Japan Evangelistic Band (Japan Christian Link)
Name of creator(s): Japan Evangelistic Band
Administrative/Biographical history: The Japan Evangelistic Band (JEB) was founded in 1903 as a non-denominational fellowship of Japanese and expatriate missionaries dedicated to personal holiness and aggressive evangelism. The JEB's primary field was the Kinki area of South West Japan and the island of Shikoku and, from time to time, missionaries worked among Japanese living on the West Coast of Canada and the USA, and in the UK. In 1999 the organisation adopted the name Japan Christian Link for operations in the UK, though work in Japan continues under the name of JEB.
The JEB was co-founded by the Rev Barclay Fowell Buxton (1860-1946) and Alpheus Paget Wilkes (1871-1934). In 1890 Buxton went to Japan as an independent missionary with the British Church Missionary Society. He invited Wilkes to join him as a lay helper in 1897, and the two worked together at Matsue in Western Japan, before returning to England. The JEB was formally launched at the Keswick Convention in 1903, where Buxton and Wilkes were joined by a small group of friends who shared their concern for evangelism in Japan. Among the group was Thomas Hogben, the founder of the One by One Working Band, a group devoted to personal evangelism, and at first the new mission was known as the One by One Band of Japan. Nine months after Keswick, the name was changed to Japan Evangelistic Band, or 'Kyodan Nihon Dendo Tai' in Japanese. The JEB was incorporated under the Religious Incorporation Law and became a Registered Charity (Number 21834).
Members of the JEB were drawn from a variety of denominations or from none. Wilkes envisioned 'a band of men ... who detaching themselves from the responsibilities and entanglements of ecclesiastical organisation, would give themselves to prayer and ministry of the Word...'. Both Japanese and missionary workers were included in the Band from the start. Expatriate workers came from North America, South Africa and Australia as well as the British Isles. The mission was never numerically large, probably numbering never more than 30 missionaries at one time. Japanese workers were greater in number.
The original aim of the JEB was to 'initiate and sustain evangelistic work among Japanese wherever they are found'. It did not see itself as a missionary society, seeking to plant new churches and withdraw, but rather as an evangelising agency assisting existing missions and churches and organising Christian Conventions for Bible Study and Prayer.
Wilkes led the first missionary party to Japan in October 1903. He served briefly in Yokohama and Tokyo, then moved south west to Kobe, which became the centre of JEB activity. In 1905 two central works were started to provide for the training of an indigenous ministry for the long-term continuation of the work: the Kobe Mission Hall and the JEB Kansai Bible College.
By the 1920s other missions were finding their own experts in evangelism and invitations received by the JEB were not sufficient to fill the time of its workers. Facing this situation, the JEB decided to launch its own forward outreach work. Band workers went out into rural towns and villages where no Christian work had yet been done. Full salvation and missionary literature was printed and circulated. Churches were started in about 100 centres. The JEB intended that these churches would be linked with existing Japanese denominational churches, to avoid the formation of another denomination. However, the JEB-inspired churches conferred together and decided they would prefer to be linked together in their own denomination. In 1938 many of them withdrew from the denominations they had joined and formed a separate denomination called the Nihon Iesu Kirisuto Kyokwai (NIKK) or Japan Church of Christ. Subsequently new churches were invited to link up with this group or remain independent. Most continued to join the NIKK, but there were a few churches in other denominations.
World War Two brought a temporary halt to work, but some of the Japanese members were able to continue a limited evangelistic activity through the war. The Mission Hall in Kobe and the Kansai Bible College were destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945, though both were later rebuilt. JEB missionaries returned to Japan in late 1947 and they began to work on new housing estates that were growing up on the outskirts of cities. Miss Irene Webster Smith started a centre for students in Tokyo. The 1950s saw new outreach into Wakayama Ken, first to the far south in Susami and Kushimoto, then later to Minoshima and Kainan and later to Kozagawa. There was also outreach to Shikoku Island where work commenced in Tokushima Ken at Tachitana then in Hanoura and Naruto, while a separate venture was started in Shido, Kagawa Ken. Work also started in Wajiki. Churches started in Tachitana and Naruto. Another outreach of the 1950s was the work in Northern Hyogo Ken. Later interest in the area moved over the prefectural boundary into Kyoto Fu, where work started in the mountainous districts around Amano Hashidate. In 1952 the JEB absorbed the Japan Rescue Mission, which had worked to save girls likely to be sold to the licensed prostitution system. By 1950 licensed prostitution had been abolished and the work was no longer necessary, so the missionaries were redirected to other JEB activities.
In the UK, JEB members worked among Japanese seamen arriving at the docks in Birkenhead. Conventions were held regularly at Swanwick, Derbyshire, in June, and at Southbourne, in August. From the early days of the JEB there was children's work, whose objective was to win children for the Lord in the home countries and to set them to pray and work for the children of Japan. The Young People's Branch of the JEB was called the Sunrise Band until 1977, when the name was changed to Japan Sunrise Fellowship.
The parent body of the JEB was the British Home Council. Barclay Buxton was the first Chairman, and he was succeeded by his son, Godfrey Buxton. Eric William Gosden became the Chairman in the late 1970s. A General Secretary was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the JEB. Among the subsidiaries reporting to the British Home Council were Regional Committees, the Japan Christian Union, Seamen's Work in Birkenhead, and the Sunrise Band Committee. In 1947 the British Home Council appointed a Publications Committee to 'co-opt, plan, produce and supervise all publications of the JEB and the Sunrise Band'. From September 1955 this committee was known as the Literature Committee. Other sub-committees were formed as needed. In the early years, the British office of the JEB was no 55 Gower Street, London. In May 1962, it purchased as the British headquarters and office no 26 Woodside Park Road, North Finchley, London. This property was sold in 1983, and the JEB bought new headquarters at no 275 London Road, North End, Portsmouth.
The Japan Council directed work in the Japanese field. There were always a majority of Japanese members, usually five against three expatriates.
The year 1999 saw a strategic reorganisation. The renamed Japan Christian Link refocused its work on expatriate Japanese, mainly in Europe. Work in Japan continues to be known as the JEB, and is now under the direction of Japanese workers.
Janet Dann (1899-1986) was a missionary first with the Japan Rescue Mission, then the JEB.For further information see: Eric W Gosden, Thank You, Lord! The eightieth anniversary of the Japan Evangelistic Band 1903-1983 (1982); Eric W Gosden, The Other Ninety-Nine: the Persisting Challenge of Modern-Day Japan (1982); B Godfrey Buxton, The Reward of Faith in the Life of Barclay Fowell Buxton 1860-1946 (1949).
Immediate source of acquisition: Deposited on permanent loan by Japan Christian Link in November 2000.
CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and content/abstract: Records, 1905-1987, of the Japan Evangelistic Band (JEB), relating to its structure and administration and its missionary activity, mainly to the British Home Council and its sub-committees, comprising British Home Council minutes, 1905-1961, and correspondence, 1921-1987; Sunrise Band minutes, correspondence, publications, photograph albums and artefacts, 1935-1980; Literature Committee minutes, correspondence, manuscripts and art work, c1947-1982; evangelical promotional material including tracts and hymn sheets; publications including JEB magazines, newsletters and promotional leaflets and histories of the JEB; newspaper cuttings; reference books; photographs and cine films; and personal papers of Janet Dann, including incoming and outgoing correspondence, 1950-1986, notebooks, 1956-1969, photographs, 1920s-1980s, and audio tapes of interviews with Dann.
System of arrangement: The main series of records are arranged in sections: the British Home Council, Sunrise Band, Literature Committee, Publications, Photographs and Films. The personal papers of Janet Dann are listed at the end of the collection.
ACCESS AND USE
Language: English and Japanese
Conditions governing access: Papers containing sensitive personal data are closed. Otherwise unrestricted.
Conditions governing reproduction: Copyright is held by Japan Christian Link. Contact Japan Christian Link, PO Box 68, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2ZY.
Finding aids: Cataloguing in progress.
Archivist's note: Compiled by Vicky Rea and revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.
Date(s) of descriptions: May 2002