By the Hokushin-Gogaku (Northern Nagano Five Mountains)

Two years have passed since I was assigned to Nagano Prefecture.  Obuse Town, where New Life Hospital is located, is a mountain village surrounded by flowers.  From the hospital, one can see the mountains called “Hokushin-Gogaku” by the local people.  Mt. Iizuna, Mt. Togakushi, Mt. Kurohime, Mt. Myoko, and Mt. Madarao.  Each one is beautiful and unique in its own.     

A mountain that stands proudly.  The colors of green change with the season, but one is fascinated by its unchanging stability.  The mountains seem to me as if they are disciples of Jesus; they look like our seniors who have had their lives changed by the resurrection of Jesus, and having built a secure foundation of life, started walking the path of faith.

I am working as a hospital chaplain at the foot of these mountains.  I am happy to have been given the role “to spend time with patients and their families who are facing and battling with illness.”  On the other hand, I come to realize that I am only looking at my own steps when I am busy.  

When going home after the Evening Service, along with the feeling of relief that “I was able to finish the day off,” I remember the people that I met in the hospital ward and the people I saw off.  There are many times where I go home with my head full thinking back on the words that were communicated and the times spent together.  “Was that the right decision?”  “Let me say this kind of greeting.”  “What should I do tomorrow?”     

However, beyond my thoughts, there is an extensive view of the mountains within the vast sunset.  I hear the birds singing, and when looking up, the mountains come out from within the clouds and looking down from the view afar.  Silent and peaceful.  The figure of the mountains within each place relaxes my feelings. 

Miss Powell, a Canadian missionary who was the head nurse at Obuse Sanatorium (the forerunner of New Life Hospital), is said to have had a liking for the Psalms which starts with “I lift up my eyes to the mountains.” (Psalms 121:1)  When I think Miss Powell had also been looking at the same view, I remember the timeless familiarity of her who had devoted her life in caring for patients right here at this place.     

As services restarted in June, I am feeling the joy being able to again pray with the lay.

I have also been given strength from those who participate in the Evening Mass.  I always long for the security like that of “Hokushin Gogaku.”  I will never come close to it, but in reality, I am always guided by the presence of security, and the many people such as brothers and sisters at church, staff members, volunteers, patients, and their families.          

Even today, there are people who are waiting to welcome me with many different facial expressions.   Smiling, happy, painful, sad, angry, and lonely.  The certainty of living comes from living each day to the fullest with such people. 

The outbreak of infectious disease and large-scale natural disasters are currently engulfing people all over the world with fear and anxiety.  However, let us lift up our eyes and believe that “my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:2) and continue walking holding hands with all of you.

Deacon John the Baptist Takaaki Yamato