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BY DR. MASUMI TOYOTOME
Dr. Masumi Toyotome was JEMS’ first missionary and was its Executive Director between 1958-62.
Originally published in 1985 in Vision and Faith: JEMS 35th Anniversary, 1950-1985.
Re-posted with permission from THE JAPANESE EVANGELICAL MISSIONS SOCIETY (JEMS)
DISTINCTIVE CONTRIBUTIONS OF JEMS
Looking back upon my involvement with JEMS from the earliest days, four things stand out in my mind.
First, I think JEMS was the earliest creative effort by Nisei Christians to make a distinctive contribution to the task of world evangelism. Before the founding of JEMS, Nisei Christians had been content to receive spiritual help from Issei Christians and Caucasian Christians who took interest in us. Nisei Christians took our dependent role for granted. Only after World War II were we mature enough, secure enough, and confident enough to think about the evangelization not only of our fellow Niseis but all the Japanese people everywhere in the world (Japan, Canada and South America as well as the U.S.). JEMS helped us Nisei Christians to grow and mature, because spiritual growth comes only by making commitments, exerting oneself and giving out (or reaching out). As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give…The quantity with which you give will be the quantity with which you receive.” My hope is that we will continue to grow and move beyond being burdened only for the Japanese people everywhere, becoming committed to evangelizing all people who have not yet come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The second feature of JEMS that stands out in my memory is the quality of faith that distinguished it from the very beginning. I believe JEMS was the first “faith mission” to be established among Nisei Christians, a missionary society financed wholly by voluntary contributions received from individual Christians and churches month by month. Although I was literally born within a church as a preacher’s kid and saw all kinds of Christian organizations and operations up close (Sunday school, youth organizations, camps and conferences, denominational committees and boards, seminaries and universities) as I grew up, I had never seen any operation supported strictly by voluntary giving until I joined JEMS. When JEMS was founded, Rev. Paul Nagano gave up a secure pastorate to serve as its first executive secretary without any financial security. Paul converted one corner of his garage into his office and launched into this work by faith. While JEMS was still barely able to pay his salary, Paul came to visit me in New York City where I was completing my work for Ph.D. at Columbia University and invited me to become JEMS first missionary. I left my pastorate in New York and joined JEMS strictly on faith. Voluntary offerings came in steadily in ever growing amount from faithful Christians all over the U.S. and Canada so that both the Nagano and Toyotome families were adequately supported in those inflation plagued years.
The third feature that stands out in my review of the history of JEMS was its strong emphasis on evangelism which permeated its program. The first thing that Rev. Paul Nagano did as the executive secretary of JEMS was to offer his services to all churches as an evangelist. And serve he did with distinction, power, fruitfulness and love. In my year of deputation before leaving for Japan I teamed with Paul to conduct many evangelistic campaigns in Nisei churches across the U.S. and Canada, all the way from New York to Hawaii. Other pastors sometimes joined us on these teams. Once we visited Hawaii on a memorable evangelistic tour with a team of five preachers. Although the days of evangelistic campaigns in Nisei churches seem to be over, I hope JEMS will not lose its dedication to the evangelization of all Japanese people everywhere—Japan, Canada, the U.S. and South America — developing new means of saving the unsaved. I have met lonely Japanese businessmen in Kenya, Africa, Sumatra, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China—all wide open to the gospel through personal evangelism. There are means, if there is the will. The “M” in JEMS must never fade out. JEMS is a “missionary” society. As such it can never neglect the call to “move out” with the Lord to seek the lost even in the far corners of the world.
The fourth and last feature that I must mention was the spirit of fervent and consistent prayer. Rev. Hideo Aoki and Paul Nagano prayed together weekly for a whole year before they received the courage to share the idea of JEMS with others. It was at a prayer conference for Nisei pastors at Mount Hermon that the formal organization took place. The five man team that went to Hawaii in 1953 prayed together every morning at 5 a.m. on their knees on the concrete floor for two weeks before a revival swept the final services of the two week evangelistic campaign in a church and all but five persons in the congregation came forward to make a commitment to Jesus Christ.
That spirit of fervent prayer still persists, but it must become a mighty movement with passion, determination and discipline before God gives us a new surge of missionary zeal. We live in a new era of worldwide missions. Through JEMS and many other missionary movements God is raising up in our time, Japanese American Christians can yet participate in the great excitement of “the final push” to evangelize the entire human race.
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