2017 Sep.3 Joint Worship George Leano (English)

Good morning. My name is George Leano and I am a co-lay leader in Nichigo bu and many of you may know me as Mary Leano’s husband. She was addressed a few times during last week’s Compassion Sunday service.

I am pinch-hitting for our pastors who are in Yosemite where our church family camp is being held this Labor Day weekend. For those who are here for the first time, I must throw out a disclaimer that our pastor’s messages are much enlightening than mine.

Many people experience challenging environment not only to become a Christian, but to continue with growth in faith. 

I am from a tiny Japanese island or Ryukyu Island of Okinawa located in between mainland of Japan and Taiwan. If you zoom in the island in Google Map, it looks like a big island but when you zoom out to see its relative location to the U.S., it becomes just a spec on the map.

If you have a chance to visit Okinawa which some of you may already have, you will notice turtle-back shaped tombs even from a main highway. They are everywhere. In each tomb, there are cremated remains (not ashes) of ancestors from a line of individual family. 


On my mother’s side, Oyadomari family has a tomb in the south of the island where my ancestors’ cremated remains are kept.  Once a year in April, there is a day of honoring our ancestors called “shii mii” which each family is obligated to visit their family tomb. As a child, I remember helping to clean around the tomb pulling weeds out since the adults won’t let me handle sharp objects like sickle to cut grass.  

Once the cleaning is done, a feast is brought in front of the tomb and offered to our ancestors. And then the best part, we get to eat afterwards.  

Also, many Okinawan households have a “buchi dan” (butsu dan in Japanese) with ancestors’ name plates on “tou tou mei” or a plaque.  This is where one would pray to their ancestors at home. 

Many Okinawans also rely on “yuta”, a so-called fortune teller. Although from my experience, they are more than a fortune teller. Okinawans typically ask for yuta’s advice for anything from information about their future spouse, who they will be marrying in the future to their health conditions. When my mother looked for an apartment, almost always, she would have a yuta check it to see everything was okay before she signed a lease.

Many Okinawans also practice Buddhism and my mom at one time was a Buddhist. 

So worshipping ancestors, having experienced yuta, Buddhist influence, and other Okinawan beliefs were not conducive to become a Christian.

However, my mother was a single parent and very frequently, she did not conform to typical Okinawan traditions. Instead of sending us to a Japanese school, she sent my two older sisters and me to a Christian school started and run by evangelical missionaries. Interestingly, this school was built on a top of a hill where a fierce battle was fought during WWII. The hill was called Hacksaw Ridge which some of you  may have watched the movie. It is be-fitting that a Christian school, which teaches love and peace, stood on this en-battled hill.  The name of this school is Okinawa Christian School, OCS for short and now they have added “International” at the end. 


 During one of my elementary years, I accepted Christ and became a Christian. Daily teaching of Bible was part of our mandatory curriculum and every Sunday, one of our teachers would pick me up in the morning to take me to church. After Sunday school, as I clearly remember to this day, we would listened to a comical, but effective pastor, Pastor Taylor, preach. The school and the church were where I was building my Christian base.

Against all odds as my chances of being and staying a Christian in Okinawa was slim in the environment I was in, I felt blessed to have an opportunity to attend school centered on Christian faith and helped make my Christian base much stronger.

At a certain point, when my mom used to tell me “put your hands together and let your grandparents know you came to visit them” at the butsu dan in my uncle’s house, I would silently pray to my God and ask for forgiveness that I am pretending to worship my grand parents. This, I believe, was because of my base taught at my school

But, my challenges would not end there.

I was immersed into more challenging environments.  When I was in a second year of high school at OCS, I left Okinawa to live with my oldest sister and brother-in-law in Indiana. I started making new friends and soon afterwards, I felt as though I was living in a sheltered life. I stopped going to church and selfishly, spent my Sunday mornings sleeping in and hanging out with my friends or watching football games. When I started college, I even became more detached from God especially after joining a fraternity. From the movies many of you might have seen, “frat” brothers do wild and stupid things. They are nothing like that. They are worse.

There were more times in my life I went astray, but God would always find His way to reel me back in, because I had my base. And, again, I would steer myself back to church where I can re-construct my fragile base. 

Almost 9 years ago, my wife and I moved to the Bay Area from a Chicago suburb. After we settled, we tried different churches including Wesley, but we just couldn’t find one that we felt we can make it our church. In 2012, after a year of house hunting, God blessed us with a house near downtown San Jose and not far from Japantown. So, we decided to give Wesley another try.

And today, I attend this church with many who can and have helped me with refining my base, my foundation.

One main influence that transformed my base was Rev. Hajime’s dedication to serving our Nichigobu and Eigobu members. He has empathized, comforted, and advised even non-Christian seekers and strangers.  One time, with his knack of persuasion, we got talked into hosting an unexpected visitor from Japan, Toru,  whom we impacted his life by showing what we Christians do for others.  Some of you here met him and helped him too. This was over a year and a half ago, but to this date, he keeps in touch and still appreciates what we have done for him.

Also a couple who are good friends of my wife and I are seekers and I look forward to help them to get to next steps. We also have mother and son attending our church since their involvement with ministry through Japanese class we held here at Wesley. Rev. Hajime has given me these opportunities to contribute and added a few more bricks to my foundation.

 I believe our Christian base gets adjusted, as we grow in our faith. As I summarized my base now, it contains pretty much the same principals as the ones Wesley teaches. Love God and love one another which also include helping those who are in need and doing no harm to them, excluding no one.

1 Thessalonians 5:11states “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”.


Let’s remember to encourage others not only in bad times but in good.  Let us help each other to grow our Christian base, our spiritual foundation together.



Thank you.















2016年 10月2日「わたしたちの教会」 塚本旨兄信徒奨励

10月 2日 主日礼拝信徒奨励要旨
「わたしの教会」 塚本旨

●次に来られた荒谷先生は、いつも「あるがままの自分」を受け入れてくださる神様を語っておられました。どちらの先生も小さな人、小さな信仰、を大事にしておられたのです。このことは今日の ルカ書の後半、主人に従う僕の譬えにも現れています。小さい者であるがゆえに主人に、そして神様に従う人でありなさい、と。つまり、信仰は小さなものでなければならない、とも言えるのです。

2016年 7月17日「イエスの方を向いて」 馬越直子姉信徒奨励

7月17日 主日礼拝信徒奨励要旨
「イエスの方を向いて」 馬越直子さん

●牧師の子どもは「PK(Pastor’s Kids)」と呼ばれますが、私もその一人です。私は看護専門学校を卒業し東京の国立小児病院で働きました。子どもの頃は「教会の子」と一個人「府上直子」との葛藤の中で常に振り回されてきたように思います。
母もよく働いていました。早天祈祷会後に朝食を作り、神学生やスタッフへの週に一度の夕食会、ホームレス支援、新年の牧師館オープンハウスでは百人分のごちそうを一人で作り、葬儀や結婚式のお世話、新会堂の管理など・・・。 ある日、一晩だけ母が行方不明になりました。後に分かったのですが、教会の塔の上から飛び降りようかと真剣に考えていたそうです。母の心身の疲労は極限まで達しており、ついに入院となりました。入院に際して付き添わない父への憤りと母のやせ細った体、枯れ果てた心の疲れに愕然とした覚えがあります。
自分の行いが否定されているように感じるからです。放蕩息子の例えもそうですが、兄や姉は一所懸命、実直に、我慢強く神様と親との約束を守り、仕えています。妹や弟は、好きな事を好きな時に存分にし、しかも放蕩息子の場合は父親に、マリアの場合はイエスによってあるがままを認めてもらっています。対するマルタは40節「マルタは、色々のもてなしのためにせわしく立ち働いていた」 とあり、さらに「わたしの姉妹はわたしだけにもてなしをさせています」とマルタ自身がイエスに訴えています。これはマルタが自分自身に焦点を当てた主観的な訴えです。なぜなら人は誰もが忙しい時にこそマルタのように「なぜ、私ばかりが」と、どす黒い感情が胸に渦巻くからです。周りの人も一杯一杯で誰にも頼れない、それでも「もてなすこと」をやめません。そうする事でしか、自分の信仰が表せないと思っているからです。

2015年 7月12日 信徒奨励「前を向いて」

7月12日 主日礼拝信徒奨励要旨

●私が受けたもう一つの恩恵は、神に対する信頼が強くなったことです。 私自身、余計な言葉で相手を傷つけたりする可能性もあるので、面会をする前には毎回一生懸命助けてくださいと祈り願います。その事によって、私がケアする人の状況や、その人自身の気持ちに変化が現れることを実感することが出来ています。また、私がケアする人に寄り添っている間、私が特に何かしているわけではないので、神様・イエス様が私を助けてくださっている事、私のケアレシーバーを愛し、御手を差し伸べておられる事を感じることが出来るのです。このような体験からミニスターの働きに必要な助けは全て神が与えて下さる、という事を信じられるようになってきたのです。

2015年 3月15日 「チャーチ・ファミリー」ジョージレアノさん(信徒奨励)

3月15日 主日礼拝信徒奨励要旨
エフェソの信徒への手紙2章 17~22節

聖書は私たちの基礎として一番大切なのはイエス・キリストだと教えています。優しく 愛に満ちた、イエスさまが私たちの間にいてくださり、人と人とが結び合わされる。だから、教会の家族はあたたかく、支えとなるのです。
私たちは皆、若い頃、世界を広げたくて 「マイウェイ(自分の道)」 を選んできたのではないでしょうか?私は「自分の道」をえらび、自分の好きな事をやつていました。そして、クリスチャンである事が都合悪くなってきました。長い間、私は自分の事ばかりを考え、その道を歩いていました。
自分の道を選び、つき進んでいくときに行きづまりを覚えました。物足りなさを感じました。そして気がつけば 温かな家族である教会に、イエスキリストの道に方向を変えていました。
神さまは時に方向をかえるチャンスを私たちにあたえます。まるでパイロツトが飛行機の方向をかえるようにです。 いまは、自分も教会の家族 チャーチファミリーのために何かをしたいと思うようになりました。そこに喜びや感謝があります。