MWC regional representative KyongJung Kim visits Anabaptist/Mennonite churches in Japan, 1–18 July 2016
It was a great privilege to visit national member churches in Northeast Asia as Mennonite World Conference (MWC) regional representative. As I planned to visit Japan, I prayed that it would happen if this were pleasing to God. As time went by, Japanese national member churches opened their doors one by one. (In Japan, there are 73 congregations and 2,801 members.)
The purpose of my visit was to introduce MWC and its relationship with national member churches. The overarching theme I prepared was “We need each other to grow together in the body of Christ.”
On 3 July 2016, at Minami Mennonite in Miyazaki, I noticed the Korean national flower as the cover image of the church bulletin on that Sunday. Korea had a painful history with Japan’s colonization (1910–1945). I felt that our relationship had already been transformed to friendship in the Lord.
After the worship service, the pastor Syozo Satou’s sister said she had attended MWC assembly in Winnipeg (1990), identifying herself with the MWC family. She apologized for what the Japanese ancestors had done to Koreans during the Japanese colonization. I appreciated her honest sharing, and we moved from the time of worship to fellowship time together.
On 9 July, I attended the Hokkaido conference leaders’ meeting where I talked about MWC and its member church relationships. Throughout the fellowship meeting, I saw a great potential among young people. Some young adults participated in the MWC Assembly in Pennsylvania last year; they were very interested in exchange programs.
On 10 July, I had worship and fellowship at Bethel Mennonite, a small house church in downtown Sapporo. In Japan, I found that most churches are too small to offer full financial support to their pastors. Members are encouraged to participate in the life and work of the congregation as fully as possible. (This is similar to my home congregation in ChunCheon, South Korea.) Everyone is a minister, doing what they can according to their gifts.
It is good to have church leaders (or active members) visit congregations to share stories and receive insights from each other. The life of a local congregation should be shared with others as much as possible to encourage and strengthen our churches to grow together. Church-to-church relationship would also help us to find the better resources for future generations.
On 11–13 July, I visited Osaka, where there are lots of Mennonite Brethren congregations and one seminary. Japan MB is the biggest Anabaptist group in Japan (63 percent), but they are not a member of MWC. One pastor asked me about conscientious objection to military service in the Korean church situation. I answered that not everyone in my congregation would agree with the church’s peace position. We have our weaknesses as well as strengths. That’s why we need each other. I encouraged MB churches to interact with other Anabaptist/Mennonite groups in Japan first and build relationships with others beyond.
On 14–17 July, I met brothers and sisters in the Tokyo area. Like other conferences, they were very much open to the development of relationship building with other churches.
What would make such a relationship building possible? We discussed a number of things including YAMEN, a joint exchange program of Mennonite Central Committee and MWC. I was glad that they were willing to explore this possibility. Sending and receiving volunteers means potential learning and growth through life-sharing experiences and being involved in the life and work of the larger body of Christ.
Like other churches in the world, Japanese churches are facing many challenges. It is our duty and responsibility to walk with God not alone, but together with other brothers and sisters around the world.
On the way back home, I reflected what I had learned; it was all about the relationship in Christ. Thanks be to God who renewed our relationships to him through Christ!
—KyongJung Kim, Northeast Asia Regional Representative, Mennonite World Conference