[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in May 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

Graduate hopes to help Japanese women pastors

by Laura Lehman Amstutz

Gilberto Flores
Yumiko celebrates with her husband Mitsunari and their son, Kazuki.

HARRISONBURG, Va. - When Yumiko Nakashima came to the United States five years ago, she didn't plan to attend seminary. She came so her husband, Mitsunari, could study at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He graduated in 2006, and this year Yumiko walked across the stage as well.

EMS held its 58th annual commencement Saturday, April 28. Yumiko joined 25 classmates who received degrees or certificates from EMS.

The first two years Yumiko was in the United States she stayed home with their two-year old son, Kazuki, while Mitsunari studied at the seminary and in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU.

"I was burnt out from being a pastor in Japan,” said Yumiko, "I was so tired and I needed to rest. I was sick, mentally, spiritually and physically."

During that first year someone suggested that Yumiko get spiritual direction through the seminary, but she was afraid because her English wasn't very good. After two years, she relented.

Spiritual direction helps student heal

"I needed to talk to someone and work to restore my relationship with God," she said. "Spiritual direction was so good. The patient listening and gentle direction was treatment for my soul."

She began to see how spiritual direction could help other Japanese women pastors she knew. Many friends and former pastors she knew in Japan faced similar struggles.

“I saw many female pastors in Japan work very hard and tire out. Sometimes they would resign," she continued. "It was sad to me because they expressed dedication to God as a minister but became worn out.”

"They need to be treated well, but we don't have spiritual direction or the needed counseling resources in Japan."

Gilberto Flores
Yumiko is "hooded" by seminary dean, Ervin Stutzman.

Student dreams of helping others

Yumiko's experiences and her knowledge of the struggles of Japanese women pastors led her to study at EMS. She graduated with a master of divinity degree with concentrations in spiritual direction and pastoral care and counseling.

Yumiko also won an award for excellence in pastoral care for her work at EMS.

She hopes to return to Japan someday to help pastors in the way she's been helped here. For now, she and Mitsunari are moving to a Japanese community in California to pastor North County Church, a church in the Oriental Mission Society Holiness denomination.

"I think this will be a good transition time," Yumiko said. "I can try to apply what I've learned in a Japanese culture in the U.S. before I try to take it to Japan.”

Seminary training goes beyond academic work

"I learned many things at seminary," she said, "not only from the academic study but also from the people. The faculty modeled a humble attitude. I respected that.”

"I also learned that it is okay to be vulnerable," she continued. In Japan I felt like I needed to be perfect. The faculty members here showed me that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes."

Yumiko was among 16 persons to receive the M.Div. degree. Four of her classmates earned master of arts in religion, three earned master of arts in church leadership degree and three received certificates in ministry or theological studies.

To see photos from graduation go to: www.emu.edu/seminary/commencement/gallery

posted 5/3/07