Gerald & Rie Neufeld

Japan Update – Gerald and Rie Neufeld—January 5, 2022

Happy New Year!  It’s about time we sent you our first update.  Life has been full.  We are amazed at all the problems that came up during our preparations to move to Japan.  God somehow helped us solve each challenge and led Rie, Irene and Gerald safely to Tokyo just before the Japan borders were closed to foreigners because of the new Corona variant.  We have moved into the Yayoidai BIC church house in Kodaira City. Until the Anabaptist Center renovations are completed, arrangements have been made for us to rent space here. 

During our two weeks in quarantine, Rie was able to talk on the phone with her father who’s health has not been good for quite a while.  She was planning to fly to his area of Japan in Kyushu in order to visit him.  Unfortunately, just days before she was to go, we got the news that her father had passed away.  Rie decided to go as originally planned, and was able to have meaningful visits with her sisters and step mother.  Thank-you for all your prayers and words of encouragement.

We have had good visits, worshipping at the Yayoidai, Honancho, and Minuma churches in the Tokyo area.  The Yayoidai church has experienced leadership conflicts and people have left.  Pastor Tojo is in his late 70’s and has health issues.  His wife Yuko takes much of the leadership, while Ms. Minomo leads music, and a few other adults support.  Since most people come from far away, we have been quite involved in cleaning and maintenance.

Like the other churches,  Honancho has an aging membership.  They have continued without a pastor, with Keisuke and Yoko Oshikiri helping to coordinate worship services.  Aiko Tanase is in her 90’s and lives upstairs.  She comes down for the worship service, and lies on a sofa covered by blankets.  She is still able to take her turn with the microphone during the message discussion time that happens after every service.  Kazuko Ohno (age 85) travels 3 hours by train in order to come to the church and accompany hymns on the piano.   Next door to the church, the Anabaptist Center looked quite abandoned, with overgrown bushes.  No one has lived there for the past 5 years.  The Center needs to be upgraded in order to be stronger against earthquakes.  Many homes do not have insulation.  When the weather drops below zero, they use portable kerosene heaters, or electric heaters.  Although it could be quite expensive, we are willing to donate money towards adding insulation, but we really want to work together with the other leaders, rather than just pushing our own ideas.  Please pray for the January 10th meeting where we’ll be discussing the Center renovation plans with other church leaders. 

At the Minuma church, pastor Inamine and his wife Hiroko continue to give leadership.  Pastor Inamine led the worship.  Although he had a stroke a few years back and lost a lot of energy, during congregational singing, we were surprised to hear his voice strongly carrying the harmonies above everyone else.  Because of her husband’s limited energy, Hiroko is considering the possibility of becoming a pastor in order to officially continue the ministry.  After worship, we spent the afternoon visiting with my (Gerald’s) koto (Japanese harp) teacher.  She invited me to join her and a group of people who regularly play koto together.  I look forward to getting back into koto playing with them, as well as participating in the Bible studies held afterwards.  I also look forward to private Japanese lessons during the next few months, as well as visiting two more of the Tokyo Area Fellowship of Mennonite Churches (TAFMC).

During the next few months, we are on sabbatical, and taking our own time.  By April we hope to have further clarified our role.  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. We appreciate our continuing conversation with Mennonite Church BC and Mennonite Church Canada.

Thank-you for all your thoughts your prayers.  God bless you!

Gerald, Rie, and Irene Neufeld 
4-12-6 Hanakoganei, Kodaira city, Tokyo 187-0002