Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yorifumi Yaguchi, Japanese Mennonite pastor

Unusual post title. Unexpected combination of images to say the least. This piece from Mennonite Weekly Review tells of a young Japanese Buddhist who became Christian following the war. Now 74 and very active, he has recently published another collection of poetry.


Though raised in a Buddhist family, Yaguchi’s earliest encounter with Christianity was through his mother, who attended Christian services without ever formally converting.

But any favorable impressions he might have had of the church were nearly erased by World War II and the great suffering that afflicted Japan. The enemy — the United States and Great Britain — were Christian nations, thus stirring Yaguchi’s impressions of the church with the blood of warfare and the blinding sword of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Most Japanese hated the Americans and British,” Yaguchi remembered of his youth. “We felt they were the enemies. I hated Americans, too.”

But later, when he met Mennonite missionary Ralph Buckwalter, who eventually baptized him in 1958, Yaguchi realized there were Christians who did not commit violence, and who had actually prayed for the Japanese people during the war.

“The Mennonites were different,” Yaguchi said of having his eyes opened by Buckwalter’s witness to peace. “That was really a shocking experience. I never knew this kind of thing before.”

Though he has long been a Christian and a minister of the gospel for more than 40 years, Yaguchi’s later verse still echoes at times the voice and quiet presence of his long-deceased grandfather, chanting in Kannon-ji before the war. Sometimes, the old Zen priest and his grandson seem one and the same...

A couple of his gentle poem can be found at the link. My post about Mennonites continues to receive a few hits, indicating that a few people continue to look into the lifestyle and message they represent.

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