A church is defined by the people, not the building. But that doesn’t mean a church building can’t be useful. Hachiman Church moved in 2013 from a rented business space to a house in a neighborhood. The living room holds the congregation on Sundays, and the kitchen is perfect for preparing Sunday lunches. During the week the building is an English Preschool, just barely big enough to contain the energy of all 37 students (this number includes evening and older students of English). A group of Japanese women meet once a week to practice gospel choir and learn the true meaning behind the words. American Pastor Love hosts an English Bible study twice a month, which is what originally brought me to Hachiman. There’s also space for a native English speaker to live onsite who can help with the preschool.
The Loves were kind enough to host me at the church for 3 weeks over the Christmas season. I was able to fill in for the live-in teacher while she went home to America for the holidays. I learned a lot from those preschoolers and their talented teachers. The most difficult lesson was how quickly your energy and patience levels can disappear when surrounded by a group of children between age 4-6. The most surprising lesson was how talented the children were at learning. They all spoke English more or less, had begun writing, and practiced piano every day. I couldn’t believe that 5 year olds would be showcasing songs in front of the Christmas pageant. I guess kids learn to live up to the standards that are set out for them. If you teach and expect something of them, they just might be able to do it. The most memorable lesson was that good teachers care. They don’t just care about student performance, but about the whole person, mind, body, and soul. Each day we would take their temperatures, mark how many times they used the toilet, whether or not they finished their lunches, and write a comment about their overall mood and experience of the day. The children practiced gratefulness and patience as they all waited and sang together before eating. The song was set to Frère Jacques, with lyrics changed to “Thank you Jesus (repeat), for our food (repeat), always make us thankful (repeat), Yum, yum, yum (repeat)! Each one had an individual toothbrush, cup, and handtowel to keep their germs to themselves. There was time to sing, play, and learn, all while using English. The children at Love International Preschool are getting a great start in life. They are gaining life skills and the knowledge that they are free to a relationship with a God who loves them. In this preschool, there is much more to be learned than just your ABCs.
The preschool and church would not be there without the Loves. Over the years I’ve seen them work tirelessly at whatever they set their minds to. All of their efforts are bent on being a positive beacon of light in their community. Whether that means caring for children, feeding people in need, volunteering on the fire brigade, filling in potholes for neighbors, hosting travelers, or telling people the mysteries of grace, they do it with love and perseverance.