A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ASSEMBLY KYOTO CHURCH’S (AKC) INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY
(prepared by Pastor Joseph Ricohermoso)
- Mikko & Maree Makelainen – first foreign missionaries to work with AKC (1995-1997)
- Yoriko Inoue – first convert who got baptized through the English ministry (1996)
- Tony & Ka Min Mills – conducted the first international service on May 2, 1999
- Joseph & Jo Ann Ricohermoso – International Teams missionaries from the Philippines; pastors of the international congregation since January 1, 2007
- Pastor Keiko Murakami – English ministry co-leader
There are no accidents in the divine agenda; only definitive acts of grace. This truth proves true in the case of how the English ministry of the Assembly Kyoto Church (AKC) got started.
The Great Hanshin Earthquake, or Kobe earthquake as it is more commonly known outside Japan, occurred on Tuesday, January 17, 1995, at 05:46 JST in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The shaking of the earth claimed the lives of some 6,500 people. It measured 7.3 on JMA magnitude scale. (Source: Wikipedia)
God was doing something when He was shaking the land as if He were re-ordering things.
FIRST PARTNERSHIP WITH FOREIGN MISSIONARIES
Mikko Makelainen, a Finnish-Australian, together with his wife Maree and their son Nathan initially planned to settle and start a ministry in Kobe. However, the tragic event that unfolded changed the direction of their plan.
Under the leadership of Pastors Hisoka and Keiko Murakami, AKC gave the young family the opportunity to start a new ministry by starting English conversation classes at the church, which they did from April 2, 1995 until early 1997.
God rewarded their missionary effort with the very first convert, Ms. Yoriko Inoue, who got baptized in 1996. Halfway through their term, the Makelainens started pioneering a church in Nagaokakyo City, Kyoto Prefecture. The Lord also blessed them with another son, Michael, during their stint in the said city.
A NEW DIRECTION
Tony Mills (Australian) applied for recognition as a Japan Assemblies of God missionary in 1998. He was initially given a probationary status while serving at AKC beginning on March 21, 1999. He and his wife Ka Min (Malaysian) together with their son, John Paul, stayed with the church until Tony could be formally inducted into the ministry as pastor in 2000.
Still new in Kyoto City and with a handful of believers, the Mills conducted the very first international service in English on May 2, 1999. Not long after that, Ayumi Suzuki was baptized on May 23, 1999. She was followed by Noboru Shinozaki on December 17, 2000 with Pastor Satoshi Nagasawa as baptizer. Both of them are fruits of the English Bible Class.
Significant events come in succession. The Mills family welcomed their latest addition with the birth of David Christopher on January 27, 2000. The following year, in May 2001, they accepted an offer to lead a new ministry at Kyushu Kamae Church in Oita Prefecture.
Anticipating the ministry need when the Mills leave, the church again welcomed a couple from Australia. Mark and Sarah Gee are members of Penrith Christian Church (NSW, Australia) and they formally began serving at AKC in the first quarter of 2001 until December 2002. They conducted English conversation classes and led the worship services.
It is noteworthy that Mark initiated a project to make an English Bible study guide based on the Book of Hope, a diglot version of the Gospels. The study guide proved effective in introducing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to non-believers in a very simple and understandable way.
Meanwhile, Nagasawa-sensei was conducting Japanese Bible Studies at Kyoto University with a PhD student named, Masayoshi Ishida, since November 2000. With the participation of Mark Gee, the said Bible Study ministry was transformed into what is now known as Kyodai English Bible Class. The first university converts were Akiko Yamasaki and Akiko Harada who were baptized on September 1, 2002.
If there is something to be learned here, it can be said that ministry is not limited to the “trained professionals.” There are those who serve behind the scenes and yet are being used by God in tremendous ways. Hidetoshi Oda is one of them. On July 15, 2001, while studying at Nara University, he volunteered to help in the campus ministry as well as in reaching out to children.
Others who got saved through the English ministry from 2003 to 2004 are:
Asako Miyoshi – December 7, 2003
Kodai Kitamura – December 7, 2003
Yuichi Ohashi – March 21, 2004
Kaori Ishihara – May 16, 2004
Masayuki Wakimura – May 16, 2004
Kentaro Shigemoto – October 17, 2004
The Mills family returned to Kyoto City in April 2003. John Paul was baptized in the same year on July 27th.
CONSERVING THE HARVEST
The Lord is faithful in sending more laborers into the harvest-field. Another Australian missionary couple came from January to March 2006. They are Mark and Paulyn Burgess. However, their stay was cut short because of Paulyn’s worsening health condition.
About the same time in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, the Ricohermoso family was planning to move to Kyoto City and to start a new ministry. Joseph was then the Senior Pastor of a group that meets inside the US Navy base. Together with his wife, Jo Ann and their three young children, Jodie, Josh and Joyce, they made a step of faith into this city in June 2006.
The Ricohermoso family attended the first English service at AKC on July 9, 2006. Pastor Hisoka and his wife, Keiko welcomed them together with the gathered believers at the time. That same week, Pastor Joseph joined the Bible Class at Kyoto University on July 12th. He and his wife began serving as English teachers in the weeks and months that followed. However, they formally joined the AKC English ministry on the first day of January 2007.