Making a church along with a town
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, Rev. Yoshiya Hari (Saikyo Nozomi Chapel) and Rev. Makoto Yokoyama (Toda Evangelical Free Church) have been involved in a project with their local government in Toda City (Saitama prefecture).
Rev. Hari found, during the relief project for the earthquake in Miyagi prefecture, many local residents sincerely devoted themselves to their own towns. “I realized I was looking at the residents in the town I live in just as targets for mission. But what have I been doing for the town as a good citizen?” He told a local government official of his interest in doing something for the town, and was introduced to two classes run by Toda city hall: “Making Local Regulations” and “Disaster Measures.”
Rev. Yokoyama started his mission in Toda City in 2009 but thought, “though Jesus preached in the street and lived in the town, I talk to few local people except church members. Then just when I was seriously thinking about my town, my mission, the earthquake, and how I should live as a person, I discovered the work group for Disaster Measures.”
Looking at serious problems such as declining birthrate and aging, or measures for great disasters in the future, Toda local government found that they could not provide enough services for the needs of citizens just by themselves. Therefore they started a project to make regulations in collaboration with its citizens. The classes for “Making Local Regulations” and “Disaster Measures” began in July 2012, developed into a work group, which became “the Citizen Council,” which is expected to submit a basic plan for the local regulations to the city council in spring 2014. This council composed of 35 people—residents, representatives of some resident groups, and local government officials. They elected Rev. Hari as chairperson and Rev. Yokoyama as vice chairperson. Now they work together for their vision to make good community systems for new-comers as well as existing residents in Toda City.
Yokoyama said, “I cannot say the number of church attendants has increased because of my participation in the project. But now we share the same themes with the local residents and pray for them. This is a great change.”
Rev. Hari talked about the responsibility of Christians. “We pastors always think about the vision of our church and how to get church members to commit to it. Town-making is similar. Christians can show our values by attending community meetings. It is important to collaborate with the selected authorities first to follow what God tries to realize by using them. In the collaboration, when we say “we cannot agree with it because of our beliefs,” it will have a great impact. I want more pastors and young church members to care about taking their responsibilities seriously as Christians.”
From Christian Shimbun, December 22/29, 2013
Excerpt translated by Tomoko Kato