Yesterday was the last Sunday for me at Neighborhood Church. George’s last day as a pastor at Neighborhood Church was extended to the end of this month, yet we are still not quite sure where he will land. In the midst of such a transition, the congregation made a special time to show their appreciation for us yesterday.
It was about twenty years ago I first attended Neighborhood Church, which stands right on the ocean looking at Santa Monica and Malibu on the other shore. That time, I was not Christian yet, but following George I attended Sunday services. Since the English sermon was way over my head, and being bored, I would watch the ocean through the sanctuary window.
Concerned about me, George encouraged me to look for a Japanese church, and in 1998, a little after we moved to a Japanese small church, being influenced by George, being helped by a Bible study, and through the unexpected experience of the international organ transplant patients support, which happened out of blue, I was touched by the love of Jesus and accepted Him as my Lord.
God also had touched the heart of George, who was an English teacher and a part-time minister, and he wanted and did become a full time minister as he was before I met him. It was about 10 years ago, and seven years ago, he was called to be an associate minister at Neighborhood Church.
To be honest, I was at first reluctant because I didn’t believe that I was suitable as a minister’s wife, and remembered the boring experience at the church. Yet, because George said without my support it would be impossible to be a minister and I saw his passion to become a minister, I said, “ Yes.”
For the first two years at Neighborhood Church, my involvement was minimal because I was working for a school district, but once I got cancer, all of sudden the church became a very important place as my 2nd family: Learning of my cancer, the congregation immediately reached out to me sending cards and emails, and praying for George and me. Every person I saw sincerely has cared and has been concerned about my health. As I quit the job and the more I gave my time to the church, the stronger my bonds with the people became – up till today. I believe I am still here because so many of them have prayed for me.
As I thanked the congregation, I became emotional and felt a knot in my throat. I saw some eyes of the people were blurred as well.
“ Hope to see you again,” saying so, still it was a hard and bitter moment and it became harder as I thought they were truly missing us.
Some people want to follow George to continue to study the Bible together with him. And he wants to continually care for such people, who look at him as a spiritual leader including old people who don’t have many choices any more, as well as supporting local ministries such as volunteering at a homeless shelter.
A shepherd may not abandon his sheep.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”- Matthew 6:33
With God, who has been always with us, we will now depart.