The beginnings of
Japan Church of God
After the Second World War, Christians belonging to the Church of God congregation in the U.S. Army, opened up a Bible study group and a Sunday school in the hope of bringing salvation to the Japanese. Among them were Sergeant Henry Flowers and his wife Mary. Sis. Mary Flowers had personally led 120 children to Christ through the Sunday School ministry. However, her husband Henry became missing in action in the Korean War. Due to this she was sent home to the U.S. with the remainder of her family by the orders of the U.S. military. In the following season, Mary Flowers wrote to the United Church of God congregation headquarters and requested the urgent dispatch of missionaries to Japan. "I know that the Lord will give strength and power to confront this thing. The most wonderful way to express sympathy for me is to pay attention to the mission of Japan and send missionaries in my stead who will be responsible to the people and work we left behind there."
2. First Church/Inauguration of Japan COG
Rev. Ed Heil & Family
First Church of God in Japan
This letter moved the organisation headquarters, and in 1952, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Heil came to Japan as the first missionaries. While being assisted by other missionaries from the Assemblies of God they began a difficult ministry development due to barriers of language, culture, religion, and other factors. However, in 1954, by the grace of God, we established the first church in Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama-Shi, with eight members. The following year the church received official government recognition and status. Over the following years, Brother Heil dedicated his gifts of carpentry and construction to build several other sanctuaries for Church of God and even for other denominations.
Yokohama Bible College
Tokyo Youth Center
３. The COG Yokohama Bible Institute
In 1961, the Yokohama Bible Institute was established in Asahi Ward, Yokohama City. It focused on the training up and nurturing of evangelists. It was a great blessing for the institute that missionary Robert Midge from the New Zealand Assembly of God served as its first principal. Rev. Yamamoto of the Open Bible Society also worked together with Brother Heil resulting in a large number of local evangelists to be trained and sent as precious instruments of the Lord to various parts of Japan.
Young evangelists belonging to this burning religious group who graduated from this Bible institute began pioneering work mainly in the Kanagawa Prefecture and these six planted churches as a result of their efforts are still functioning for the gospel to this very day. However, due to various difficult circumstances the Bible Institute had to be closed down in 1975.
4. The Tokyo Youth Center
The Tokyo Youth Center (TYC) was founded in 1963. Sis. Mary Grace Komans who came to the U.S. military base at Yoyogi Heights was an elementary school teacher. She opened an English conversation classroom and served as a missionary to the Japanese young people. This ministry was so popular with the young people of the time and it gathered many attendees. Due to the construction of the proposed Tokyo Olympic Village in 1964, the Yoyogi Heights facility was scheduled to be torn down and demolished. The Tokyo Youth Center was then relocated and together with the YWEA and the U.S. Youth Department of Church of God, a new facility was built.
When the U.S. missionaries had to return home, Church of God decided to re-open the youth centre as a local church. This church plant was dubbed Shimomaruko Zion Church which later was renamed to its current name, Tokyo Lighthouse Church.
Sis. Mary Grace in the English Classroom at TYC
Japan Church of God
5. Expansion and Independence
After the first national overseer, Ed Heil (1952-1966) and the second national overseer, Edward E. Kohl (1966-1977) saw the ceasing of missionary dispatches to Japan in an apostolic capacity. The first Japanese pastor was appointed as Japan's third national overseer, Rev. Kazumoto Yatsuzuka. He served from 1977 to 2011. He was succeeded by his son, Rev. Eriya Yatsuzuka who continues to serve in this capacity to the present day.
Under the period of missionary planting and tutelage, Japan Church of Gad had 6 congregations, 12 pastors, and a total of 120 members. After the cessation of missionary input, the local ministers and faithful continued in building up the denomination in Japan which now comprises 16 congregations, 21 pastors and 900+ members.