Pulpit Reflections by Barbara Stroud-Borth, Bergen and Gayville Lutheran Church Someone has said that anyone who is contributing valuable leadership and substance to the problems and issues of today really stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before. In other words, in every generation we learn some things which do not have to be learned again. Each generation builds on the learning of the one before. Often the present generation can gain courage or insight from an earlier generation.
One person who enters into eternal rest during this week in April was Toyohiko Kagawa who was a renewer of society in Japan. He was born on July 10, 1888 at Kobe, Japan. He was the son of a geisha girl and a member of the Japanese Cabinet. When his mother died when he was four, he went to live with his father's wife but was very unhappy. He went to live with an uncle where he enrolled in a Bible school in order to learn English. When he became a Christian as a teenager his family disinherited him. After missionaries helped him to study at the Presbyterian College in Tokyo from 1905-1908, he devoted his life to working with and for the poor.
Between 1910 and 1924, he lived most of the time in the Shinkawa area, of Kobe, the worst slum in the world. In his own writings he tells what made it possible for him to live there: "My real experience the Kobe slums. Everything in the slums was ugly: the people, the houses, the clothes, the streets � everything was ugly and full of disease. If I had not carried God beside me, I should not have been able to stay. But because I believed in God, and in the Holy Spirit, I had a different view of life, and I Assure you that I enjoyed living in the slums. With active love and the love-motive, every moment was full of joy. Because I felt that the Holy Spirit of the Heavenly Father was living inside me, I was not afraid of anything � nor of the many repeated threats from pistols, swords, ruffians, not even from infectious diseases which infested the slums. My job was to help these people. I had free access to their homes, and so knew even more about them than did the doctors. For me, prayer is very real. If you pray with selfishness it will never be answered, but prayer of the sake of God and for the love of your fellow men will surely be answered. A gambler, dying, said to me that we was going back to his heavenly Father. Then for the first time, like a flash, I was convinced that any man … is able to grasp the idea of Jesus Christ" (Love: the Law of Life, pp13-14)
As he worked in Shinkawa, Kagawa lived in a six by six foot hut. In 1912 he organized the first labor union in Japan among shipyard workers. From 1914 -1916 he studied social techniques to relieve poverty and misery at Princeton. He returned to Shinkawa where he organized the Labor Federation and the Farmers Union and he worked for changes in laws against trade unions. He was arrested in the rice riots of 1919 and the shipyard strikes of 1921. He worked successfully for allowing men to be able to vote which became a reality in 1925.
In 1923 he was asked to supervise relief and social work in Tokyo, organized the Bureau of Social Welfare, and his writings drew the attention of government to the appalling conditions in the slums.
His great vision was that the world should be restructured along Christian ideals. In 1930 he began the Kingdom of God movement to work for the conversion of Japan to Christianity. He established credit unions, schools, hospitals, churches. Until his death on April 23, 1960, he recognized God within as a continuing source of love.