Good News

On Saturday, June 29 of this year, Mr. Timothy Osamu Kondo of Niigata St. Paul’s Church was baptized and confirmed.  The 75-year old Mr. Kondo had a stroke 16 years ago and suffers speech impediment aftereffects and is physically challenged.  

After every monthly Holy Eucharist, while each individual tells about one’s daily thoughts or God’s works discovered through occurrences, Ms. Michiko Kondo, Osamu’s companion, would oftentimes talk about him.  I told her I would like to see Osamu, and the preparation time came for baptism and confirmation.   

I visited Osamu with Michiko at the nursing home he was staying at and explained to him about baptism and confirmation that Michiko had told him about beforehand.  When I asked him if he wanted to think about it a little more, he immediately answered my question, telling me he would like to be baptized and confirmed.  I was truly happy to hear his answer. 

It had been a while since the last baptism at Muramatsu, so with the godparents-to-be Mr. Tadashi Sato and Ms. Atsumi Sato, we took a moment to read the Book of Common Prayers and pray after the Holy Communion, and shared a time of learning. 

We had asked support from the people of the nursing home beforehand and were able to have the baptism and confirmation in the room where Osamu was staying.

The following day was “Paul’s Festival” at Niigata St. Paul’s Church.  Michiko had joined us hoping to give her gratitude to all those who had prayed with joy during the preparations of the baptism and confirmation.  Michiko had wanted to have her wedding in a church, but Osamu, who was not a Christian, opposed to this idea and her dream was never realized.  She had always regretted this and told me that she had always kept in mind the wedding vows said at her relative’s wedding. 

“Wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wedded wife/husband to live together in the Holy Estate of matrimony?  Wilt thou love her/ him?  Comfort her/him, honor and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her/him as long as you both shall live?”

The two had been supporting each other as both of them worked at the photo studio.  Their religious beliefs were different, and everyday was not all fun.  When Osamu, in charge of managing the photo studio, had a stroke and was unconscious for several days, Michiko was very nervous.  So, when Osamu woke up, she told him, “I’m so relieved.  Don’t worry about a thing.  Leave it all up to me.  When people get married at church, they make a promise to keep each other in sickness and in health.”  She remembered when Osamu, unable to formulate speech, heard these words and tears rolled down his cheeks. 

Michiko said that Osamu’s baptism and confirmation seem as if Michiko herself has received a reward for her faithful life.  One’s joy had become the joy of our community of faith, and those who had gathered were all happy.  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” thank you!

Revd. Fides Sunhee Kim
Niigata St. Paul’s Church

I’m Home

I have been appointed to Niigata St. Paul’s Church since this April.  The ordination ceremony was followed by Easter.  At the start of the service, I stood in front of the bishop with the representatives of the congregation and was encouraged by their words of support.  Niigata St. Paul’s Church is a place where I set off upon deciding to be a member of the clergy and graduating theology school.

Those people who welcomed my husband and I with open hearts having returned after ten years.  Talking with family members about the memories of those who have passed away.  There has been an increase in the number of those who had been visiting the church ten years ago, but who are now having difficulties attending services due to aging.  I am looking forward to seeing them again.

There is a strange feeling when I see the various footsteps of Rev. Ignacio Yoonsic Jung, who worked for five years ten years ago, left everywhere in the church.  I asked about the congregation before visiting them, and Rev. Jung took out his notebook from ten years ago.  He looked at the records from then and taught me family relationships, shared prayers, and words of encouragement.

When talking with the congregation, there are lots of memories from ten years ago.  The many opportunities talking while reminiscing about the “times before going to theological school” brings back to memory the late Ms. Leah Shihoko Nagai. 

My husband, who had been appointed as a priest to Niigata St. Paul’s Church, was spending fulfilling days through preparations for Sunday services, sermons, and pastoral care.  Ms. Nagai would take notice of me and say, “Sunhee, your young, but you live apart from your parents and have only few friends, so it must be hard for you.”  When I told her I had learned sign language during my days in Nagoya, she gave me information about sign language lessons in Niigata.  I would consult her about a troubled young person who would visit the church, and she would tell me about the time when she was volunteering at a hospital after her husband passed away due to cancer.  She would also tell me about her experience as a counselor for “Inochi-no-Denwa (Lifeline) and often cheer me up.

She taught me a lot about the delicious Japanese food and its wonderful culture.  I still think about Ms. Shihoko Nagai whenever I eat a bowl of wheat-rice with grated yam or red turnip pickles.  Since birth, her one of her blood vessels is thinner than it should be, so she refrains from eating pickles, which contains salt.  However, I always envied her when she brought tons of those pickles to church and share them with us.  

I also had an encounter with a young person who had withdrawn from society for ten years and was searching for something that I could do for those people who came to church.  And just when I was thinking about learning counseling and my husband knowing that I had wanted to learn theology since before our marriage, offered to support me in my decision to enter the ministry.  There are still many things that I do not know about from the last ten years.  There were times when I was really down not being able to help those in need of help.  However, I the days at church and the hospital were spent remembering what Ms. Shihoko Nagai had taught me. 

Losing her husband, taking care of her mother, thinking about her daughters who lived apart from her, doing volunteer work, accounting for church, taking care of people from church, and so on.  The thinning of her blood vessels will eventually restrain her from walking, so she started calligraphy and sewing.  There are many people, including Ms. Shihoko Nagai, who have taught me that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  I will bear in mind the love given from you, pray together with you, and interact with people.  I am truly grateful to be a part of this religious community where the people living together are connected by God’s love.  

I would like to become a member of a group of people who love, not only Ms. Shihoko Nagai, but also God, those who are loved by God, gather, pray, and have shared.

Revd Fides Sunhee Kim
Niigata St. Paul’s Church