Small Church with a Big God
Hugh and Heather Nelson are Mission Partners of St George's serving in Japan. They planted a Church and work extremely hard to serve a community in Izunokuni Shi, close to Mount Fuji. Over the last few months a few people have headed out to Japan to help out giving Hugh and Heather time to relax. Paul Clegg the Admin and Community Mission Intern Plus at St George's visited Japan in December and he shared his story with us:
"I was pleased to be able to help at a particularly busy time of year and honoured to deliver the Christmas message..."
During December I had the privilege to visit and work with Hugh and Heather Nelson, our mission partners in Japan, who run a church in Nirayama in the Izu province of Japan.
The area certainly reflects the wonder of God’s creation; the town is situated on a wide flat plain where agriculture is a major part of life – rice and strawberries the main crops. The plain is surrounded by mountains, including Mount Fuji. Every colour imaginable is represented from clear blue skies, trees in every shade of green and some in amazing yellows and reds. To remind us of God’s power we even had an earthquake whilst I was there.
The church building was being painted outside when I arrived and shrouded in scaffolding, however, this came down just in time for the Christmas services revealing the fresh paintwork and the addition of a cross on the outside wall to show the purpose of the building. Inside the church, which also doubles as school room for Happy Clubs during the week, the bright airy main room accommodates the Sunday regular congregation of around eighteen people. A mixture of young and old from 6 months to 93 years old, although more of the old, the congregation join in with some enthusiasm at Sunday service.
This is where differences really start to become apparent. The majority of the people attending the Christmas services had never heard the Christmas story! The stable, shepherds, kings and angels were completely new, angels in particular being a strange concept. Culture and language have a major role to play – we did sing “Hark the Herald Angels” but unfortunately in the Japanese translation angels doesn’t make it – not sure exactly what we ended up singing?
It is difficult to imagine here at St George’s life without networks and small groups, however, these are not things that sit well with Japanese culture. Visiting each other’s homes is not a common practice in Japan. There is too much involved in having visitors so people don’t tend to bother. The implication is that everything, fellowship groups, bible study etc has to happen in the church building. Not easy for Hugh and Heather who live fifteen minutes drive away. Also commitment in Japanese culture is very serious and not done lightly, therefore people are reluctant to commit to the church and to taking on responsibility at the church. This again means more work for Hugh and Heather.
Hugh and Heather work incredibly hard to maintain and grow the church, doing everything from preaching, pastoral care, producing literature, being the worship team, prayer team, running men’s fellowship and women’s fellowship, youth and children’s activities and being caretakers and cleaners. They are also full time mum and dad to two boys and run English classes for adults and children.
I was pleased to be able to help at a particularly busy time of year and honoured to deliver the Christmas message, based on God’s gifts to us and our journey of faith to find Him.
Please keep Hugh and Heather and the boys in your prayers, remembering how hard they are working and the difficulties they face in spreading God’s kingdom in Japan.
To find out more about Mission Partners at St George's visit our website.