As a preventative measure against “terrorism,” new immigration regulations have been put into effect. The main change is the requirement that all foreign nationals 16 years of age or older be fingerprinted and photographed when entering or reentering Japan, with the exception of “special permanent residents” (basically Koreans and Chinese who were born and raised in Japan) and persons with diplomatic immunity.
In addition, the government passed a new provision to go into effect in 2012 that is a complete revision of the Alien Registration System. This system, which has been in effect for 62 years, will be replaced with a new “residence card” that is designed for the maintenance of strict control over all foreign residents in Japan. It will basically divide all foreign residents into low-paid foreign workers useful to the economy and irregular sojourners subject to expulsion. Needless to say, this kind of oversimplified categorization will lead to violations of human rights.
As we contemplate the meaning of the cross of Jesus, we, as followers of Jesus, must take a stand against the “building up of walls of separation” that forced fingerprinting entails as well as the upcoming residence card system, which will further intensify the regulation of long-term foreign residents.
It is our firm conviction that in a world where more and more people are traveling internationally, and in a Japanese society in which foreign nationals are increasingly settling down to live, we should be aiming to create a multiethnic, multicultural society in which we can all live together in harmony. We believe that to realize such a goal, what we need is not fingerprinting but efforts to break down walls of separation between Japanese and foreign nationals.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
During this year in which we observe both the 100th anniversary of the annexation of Korea by Japan and the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the Kyodan and the Korean Christian Church in Japan stand together as we jointly pray for and work together for the following points:
* There should be a full disclosure of the illegal acts involved in the forced annexation of Korea and where the responsibility for those acts lie.
* All who were harmed by Japanese colonial rule should be justly compensated and have their human rights restored.
* Japan should do all that it can to encourage the reconciliation and reunification of the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible, especially since it was indirectly involved in the outbreak of the Korean War and benefited directly from the demand for war supplies.
* The new Immigration Act designed to control and eliminate foreign nationals should be revised.
* Japan should enact a “Basic Law for Foreign Residents of Japan” that strives for a society in which foreign nationals can feel at ease in putting down their in a local Japanese community.
It is within an atmosphere of renewed nationalism under the banner of “patriotism” that we covenant together to work for these goals as we continue in a spirit of prayer to our Lord. We believe that it is our calling, as ones sent by the Lord of righteousness and peace into Japanese society, to work and pray together for peace in the country in which we live. (Tr. TB)            Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)
日本基督教団 総会議長 山北宣久  
在日大韓基督教会 総会長 崔栄信
・ 日本による韓国併合のなかで行われたすべての不法が明らかにされ、その責任の所在が明確化されること。
・ 植民地支配の中で奪われ、傷つけられたすべての人々に対する補償が行われ、その人権が回復されること。
・ かつて朝鮮戦争の勃発に間接的に関与し、その戦争特需によって利益を得た日本という国の責任において、朝鮮半島の和解と統一が一日も早く成し遂げられるための努力がなされること。
・ 外国人を管理・排除の対象と見なす「入管法」が再び改正されること。
・ 定住外国人たちが安心してこの地に根を下ろすことができる社会を形づくる「外国人住民基本法案」が制定されること。