An uneasy transition

A new Canadian voice

December 10, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 24
Rie Neufeld |

This is my seventh year living in Canada. My transition from Japan to Canada wasn’t easy, since I love my country and my family. I especially love the church where I became a believer, Atago Mennonite, in Miyazaki. I still have a heart that one day my entire family will come to know Jesus.

When my husband Gerald and I started our ministry in Canada, we were soon welcomed by Mennonite Church British Columbia staff, leaders and congregations. There were retired missionaries supporting Japanese ministries—so they weren’t actually retired—and there was also a church that had built a good relationship with our new, small Canadian Japanese community, showing wonderful care. Some members from that church visited us during our Sunday afternoon service. We had joint worship services together and enjoyed fellowship together at Camp Squeah. We felt welcomed and supported by these “real Mennonites.”

The challenges our church has been experiencing are:

  • English language ability
  • Cultural expectation differences
  • Limited Bible training
  • Too high expectations of the pastor
  • Financial struggles

I can see some difference in those five things compared to the challenges of typical Canadian Mennonite churches. These challenges cause us to step back from getting to know each other, rather than stepping into more close relationships with our Mennonite neighbours. Living in Canada as a minority has made us shy and quiet. Many of our members have had some experience being misunderstood or embarrassed in this society. Mennonites seem to have too high of a standard for many of us.

About 20-plus adults and about the same number of children regularly come together for Sunday worship services. Many have little knowledge of Mennonite/Anabaptist practice. We need more wisdom and knowledge of the Bible. Many members don’t have a Christian background, which means they have not learned how to study and understand the Bible, or how you raise children in a Christian way. Those are big things to learn. We need the wisdom of the older generation of Christians in order to be encouraged to walk with faith in Jesus.

Our ministries have been focussed on non-believers, such as international students, “working holiday” short-term workers and local Japanese families. At every third Sunday worship service, we take turns hearing from members sharing their faith journeys. Everyone has an amazing story, which may include how they became a believer or how they went through a difficult time with faith. Some share deeper issues, and some are just learning what to share. We are getting to know how our God is working in each other’s lives through this testimony time.

I feel well supported by MC B.C. Our area church minister is interested in our faith community. Gerald is supported by area church and multicultural leaders, so he can share any difficulties and can learn from other people’s experiences. Children in our church look forward to attending Camp Squeah every summer. We are very grateful for its fund to support low-income families.

It seems the process of growth is slow and messy, but I trust God, who is able to work and create from nothing to complete his will. Knowing that, I continue serving where I am and follow the Spirit’s leading.

Rie Neufeld lives in Surrey, B.C., and attends Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship there. She was a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in Japan with her husband Gerald, who pastors the congregation.

—Posted Dec. 10, 2014

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