Megumi Baptist Church (Japan) celebrates 50 years
Megumi Baptist Church in Toyama City in Japan celebrated their 50th anniversary on September 25, 2011. This church has roots as a Fellowship church plant.
Ron and Pat Patterson started the ministry there (under the Regular Baptists of BC, before the Fellowship was formed). David and Elsie Slaney took over in 1961 when the Pattersons went to Canada for furlough. Regarding the church’s anniversary, Elsie wrote, “Hamatani San, one of the first to accept Christ as Saviour under Ron Patterson’s ministry in Toyama City, a young fellow then—now 68 years old—wrote to tell me of the upcoming celebration. We praise the Lord for the faithfulness of that [church].”
Carl and Wilma DeBoer arrived in Japan in 1972, and began ministry at Megumi Baptist Church in 1974. The church had already been established so they continued services on Sundays and expanded the English Bible Classes to include children and adults. The Megumi Church also financially supported the Christian radio programme. The church was involved in summer camps for both believers and unbelievers, including English Camps for high school and University students.
During the years of the DeBoer’s involvement at the Megumi Church, 8 people were baptized. One of the people who became a Christian was Mrs. Fusako Sato. She came from an upper middleclass background and was a calligraphy and flower arranging teacher well known and highly respected in Toyama City. She had known several missionaries but had not yet come to faith in Christ. She attended ladies meetings, and often brought her students to the special events. Carl would have talks with her about the Gospel. She struggled for some time but one day in tears she said, "When I entered my bedroom last night, I felt the presence of God very intensively. I know that he is real. I believe!”
Baptism to a Japanese person is a big step. As a 64-year-old grandmother, she would be the first in her family to be baptized. During the preparations for baptism many of her questions were answered. She was ready to make a stand as a Christian, believing that Jesus had saved her.
Carl DeBoer vividly recalls her baptism: “Her husband attended the service and heard her testimony. She wept while she was giving it, and her husband was emotionally moved listening to her. In the baptismal tank, we asked her, ‘Do you promise to forsake all form of idol worship?’ Mrs. Sato hesitated for about 5 seconds—the longest 5 seconds I have ever experienced. The audience seemed to be holding their breath. Then she clearly said for all to hear, ‘Yes, I do.’ Later I asked her why she waited to answer that question. She said, ‘I wanted to create suspense so that everyone, including my husband, would know that I no longer worship idols but only the God of my new found faith.’ She became a powerful Christian and influenced her family as well as her students. Her husband, who was older than she was, came to Christ as well. Mrs. Sato visited Canada and gave her testimony at one of the National Conventions. She was so grateful to be saved that she wanted to meet my mother and thank her for giving birth to me so that she could be saved.”
Megumi Baptist Church was blessed with more men when compared with most Japanese churches. In Japan the attendance and consequently the number of men who become Christians is much lower than the number of women. Because of work requirements, the men have little time for family, much less for church attendance. At the same time, the missionaries thank God for the many women who empower the Japanese churches.
Carl DeBoer trained some of the men to share a message or testimony at evening gatherings after his university English class. After the students left, they would have an evaluation of the men's presentations. For the following years when the Megumi church had no pastor, these men gave the messages for Sunday.
After the DeBoers left Megumi, Marion Dollinger served there until they called Pastor Sato, a national pastor. During his ministry, the present church edifice was built with the help of a group of people from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Barrie.
Unfortunately, during Pastor Sato's later ministry the church went through a very difficult period of time. When Pastor Sato left, Carl DeBoer was able to minister at Megumi once a month to encourage them.
Presently, Megumi Baptist Church is pastored by a national, Pastor Imai and is part of Japan Baptist Fellowship (associated with Fellowship International). The ministry is going well.
In writing about Megumi Baptist Church, Carl DeBoer says, “I close by quoting from Matthew 18 where Christ stated his promise to his Body, the Church, ‘I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ Based on this claim the Lord made, Megumi Baptist Church has celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Praise be to the Lord.”