Keito Okamoto （in Texas）
Hello, good evening, and good morning to everyone who reads this testimony. My name is Keito Okamoto and I am a college student in Houston, Texas, USA. This is the first time for me to write my testimony, so it may be difficult to read, but I hope you will read it until the end. So now, I would like to share my testimony.
I came to the United States on January 1, 2020 as an international student. As soon as I arrived, I could not understand English and only said “Yes” and “No” like a robot. However, when I began to understand English to a certain extent and was able to lead a reasonable daily life and university life, I suddenly had a question. Why did God send me to America? Why Texas? Why Houston? That’s when I started to wonder. Through daily Bible reading, prayer, and looking at the current situation of Japanese Christians in Houston, God gave me the answer. “God gave me the task to “share God’s word with Japanese students in Houston. When I found out about this, I immediately started a FB group to take action. Let’s tell people about God! But I had never created such a community before, so I didn’t know what to do even if I started it out of the blue. When I was praying and worrying, I received an invitation to join WIT21. At first I was like, “What is WIT? But when I heard the explanation, I thought, “This is it! What if! I had no choice but to join!” I thought, “God has heard my prayers for my problems and is leading me!” I decided to join.
I was so excited and nervous when WIT21 started. 4 sessions were held in 2 days and all of them were wonderful. There were four sessions in two days and all of them were wonderful. One of them was from 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, “there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” This is a session that was spoken from that here are differences in theology, differences in thinking, differences in gifts, and differences in the way we serve, but the God we serve is the same. I learned that we are united by God. This was a great session for me as I am now thinking about building a community. He also talked about the importance of accountability partners. What is an accountability partner?
(1) A relationship where people listen to what needs to be heard
(2) A relationship in which we watch each other in our spiritual growth.
(3) A relationship in which we can share, report and point out to each other for that purpose.
(4) A relationship of intentional and voluntary involvement.
I learned that it is important to have people who can support me in my faith life in order to build a community.
I would like to continue to follow God as an agent of His plan. I would also appreciate it if you would remember to pray for the gospel for the Japanese students in Houston.
Thank you to all the staff at WIT21.
Saki Nishikori（in New Jersey)
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:1-5)
Those who served in the WIT program led workshops on how to grow as a community leader. They also shared their testimonies of their ministry experiences. They talked and reminded us to be humble leaders like Jesus, not just socially acceptable leaders, but leaders that God would be pleased to see us become.
I’m currently studying at a state university in NJ, serving at a Japanese Christian church I’ve attended since before I was born, and in youth and college ministry on the East Coast. Specifically, I have a desire to connect with and evangelize Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the NJ/NY area.
At this year’s Central Conference, Rev. Kurisu talked about whose neighbor Jesus would have been if he were in today’s society. Since then, I have been thinking about who I should be a neighbor to. Then the faces of the people around me who needed Jesus the most came to mind. And through this WIT, I realized that I want to walk in the same way that Jesus approached and showed His love to those people who may not be easy to get along with or to be friends with, but who need God’s love. Through WIT, I was able to learn a lot about how to humble myself, let go of my pride, and live a life centered on Christ’s love in both Christian and non-Christian communities.
I still have a lot to study and learn, but God spoke to me deeply as I prayed with the friends and staff I met at WIT. Ministries are not something you do by your own efforts, but something you give with gratitude and joy, just by God’s grace and love. And that God would provide us with the friends and needs we needed, regardless of our own shortcomings and weaknesses. As we build up our new community, I hope that great blessings will be poured out as we seek God in every process.
Hello from Michigan. I’d like to share a little bit about the Michigan Bible Camp.
About 26 years ago, a Japanese woman living in Ann Arbor had a vision of Japanese family camp, and as the prayers eventually expanded, a couple, American husband and Japanese wife, moved from Singapore to Ann Arbor. Her American husband was earning his PhD at the University of Michigan. His parents were devout Christians who understood camp ministry, such as participating in Bible camps in Upper Michigan, and he had been nourished at Bible camps since he was a child. He had a wealth of camping know-how and was committed to locating venues and preparing various things, and the first camp was held in 1998.
In addition, young people joined the camp operation and the camp continued every August. One such young person was Nagiko Hamano. She graduated with a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. During this time, she accepted Jesus Christ and was baptized in June 1998. She was later called to heaven at the age of 33 due to cancer. She served not only in the Michigan Bible Camp, but also at the Central Conference and the Equipper Conference. Her mother who was closer to her while fighting cancer came to the faith. About 10 years later after the funeral, her sister was also led to the faith.
Last year our plan consisted of two parts as Day Camp (August) and Online Live (October) due to COVID circumstances. But this year the 24th camp has returned to the overnight stay camp as before. There were over 50 campers, which were fewer than before, probably because some Japanese Christian families encountered calendar conflicts with events in the same week or other matters.
Looking back in the past, there were some happenings. Every time, we wish and hope that there will not be any unfavorable incidents. However, on the morning of Thursday, August 12, when the day of camp started, a man who has been in charge of elementary school classes for several years, informed us that last night’s storm had caused power outage. After all, it was 10:00 p.m. on the same day he told us that the restoration would be expected by midnight on Saturday, so it was not possible to join the camp. His children who look forward to this camp every year seemed to be really sad. We were sorry about this. Now, what to do with the elementary school class??
At midnight on Thursday 12th, Pastor Iwao Satoh, keynote speaker and three committee members held an emergency operations meeting. As a result, because it was a small number of children, they were to put together in one class group of elementary, middle, and high school for each Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday morning. The leader in charge of the middle and high class and with two supporters were called in for this emergency situation. The night program on Friday 13th had a partial issue due to equipment failure, but the emergency response team of these three American youths worked splendidly on the morning of 14 (Sat) and 15 (Sun), as this was the advent of God’s dream team. The Lord is alive!
In the past, people who needed interpreters took seats right next to the interpreter and listened to it, but this is not a COVID measure at all now. However, with interpreting equipment given from JCFN’s unused tools three interpreters supported 11 people using English, so we really realized “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” By the way, there are 21 people in Japanese. I felt a change in the profile of our camp. Next year the camp will be scheduled from August 11th (Thur) to 14th (Sun).
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