Odawara Celebration to Reflect on 32 Years of Ministry

Post a Comment » Written on March 11th, 2008     
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ODAWARA, JAPAN (March 11, 2008) – When Ashley Koenig completes her service as a short-term missionary at the Odawara Christian Center (OCC) later this month, an unbroken string of 32 years of Evangelical Covenant Church missionary involvement in teaching English at the school also will come to an end.

CenterThe center (top photo) will host an event at 7 p.m. (local time) on March 22 that not only will serve as a farewell party for Koenig, a member of First Covenant Church in Omaha, Nebraska, but also will look back on the past 32 years, says Gary Carlson, a Covenant missionary to Japan.

The center photo shows Ashley with a group of students.

“Thanks for the Memories” will be the theme. All current and former English students are invited to the March 22 celebration.

Over the years, Covenant full-time and short-term missionaries have been involved in a number of ministries that have included teaching English conversation and English Bible classes. It was decided that, at least for the coming year, U.S. missionaries will not be involved in teaching English. The school’s relationship with missionaries will continue in other respects, however.

AshleyThe school began as a ministry of the Japan Covenant Church in April 1976, the brainchild of Covenant missionaries Gordon and Lucille Johnson. It began with a Christian bookstore and four English classes taught by Carlson, the center’s first short-term missionary.

Carlson’s future wife, Pauline, also served at OCC as a short-term missionary – the lower photo shows Pauline in 1978, teaching English in a prefabricated building used at the time. “These experiences were part of God calling us to return to Japan as career missionaries,” he says.

The bookstore was eventually phased out, but English classes were expanded to the point that, at its height, OCC had a staff of one career missionary couple, four short-term missionaries, a Japanese office worker, and more than 200 students, Carlson says. Bible studies and a Sunday evening worship service were added to OCC’s English ministries.

PaulineThe center has been expanded to be far more than a school. Shiroyama Christ Church, a Japanese congregation, got its start at OCC.  More recently, OCC has become the location for Cafe Elim, which provides employment and occupational therapy for people with mental illnesses.

A section of the OCC building is set apart as a shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence. These and other exciting ministries will continue after English-based ministries come to an end this month, Carlson says.

“Our Covenant mission staff in Japan and the board of directors of OCC continue to hope for new short-term missionaries to be sent out to Japan,” Carlson says.

The school is attempting to contact all previous short-term missionaries so that they can email digital photos or scanned images from their time of service at OCC. Words of greeting and reminiscences of no longer than one page also are being sought. The pictures and greetings will be incorporated into a presentation at the March 22 event.

Emails should be directed to Gary and Pauline Carlson.

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