By Rev. Claudia Genung-Yamamoto
I have been in Kobe for three years after serving for 20 years as a missionary in Tokyo. Presently, I am the associate pastor at the Kobe Jesus Band Church (UCCJ) located on the 4th floor of the Kagawa Center. I also work with the Tengokuya Cafe ́ (Heaven’s Café). The Tengokuya (Heaven’s Café) has been a place for people with various needs to come and find comfort. The lunches served on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are inexpensive and use organic vegetables from the garden. All are welcome to the table and are shown the love of Christ after stepping inside the cafe which is next and also inside where the church meets on Sundays.
The Night Café is once a month and 70-100 people from all over the community come together to relax and enjoy themselves. Tables are placed all around the room where church meets on Sundays and the cross is prominently visible on the wall behind the altar area. Many who come are not Christians. In the evenings sometimes people sing or perform while oth- ers just enjoy the community atmosphere.
Visiting relief projects in Tohoku, proofreading proposals for Touhoku HELP, helping foreign migrant workers in the Kobe area, counseling, speaking to the day care for their chapel services, making cakes for the café, monthly preaching at church, connecting with other people and organizations in the community, helping with a children’s program where we bring children and their moms for a week in the summer to Kobe for a “radiation-free and stress- free” vacation, picking up food at the Kansai Food Bank for those in need, feeding the homeless, and reaching out to others to come to the Café are all part of the outreach and connectional ministry that I am involved with in Kobe. We are partners in mission and none of the ministry I am involved with is done in isolation but along with others. It is by working in partnership together where we build connections and establish relationships in the community and in the world.
Mission is making connections. Mission is building relationships. Mission is working for peace and justice by building relationships so we can move forward together. Mission is sharing God’s love by being partners in ministry. We join hands together in mission to make a better world. In the words of Kagawa (writer of “Songs from the Slums”), I think this is a wonderful thought of how God can use us to bring healing, hope, justice, peace, and change through “our hands” with a God, who dwells in our hands, not just our hearts, minds or souls. We join hands in mission knowing together of “… the things God will do for the world, using our hands.”