The History of JCCT
*Detailed information about "How we started JCCT", please take a look at the following file.
A Brief History of JCCT (1995-2015)
It all started with Reiko Yoshitani, a newcomer from Southern California, who had a calling from God to organize a Japanese fellowship group. In March 1995, five Japanese women met for bible study and fellowship. There was an air of expectancy as this koinonia (Greek for “fellowship”) group grew. An increasing number of Japanese students also attended. Our Lord led the group to form a body of believers. The name Japanese Christian Community of Tucson (JCCT) was adopted. Interestingly, the word “church” was not chosen and instead the word “community” was selected, reflecting the koinonia beginning of the group, for there was, to be sure, a sense of communality. On Saturday, September 30, 1995, the first worship service was held at the Yoshitani residence with Rev. Shunji Mizoguchi of the Los Angeles Holiness Church giving the message. JCCT was formally established! However, it took until December 22, 1996 before the first Sunday worship service was held at the Yoshitani’s home. Three months later, a rental facility was found at the Pima County Medical Society, and the first service was held there on March 30, 1997.
The next major step was to find a full-time minister and a request was made to the OMS Holiness Church of North America, a conference of churches in California and Hawaii focused on Japanese, Japanese Americans and their friends. In the long interim before the new pastor was chosen, a number of ministers and lay leaders from other churches in the Holiness Conference came to Tucson and provided worship service messages, conducted the sacraments of communion and baptism, and held workshops. Equally important was the role of the local lay leaders who faithfully participated in the services and provided leadership. Participation expanded as koinonia groups were held in private homes and these meetings were in Japanese and in English, although mostly in Japanese. Our Lord led many participants to dedicate their lives to Him as the number of baptisms was exceptionally high with over 30 people baptized from 1996-1999.
The Executive Council and Ministerial Appointment Committee (MAC) of the Conference finally appointed Rev. Ichibei Honda. He had previously visited Tucson several times to help in church planting while he was associate pastor of Los Angeles Holiness Church. Rev. Honda began his Tucson ministry with his installation on September 10, 2000, which also happened to be the 5th anniversary of JCCT, and he was to serve for five years until August 2005.
JCCT became a unique bilingual/bicultural ministry. It was the only church of its kind in the Conference where sermons were given in both Japanese and English at the same time. Rev. Honda gave his messages in both languages since he was gifted and fluent in both, saying a few sentences in Japanese and then repeating the same sentences in English. Japanese students made up a large part of the congregation, but after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, fewer students from Japan enrolled at the university and as a result the number of Japanese students attending JCCT functions also declined. JCCT rented rooms at the First United Methodist Church near the campus to increase contacts with students. The rooms were used as a meeting place where students could socialize and engage in Bible studies and were used for English Bible studies by members of JCCT, and for prayer meetings, and as an office for Rev. Honda. But even before this church office was opened, koinonia groups had been meeting in private homes and Rev. Honda had his “musubi time” at the Student Union on campus.
Toward the end of Rev. Honda’s ministry, on May 22, 2005, the 10th anniversary celebration was held. Several guests were invited including those from out-of-town. The message was given by Rev. Rob Yonemoto of the San Fernando Valley Holiness Church (SFVHC), and was followed by a potluck lunch program. A total of 103 participants attended.
With the announcement of Rev. Honda’s departure, the process of finding his successor began. The Executive Council and the MAC chose In (Jin) Hyun, a Japanese Korean living in Japan, a recent graduate of Tokyo Biblical Seminary, as the new pastor. Since he was a young man called to his first assignment, Rev. Tetsuo Kagiwada of SFVHC was appointed to be his mentor. There was then a protracted delay in obtaining Hyun’s visa due to tightened immigration policies.
JCCT was without a pastor for about seven months. Rev. Kagiwada graciously volunteered to come at least once a month to give the Sunday worship sermons and to conduct the sacraments. Starting from September 2005, he began to come every Monday and leave the following afternoon. This schedule continued until January. He conducted Bible studies at the rented office and at private homes, and he even allowed for consultation time. Support came from other Conference churches; they sent their ministers to cover Sunday morning services. The sermons were usually not translated, but those given by Rev. Kagiwada were in Japanese and in English, as he was fluent in both languages. The lay leadership covered the remaining Sunday services. It was a challenging time, but God provided abundantly, and the church was lifted to a higher level of spiritual growth.
Hyun was finally able to leave Japan. He spent the first three months at SFVHC, training under the mentorship of Rev. Kagiwada. The mentorship ended when he was installed on April 23, 2006 and gave his first sermon the following Sunday. Four months later, Pastor Hyun went to Japan, got married, and returned on September 12 with his bride, Noriko. Three years later, on July 18, 2009, Pastor Hyun was ordained in an impressive ceremony held at JCCT.
The sermons given by Rev. Hyun were in Japanese with English translations simultaneously projected onto a large screen. The arrangement did shorten the worship service. Japanese college students continued to meet at the rented office at the First United Methodist Church. Bible studies for Japanese ladies were also held at the church office and at a private home in Oro Valley. The use of this church office was terminated in July 2009, and Bible studies and prayer meetings were shifted to Rev. Hyun’s apartment.
The 15th anniversary of JCCT was celebrated on March 27, 2011. Invitations were sent out and the turnout was excellent with about 100 people. The guest speaker for this auspicious occasion was Rev. Honda, and he was accompanied by his family and eight members of the San Diego Japanese Christian Church. A potluck luncheon was held after service, and the ladies from the San Diego church performed the gospel hula.
The last day at JCCT for Rev. Hyun was July 31, 2011. He had served for five years. Then ensued another period of seven months without a pastor. In this transitional period, semi-retired pastors residing in Tucson, such as Rev. Masaru Goshima and Rev. Kazuo Ozaki, acted as supply pastors when called upon. Rev. Yonemoto of SFVHC again helped out, and Rev. Makoto Okura of the San Diego Christian Church loaned his video (DVD) sermons, which were in Japanese and were shown for three consecutive Sundays. The lay leadership again contributed greatly. With the help of all these friends and supporters, the transition period went smoothly.
The Board of Deacons decided to look for an English-speaking pastor, and with this decision JCCT was given the responsibility and task of finding the new pastor. In the previous hiring of Honda and Hyun, the selection process was in the hands of MAC and the Executive Council, and JCCT did not have any input, but now JCCT was to play a major role in the selection of its pastor. A Pastoral Search Committee was formed and met for the first time on January 16, 2011. The committee developed a church profile, a job description, and put together an application packet. Notices and advertisements went out for an English-speaking pastor with an understanding of Japanese culture and a sensitivity towards native Japanese speakers.
The Pastoral Search Committee selected Akihisa Kawamata and after the Southern California pastors group, the Ordained Ministerial Body (OMB), and the Shepherd’s Council (formerly the Executive Council) reinstated him as a conference worker, Kawamata was officially the new pastor. “Aki,” as he is known, is a graduate of Fuller Seminary, served as interim pastor of West Adams Christian Church in Los Angeles, and was a student pastor at SFVHC, now the Crossway Church. His mentor has been Rev. Roland Hazama, senior pastor at Crossway. Aki and his wife Mandy, also a Fuller graduate, arrived in March 2012 and began their ministry. Pastor Aki was installed on March 25, 2012 with Rev. Shunji Mizoguchi officiating.
Pastor Aki gave his messages in English and some portions were translated into Japanese and projected onto the screen. But beginning in December 2014, the messages were verbally translated, a sentence or two at a time by a translator. The screen was utilized from time to time when appropriate. The worship service became less structured with the flow from one phase to another becoming seamless. Traditional elements, such as the doxology and reciting of the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, were omitted. A worship (music] team was organized, and the music performed were mostly praise songs with one traditional hymn included in some services.
Small groups were introduced to involve more individuals in church activities and to promote spiritual growth. Men’s Bible study began in January 2013. A women’s small group in English met for about eight months while an English-speaking leadership group met for about a year in 2013. Starting in April 2013, a beginner/nurturing group met before worship service. Meanwhile, the women’s Bible study in Japanese continued in Oro Valley and at Rev. Ozaki’s home. The college student small group, which began as the Equippers small group evolved into the Bible study and fellowship college group, and met at the pastor’s house. Once a year in the fall, an outdoor worship service was held at Catalina State Park. Potluck lunch was served after service and was followed by entertainment and games.
A big change came in August 2015, when JCCT was notified it would have to move. The building JCCT had rented for 18 years had been sold. After a search, it was finally decided to relocate to the facilities of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. They had graciously offered to rent their Koch Chapel, which was their original sanctuary. It nicely met JCCT needs, for JCCT could continue to meet at 11:00 A.M.; it was centrally located and had all the necessary amenities.
JCCT held its first worship service at Koch Chapel on October 4, 2015, and a celebration service was held on November 22, 2015 with luncheon and entertainment. A new Chapter had begun, but the legacy has been great. Over the years, at least five individuals or couples have gone on to full-time ministry or missionary work in Japan. JCCT had touched the lives of individuals and had an impact in Tucson and in Japan. Now God has opened a new door and has delivered on His promises. What do we do? Where do we go from here? God has a plan for each of us and for JCCT as a body of believers. It is our challenge to see it, to seek it, and to embrace it.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Dr. Minoru Yanagihashi, chairman of JCCT Board of Deacons