20th Anniversary Celebration
The “International Plaza”
This event, with the theme “Living Community – Discover the Beauty of the Gifts in Each Other!” started with an Opening Prayer and Welcoming Address by Fr. Bony James, Director of the John de Britto English Center. A large audience filling St. Joseph’s Hall to capacity then joyfully sang “Amen, Alleluia.” This then kicked off the cultural performances by various groups under the able leadership of Ms. Jeannette Kitawaki and Ms. Izumi Sakura, the Masters of Ceremony.
Initial performances included the Copoeira Dance (Brazilian), a song entitled “Christ is the Vine” interpreted in “Zahkai” Sign Language (Japanese), followed by songs ‘Agnus Dei’ and ‘Chichi wa Iru’ (There is a Father) by the Japanese Men’s Choir. The audience then listened to the first of a series of testimonies. The first was by Paulus Adhi, an Indonesian. He said he lost his faith after arriving in Japan. He wandered about for seven years living in vice. At some point, he realized he was lost, felt empty and truly lonely. He thought God had left him…and he was wrong! It was at this point that he felt the Holy Spirit directing him back, through people and events, to a “living community” in Christ. He is now a practising Catholic again and believes that if we receive Communion, we become the living Eucharist as a community.
This testimony was followed by the “Tinikling Dance” (Filipino). This was so loved by the audience that they requested for it to be performed a second time. The African community then sang two songs accompanied by drums and percussions. Then there were testimonies by four newly baptized Catholics namely Keisuke Okuma, Rumiko Takazoe, Tomoya Oda, and Asuka Watanabe. Each mentioned how they found their way to the “living community” of St. Ignatius Church. Keisuke Okuma, for example, said that he was a drug addict but at a certain point in his life the Holy Spirit guided him to freedom through an NPO. At the end of their testimonies, the audience was requested to keep praying for the newly baptized so they can continue their Christian journey.
The Indonesian community beautifully sang a song titled “Solace on the Coconut Island.” This was followed by two colorful solo dance performances by the “Esmeralda Group” from Colombia, which was then followed by “The Path to God” dance by the youthful Vietnamese community. After these, the audience listened to testimonies by Paul Saiyee (Myanmar), Kazue Kobayashi (Japan) and Sr. Hang Le (Vietnam). Paul shared how, when burdened with hardships, the Lord encouraged him to have confidence. He is now happy to devote his life to Christ as a Lay Eucharistic Minister, believing God is using him to reach-out to others. Kobayashi-san shared how God has given her the gift of connecting people, enabling them to join talents to serve the community. Sr. Hang shared the importance of prayer, that God calls each one personally, putting God first is essential, how in community life we can help each other live our vocations and that living in community gives her joy.
Towards the end, the International Youth Ministry brought everyone to their feet with their joyful choreographed rendition of “My Heart is Alive” by Planetshakers. The program ended with everybody singing “Santa Maria del Camino” (Walk with Mary) in Spanish, English, and Japanese. So interesting and engaging were the performances that some participants who planned just to stop by briefly ended up staying to the very end.
by Raymond Gasu