A few weeks ago in the main worship center at Rolling Hills Covenant Church, the English-speaking congregation was treated to the teaching of Pastor Nori Terashima. The emphasis on English-speaking is simply to call to your attention that Pastor Nori is the Japanese Ministries Pastor, who typically teaches a Japanese service on the North Campus at RHCC each Sunday at 11 AM.
In the service a few weeks ago, Pastor Nori spoke of a rigid and traditional Japanese culture where the father would tip over the family dinner table if the soup was not to his liking and specifications. This story illustrated the stunning differences between a very cold and strict earthly father – the product of worldly culture – and the love we have from our heavenly Father. Pastor Nori taught from Romans 8:14-17 and reminded us that those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God, and that the Spirit we received does not make us slaves so that we have to live in fear, rather, the Spirit we received brought about our adoption into sonship.
And by Him we cry Abba Father.
Needless to say, it was a message well received by the RHCC congregation, but then Pastor Nori took it one step further, sharing the wonderful message of his own father’s acceptance of the Lord and the trials and amazing circumstances that brought his earthly father to Jesus.
The stern Japanese culture and traditions that Pastor Nori cited in his stories still create difficulties in bringing the gospel message to people in Japan, but he believes that with so many Japanese people relocating to the United States, the message of God’s love for us is making a difference right here in the South Bay.
“It really is very difficult to reach believers in Japan,” he said, “But it is actually much easier to reach Japanese believers and unchurched in the states and especially in Southern California. When they move here they have already accepted that Christianity is a big part of American culture and they are eager to know more. So we just invite those people to church – which is much more awkward to do in Japan because historically there have been many problems when it comes to the church.”
Removing the barrier of awkwardness in an invitation to attend Japanese services at RHCC is made even easier with several programs aimed at helping Japanese families who have recently moved here make the transition. Pastor Nori cites that entire families are often impacted by a dramatic relocation, and his ministry is one of comfort and the love of Jesus in the lives of these transplanted families. Programs at RHCC such as Japanese MOPS, English Conversation Classes, children’s programs and outreach events hosted by the Japanese Ministry greatly assist with the transition and most importantly introduce the families to the Gospel message.
“There are big Japanese communities in the South Bay, especially in the Torrance and Rancho Palos Verdes areas, and many of the people are sent by Japanese companies to work here for a short term period, either for a few months or even five years,” Pastor Nori said. “And coming from Japan, which is an unchurched nation, most of them have never heard of the Gospel in their entire lives.”
Pastor Nori cited his recent message to the English-speaking RHCC congregation to again highlight the difficulties in bridging the Japanese cultural divide when it comes discussing the need for a Savior.
“In my message I talked about the strict family culture that I was raised in, one where you are trained to be very independent,” he said. “So believing in God can be seen as a sign of weakness in Japanese culture, and that is still alive here.”
Still, as he sees more Japanese families coming to the 11 AM service on Sundays as well those who perhaps start with a simple program, Pastor Nori is very encouraged.
“For unchurched Japanese families in the South Bay it is usually moms and children who get connected with our programs, such as Japanese MOPS every week and children’s programs in Japanese bi-weekly,” he said.
“It is delightful to see some of those families starting to attend Sunday worship services.”
Pastor Nori took a look around at the luncheon fellowship that was taking place this past Sunday at the conclusion of their services and he smiled. It is the smile of a man who has made a long journey and who is now helping and guiding others on their own.
He has but one simple request of the rest of the Rolling Hills Covenant congregation.
“Please pray for the many lost Japanese souls to come and meet Jesus here at RHCC.”