The Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai began in November 1948, when Dr. Takuo Matsumoto (1888-1986) of Hiroshima Girls College gave a chapel talk at Goshen College. Some students who heard him describe the havoc caused by the atomic bomb felt they should go to Japan as missionaries. Carl and Esther Beck and Ralph and Genevieve Buckwalter landed in Yokohama, in December 1949.
After language study they started working at Obihiro and Kushiro, central cities in the cold eastern part of Hokkaido in June 1951. The Gospel found a ready response, and the testimony of conscientious objector experience helped Japanese realize the authenticity of the Bible's teaching. Eleven were baptized on 25 November 1951 at Obihiro.
New missionaries from the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities came to more rural towns. By 1956 there were six congregations—four in the Tokachi (Obihiro) area, and two in the Konsen (Kushiro) area. Winter Bible schools and summer camps were held. It seemed desirable to work closer together on projects requiring cooperation, but at the same time respect the autonomy of each congregation. The Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference (Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai) was thus established in May 1956.
A "Mennonite Hour" radio program and correspondence course begun in 1956 broadened contacts. Some members moved to Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, and became the core of new groups in a new area. As of 1986, there were 17 congregations: 5 in Konsen, 7 in Tokachi, and 5 in Do-o (Sapporo). Total membership was about 450.
A decrease of population in rural villages was of concern. Three churches ran kindergartens; some conducted English classes or evangelistic meetings. Later emphasis was on strengthening the koinonia character of each group. Rather than large churches, the goal was to increase the number of small, close-knit congregations. At first graduates of seminaries or Bible schools in Tokyo were invited to lead churches, but only a few stayed. The conference concluded that leaders should emerge from the congregations themselves and be given training. So the Eastern Hokkaido Bible School (Doto Seisho Gakuin) was founded in 1965 in Kushiro (later in Obihiro). The stated purpose was to train workers in the Hokkaido context, and to do this with Anabaptist and Mennonite emphases (fellowship of believers, discipleship, peace witness). The school had no building. It went where the students were. In Sapporo is the Fukuzumi hostel and study center. Many leaders were lay men and women. Some had received theological training abroad also.
One special project was publication of Anabaptist-oriented literature through the Japan Mennonite Literature Association. A conference paper called Michi ("The Way") was published bimonthly. Two families served abroad, one in radio work in Ecuador, the other in agricultural work in Bangladesh. A few individuals have served elsewhere.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 173-177.
Mennonite World Conference. "MWC - 2003 Asia/Pacific Mennonite & Brethren in Christ Churches." Accessed 9 May 2006. <http://www.mwc-cmm.org/Directory/asiapacific.html>.
Cite This Article
Tanase, Takio. "Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 31 Jul 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Nihon_Menonaito_Kirisuto_Kyokai_Kyogikai_(Japan_Mennonite_Christian_Church_Conference)&oldid=76357.
Tanase, Takio. (1987). Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 31 July 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Nihon_Menonaito_Kirisuto_Kyokai_Kyogikai_(Japan_Mennonite_Christian_Church_Conference)&oldid=76357.
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