Faith amid changing circumstances
Although Naru island is gradually becoming depopulated, Christians who live there are still managing to keep the flame of faith alive
An island from which the voice of prayer has been extinguished
One problem across the whole of the Goto islands is depopulation. Many of the churches on Goto are located in particularly remote locations, meaning that their predicament is especially serious. In the case of Egami village, there is now only a single Christian household remaining.
The church which used to be the main centre for Naru island’s Christians was called Kazurajima church. This was located on a small island called Kazura just off the coast of Naru. Egami church was originally one of this church's peripatetic church, and Mass would alternate between the church on Kazura and the one in Egami. In 1973, however, group migration from Kazura occurred, and the voice of prayer was extinguished from the island. Kazura’s Christians went to live on Naru and built Naru church.
Today, once per month, local Christians still go out of their way to gather at Egami church for Mass. For Christians, a church is a house of prayer. Thanks to those who still go to Egami to attend Mass, the church retains its original meaning.
The prayer of a 92-year-old
In the icy cold and silent darkness, while the dawn stars are still shining. 2 or 3 wheelbarrows stand at the entrance to Naru church. An elderly woman of 92-years-old with her head wrapped in a black headscarf heads towards the church pushing a wheelbarrow. This lady is originally from Kazura island, where the first church to be built in Naru/ its vicinity following the lifting of the ban on Christianity was located. All of Kazura island’s inhabitants were Christian, and they would sometimes travel to Egami church to attend Mass.
Since she was a young child, this lady has said grace before and after meals and prayed many times a day. She was raised in this kind of household. Although she is now in her nineties, she still goes to Naru church and says her morning and evening prayers there without fail. In the evenings, she takes a rosary and gathers in the church with six other women who live nearby. In the morning, she prays that during that day everyone will remain in good health, and in the evening she gives thanks that all have spent the day in safety.
When she finishes her prayers she stands beside the pew where she has been sitting and bows very deeply towards the altar. As she leaves the church she makes the sign of the cross and bows once more. She spends each day like this, living out her Christian faith with humility.
A heart of prayer
If the weather is good, the 92-year-old lady goes and weeds the church's flower bed, where for another year she has planted seeds. "If your house becomes dirty, you clean it, don't you?". She values the church like it is something of her own, an attitude she learnt from her parents.
"It's a shame that young people cannot come to church, but they have their work which is also important. Every day I pray that someday, people will come to church".