WINNIPEG, Man. — As a pastor of a Mennonite Brethren church in Japan, Yoshio Fujii had limited knowledge of the church’s Anabaptist roots.
To learn more about the church’s history and theology, he spent 2013-14 studying at Fresno (Calif.) Pacific Biblical Seminary, followed by a five-week MB Historical Commission archival internship in May and June.
Through his seminary studies and research at the centers for MB studies in Winnipeg, Abbotsford, B.C., Hillsboro, Kan., and Fresno, he gained a deep appreciation for community-based discipleship that strives to exemplify the spirit and actions of Jesus.
“Anabaptists found a way to have a living faith,” he said. “It is a way of life. It is a beautiful faith.”
Fujii and his wife, Megumi, provide pastoral care at Senboku Christ Church in Osaka. Before moving to Osaka, they were pastors of North Christ Church in Hiroshima. Fujii also teaches at the Evangelical Biblical Seminary in Osaka.
Loss leads to questions
Fujii says his interest in the history of the Japanese Mennonite Brethren Conference stems from the loss of identity and roots that he felt when his father died in 2011.
This personal loss took place just a few weeks after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. More than 18,000 people were killed, and the Fukushima nuclear plant was damaged.
“To this natural and artificial disaster, the [Japanese Mennonite Brethren Conference], including me, had no idea how to respond,” he said. “I wanted to know: How can we help people who are needy and suffering?”
MB churches in Japan, he said, teach the good news of salvation and assurance of eternal life in heaven.
“Individually, we say in our hearts that we follow Jesus, but it is an invisible faith to our neighbors,” Fujii said. “How to make our invisible faith into a visible faith — that is my interest.”
While in North America, Fujii learned how Anabaptist churches work for peace and justice through demonstrating Christ-like responses. He learned about the history and ministries of Mennonite Central Committee and MB Mission in Japan.
During his archival internship, Fujii read handwritten letters and reports by MB missionaries in Japan. He was moved by their dedication and commitment to starting MB churches and a Bible college in Japan.
One his greatest sources of inspiration and learning was witnessing the daily lives and choices of his professors in Fresno and the people he met during his archival internship.
“It was through the way they lived that I learned a lot about Anabaptism,” Fujii said. “They show kindness to foreigners. They care for the marginalized and minorities. They have compassion for the poor, the needy and the hungry. It is not just a private faith; it is a transformed life.”
When he returns to Osaka, he plans to use his influence as a pastor and professor to inspire and equip people to demonstrate Christlike responses in daily life.
Some of the concerns in Japan are inequality between men and women, educated and uneducated, Japanese and non-Japanese, Fujii said.
Men have a difficult time balancing work and personal lives. The elderly and people living in poverty and with disabilities need love and care.
“We want to pay more attention to loving people,” he said.