Finding ways to help Japanese and Canadian churches connect with each other is one goal of a pastoral couple serving in Japan after years of ministry in British Columbia.
When Gerald Neufeld, pastor of Mennonite Japanese Christian Fellowship in Surrey, B.C., and his wife Rie felt a call to return to Japan, their family moved there last year.
Neufeld continues as pastor of the B.C. congregation, giving online messages once a month. He is on sabbatical until the end of March, and is using the time to upgrade his Japanese language skills and reflect on his personal calling.
“Most Japanese churches in North America and in Japan are very small, but if we can build connections online, we can function as a larger family, sharing resources,” Gerald says.
The Neufelds’ goal is to help build connections between people and churches in Japan and Canada.
“One challenge that we face is that it’s tempting for people to slip into doing things according to an old model where the powerful churches send money and resources overseas to the ‘needy’ people,” Gerald says. “Our hope is to somehow build relationships that are more reciprocal, where sharing happens both ways. An exchange program can be developed. Right now, we’re waiting for the renovations with the Anabaptist Centre to be started and completed, so that we can move in.”
He says the centre needs to upgraded to withstand earthquakes.
The Neufelds arrived in Tokyo just before the borders were closed to foreigners due to COVID-19. They have been visiting churches in Yayoidai, Honancho and Minuma, and living in the Yayoidai Brethren in Christ church house in Kodaira City until the Anabaptist Centre renovations are complete.
They are spending time getting to know the people of the Tokyo Area Fellowship of Mennonite Churches, finding out what their vision is for the future and learning from them.
The Neufelds hope to clarify their role by April.
“One style of leadership is to have a catalyst/ambassador-style role rather than standing out as a full-time missionary, yet we need more clarity as to how,” says Gerald. “We are in conversation with representatives of Mennonite Church British Columbia and MC Canada Witness. With their help, we hope to be able to clarify our role, which would be different than that of traditional mission workers. We’d then have a new title, which is important in Japan especially. The Tokyo people need to know that we’re not just coming on our own, but that we also represent others and have a formal role.”
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