Day 1 – Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture
When you drive up into the mountains west of the Fukushima expressway you come to Aizu-wakamatsu. A town of 120 thousand that sits in a plain of rice fields ringed by mountains. It’s as picturesque as it sounds.
As the Pastor’s wife stood at the front of the bright, spacious, attractive sanctuary she told the story of how the Aizuwakamatsu church began. Elizabeth Palmer from the UK came to Japan later in life and had been teaching English. At aged 59 she arrived for the first time in Aizuwakamatsu and began sharing the gospel. A small group gathered to meet as a house church. She stayed for 22 years, not retiring until she was 81. That little titbit of information came as a challenge to me who has just returned to Japan after her 60th birthday and is beginning to think about retirement!!!!!!
Looking on encouragingly and supportively, from a distance nearly two hours away by car, were the believers in the Yonezawa church we visited in the afternoon. As Elizabeth Palmer passed her 80th birthday and readied to return to her home country, one member of that church felt called by God to actively work to keep the small group alive and growing as a church. That man was Mr. Mitome (the husband of the lady telling us the story). He was a professor in a university in Yonezawa and member of the church there, but his home area was in the Aizu basin – the very area that Elizabeth Palmer had been working in. After worshipping in the Yonezawa church in the morning he drove through the mountains (and with winter snows that could be a challenging drive) every Sunday to lead the worship service in Aizuwakamatsu. He was a tent making pastor. After he retired from the university he finally moved and became the full time pastor of the church.
One of Elizabeth Palmer’s gifts to the church was money carefully saved toward the plot of ground where the beautiful church now stands. I was moved by the pioneering spirit of these people that kept on pushing forward into the autumn years of their life. As later in the afternoon I met elderly but every so sprightly and passionate Pastor Chida at the Yonezawa church, the thought was just reinforced. Their stories are an inspiration to me as I begin this term of service.
Written by: Helen