Brief History of Munakata Bethel Christian Center (MBCC)
Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, JAPAN (Nils & Andrea OLSON) — October 2005
After having arrived in Japan in January 1978, we spent our first four years on the mission field learning the Japanese language, customs and ways of thinking at the Kurume Bethel Christ Church (formerly overseen by George and Mary Beth Frazier). In the spring of 1982 we felt the Holy Spirit leading us to step out on our own and begin a new work. After several months of looking into many areas to begin a new work, we heard the voice of the Holy Spirit confirm to us that Munakata City was the place.
In September 1982, we moved to Munakata City, a bed town located directly between the two 1 million-plus population metropolises of Fukuoka City and Kita Kyushu City on the southern island of Kyushu. The city population at that time was 58,000, but has now grown to over 94,000. At that time there were only two churches with a combined Christian population of about 150 in the city. Since then, however, a total of ten churches of different Protestant and Roman Catholic affiliations have been established with an excellent rapport between church leaders. Munakata City is a very “religious” city with its huge Shinto shrine and many Buddhist temples. Shortly after moving to the city, we began praying and the Holy Spirit let us know that “the gods of this world will come to nothing and that the glory of God will flow in rivers of power into homes and families throughout the city.”
By June 1983, we began regular worship services in our rented home. During the ten months prior to beginning the work in our home, we found ourselves building relationships at neighborhood stores and in our local community. One of our first special introductory meetings was when we rented a large hall and showed a very popular Christian movie. As a result, people began learning of our the church’s existence. Special evangelistic meetings were also held at the same hall where we had some of our first converts. Water baptisms took place in our bathtub, nearby swamps, lakes and the ocean.
From 1983 until 1992 MBCC was in its pioneering stage. It seemed like a long process in leading and teaching those who are now the pillars in the church. Starting from “zero,” we taught them about salvation and when it was time, we moved on to teaching about water baptism, Holy Spirit baptism, worship, tithing and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All of these principles are in operation at MBCC today. We have found that the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation in the local church make the Word of God very real. Even to this day, we find ourselves being comforted, edified and exhorted as we continue giving the Holy Spirit liberty to work in the local church Body.
In 1991, the owner of the facility we were renting told us we had to leave because he was planning on tearing down the pre-fabricated building to make way for a new permanent structure for his business. We were greatly disappointed because we had thought we would be able to stay there for several more years, however, we had to leave at the owner’s request. Practically immediately, the Holy Spirit spoke in a still small voice of a thought and said, “Lease property and build.” It had to be the Holy Spirit, because we had NEVER given it a thought, seeing that we only had about $7000 in our (future) building fund. However, as we approached the realtor and asked him to search for lease property, God showed His favor once again and the owner of the house we had originally rented to begin the work of MBCC allowed us to lease the present church property.
At that time, the property had to be leveled and have a huge retaining wall built around it. God miraculously provided the funds from beginning to end. Little Chapel, Cordova, Alaska, offered some $31,000 for the leveling and building of the retaining wall. At the time, Bethel Temple (BT) graciously provided some $38,500 for part of the first payment of a $150,000 building. At the death of former BT Board member Mike Downs, a life insurance policy was equally distributed to Bethel Temple missionaries on the field at that time. Our portion was put directly into the building in his memory. No longer in existence, Bethel Tabernacle, Carnation, Washington, gave $2,000 dollars from their own building fund. Former BT missionary to Indonesia, Bob Edmundson gave $1,200. And I have particular remembrance of a “pentecostal handshake” of $20 designated for the MBCC building fund from Nellie Foster, who lived on the Mirror Lake Bethel Chapel grounds for many, many years. God miraculously provided the money for everything, even down to the last blade of grass in the lawn! It was the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith that was planted in my heart to literally believe for the building to be completely paid. When the last payment was due, a special offering was taken here in Japan and the bill was paid in full. ALL praise goes to God for Munakata Bethel Christian Center! It is His church! After all, it is beth-el: the House of God!
Since its completion, MBCC has been used for a multitude of gatherings, including Sunday worship, Bible studies, weddings, funerals, concerts, English lessons, church bazaars and much more.
As the years have gone by since we moved to Munakata twenty-three years ago, we have seen the city grow in population. Our love for the city has never grown old, but rather greater as its population increases. We have also seen the church in our city grow from just two to ten. Our desire and vision is to see a large, permanent piece of property we can call our own with facilities that can accommodate the increasing number of people’s needs in our city.
MBCC’s development is almost like the development of the church in the Old and New Testaments. First, there was Moses’ Tabernacle, a temporary dwelling. Ours was a rented house that was soon outgrown. Second, there was David’s Tabernacle, another temporary dwelling place. Our second dwelling was torn down to make way for a new permanent structure its owner was going to build. Third, Soloman’s Temple was built as a permanent structure, but was eventually destroyed and made way for Jesus to come and begin building His Church, against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail. We envision the last dwelling place for MBCC to be on a very large piece of purchased property (with land title in hand and facilities completely paid) we can call our own.
We believe and speak it often: “Thou art my son . . . Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” (end)