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The Advance Project Profile : Tengokuya Cafè - Kobe, Japan


Musicians often entertain those who come for affordable meals at the Tengkuyo Cafe.
Musicians often entertain those who come for affordable meals at the Tengkuyo Cafe.

Kanji lost his home and family when a devastating earthquake hit Japan in 1995. Many were left homeless and hungry. Kanji and others were grateful that Tengokuya Cafè (Advance #3021663) offered them hot meals at a low cost.

It all began in 1910, when the Rev. Toyohiko Kagawa, founder of the Jesus Band Church, opened a canteen to feed nutritious and delicious meals to the poor. Kagawa was a peace activist who also had compassion for the less fortunate living in the slums of Kobe, a port city. Since the 1995 earthquake, the Jesus Band Church has expanded its ministry to meet other needs. In 2010, it acquired Kagawa Memorial Hall as a home for the cafè and other ministries.

The Jesus Band Church is part of the United Church of Christ in Japan, an ecumenical denomination that continues the work of Methodism in the country and with which the General Board of Global Ministries has strong ties.

"A lot of my ministry has been connectional," said the Rev. Claudia Genung (Advance #11868Z), a Global Ministries' missionary assigned to the Jesus Band Church. Part of her ministry is with the Tengokuya Cafè (Heaven's Cafe) project, where she works with the homeless ministry, finds volunteers, arranges schedules and networks with people.

The cafè is open to all people who are in need of affordable meals. This outreach ministry, run by volunteers, serves 250-300 people in the Sannomiya area three days a week. There are more than 20 small plates of food items that people can choose from. Local musicians sing and play instruments for the cafè patrons.

The cafè also offers counseling and tutoring. Plans for expanding the ministry include meeting transportation costs for volunteers who are low-income and offering more programs to youth who have dropped out of school and are living in poverty. The leaders of the cafè are committed to offering Christ's love through counseling to everyone, especially foreign migrant workers, people suffering depression, the elderly and those who are jobless and homeless.

Eighteen years after the earthquake that took his family and displaced him, Kanji continues to try to regain his life. He is thankful that the people of God have reached out to him in time of need.

Christine Kumar