By Bonnie Bouknight
Coordinator Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and ELCA SC Synod
So, here goes……. “Did Ja Know” that the ELCA SC Synod has three Companion Synods that we are in relationship with? “Did Ja Know” the countries/ Synods that we are in relationship with? They are Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (Japan), South Western Diocese (Tanzania), and Iglesia Evangelica Luterana de Colombia (Colombia).
Our relationship with the JELC dates back to 1892 when missionaries from the “Lutheran Church in America” first arrived in Japan. “The first Lutheran worship service was held on Easter Sunday 1893” in Saga, Japan located on the island of Kyushu. Missionaries James Augustin Brown Schere and R. B. Peery along with Ryokoi Yamanouchi, a Japanese man, officiated at the first worship and were instrumental in forming the Lutheran Church in Japan.
We have come a long way since those beginnings in Saga. By 1898, there were 60 baptized members worshiping in Kumamoto, not far from Saga. As the church grew and other congregations were added, the Lutheran Theological Seminary and the headquarters were moved to Tokyo.
In March 2016, as the Coordinator for Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and the ELCA South Carolina Synod, I was blessed to visit many churches, museums, schools, and historic sites along with my husband, Frank Bouknight, Bishop Herman Yoos, Cindy Yoos, Ginny Aebischer, Paul Aebischer, Dr. Phil Wessinger, and Melanie Wessinger. There are 22,000 Lutherans in the JELC and I tell people that I think I met them! In the 10 days that we spent there, among other sites, we visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and toured the museums in both places. In Hiroshima, we had lunch with a survivor from the bombing. She was two years old at that time.
A few days later, while in Kumamoto, we visited places that were destroyed by the earthquake. Almost a year later, we still saw evidence of the damage. As we stood at the edge of a huge area washed out from the earthquake and continuing aftershocks, Bishop Yoos led us in prayer for those who lost their life.
After we returned from Japan, we invited and subsequently hosted five students and a teacher from Kyushu Gakuin and Luther School in Kumamoto (these schools have ties to SC). They attended Bishop’s School at Camp Kinard and enjoyed sightseeing around South Carolina. A highlight of their trip was a visit to Coastal Retreat Center where they “got to see the Atlantic Ocean “. Then on Sunday morning, we worshipped at St. John’s Charleston so they could “trace” their history. St. John’s has a Japanese memorabilia room because they were an integral part of the formation of the JELC.
As we continue to explore where God is leading us in our Companion relationship, we ask your continued prayers. 125 years of walking together in Jesus ‘ name is quite an accomplishment.
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