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When the Shin Urayasu Reformed Church in the Tokyo area celebrated becoming a full-fledged congregation with its own elders and deacons, a church on the other side of the ocean in Grand Rapids, Mich., also celebrated.

Woodlawn Christian Reformed Church has a special relationship with the Japanese congregation and its pastor, Rev. Takayuki Ashida.

Ashida came to Calvin Theological Seminary to study, and while in Grand Rapids he and his family worshiped at Woodlawn.

Though he returned to Japan four years ago, he still has strong ties to the Michigan church.

Rev. Michael Abma, one of Woodlawn’s pastors, said, “We got to know the Ashidas and their three kids very well and wanted an ongoing relationship with them.”

So when the Shin Urayasu church celebrated in June, among the 200 people in attendance were Rev. Richard and Sandy Sytsma, members at Woodlawn and former missionaries to Japan.

At the celebration, the Shin Urayasu church officially thanked its mother church, Funabashi Takane Reformed Church; Christian Reformed World Missions; and the Christian Reformed Japan Mission. Each was given artwork with the words “Faith, Hope, Love” written in Japanese calligraphy.

Shin Urayusu Church was started in1994 by retired Christian Reformed missionaries Rev. Michiel and Trudy De Berdt, who were also invited to the celebration.

Richard Sytsma said, “God has really blessed that church with dramatic growth from 14 to 48 communicant members in the last four years. Even more dramatic is that the average attendance has grown from 10 to 70.”

Ashida has introduced much of what he learned in Michigan to the Shin Urayasu Church as an encouragement toward vibrant, intergenerational worship.

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