Testimony of R35+ ministry

Blessings Given by God for Being Involved in the Ministry

Akana Nakamura

In 2016, at the age of 35, I was saved in Canada (Toronto) where I was studying for a short time and returned home. Immediately after returning home, I connected with a JCFN small group, which was my first encounter with JCFN. I then attended GiFT events in Tokyo and EC, where I was blessed to meet many people. However, many of them were a little younger than me, and although they were all very friendly, I found myself drawing a line between them and myself and not being able to fully fit in. There was something in my heart that I could not share even if I shared it with them. After that, I was led to seminary and my life changed, so I stayed away from JCFN small groups and meetings for about 2 or 3 years. When I attended GRC last year, all the members in the same group at the regional network were “adult” sisters in their 40s or older, and we wondered, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a ministry for the older generation of GiFT members?” We talked about this. And so, “R35+ (up)” was launched for returnees and those who have feelings for returnees over 35 years old. The origin of the name “R35+ (up)” comes from the idea that “we who are older (up) should look up together to God who is even older (up). As a ministry verse, Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. I will give you rest.” We meet every three months, mainly for small group sharing.

At the beginning of the ministry, a leader needed to be appointed, and I was asked to step into that role. This is my first time. I was not a leader, and I was not confident. However, during the GRC, I remembered how strongly God wanted me to reach out to the lonely returnees scattered all over Japan, and I wanted to respond to God’s call. Was this gathering really needed? Was this really God’s call? I was anxious. However, my fears were removed when I saw the smiles on the faces of the participants when they returned to the main session after their small groups, and heard the comments from the participants: “I am glad I attended,” “I was blessed,” “We needed a place like this,” and “Please keep doing this. I was filled with a joy that cannot be expressed in words. This was a joy I had never felt before as a participant.

Seeing Christians who are younger and brighter than I am, saved in my mid-30s, I wondered “Why didn’t God save me earlier? What in the world can I do now?” I complained to God about it. I am amazed that God heard this whisper and led me to God’s work that I/we can do because of who I/we are now. God is amazing. From the beginning of this ministry until now, I have felt that this belongs to God. I tend to be prideful and think it is my own strength when people compliment me or when I succeed, but it is strange that I don’t think “I/we are doing it” when it comes to this ministry. I think this is the blessing that God is giving us through this ministry, to be able to say in prayer without pretending, “God, this is your ministry. At the same time, I feel that it is also the greatest blessing to know the realization and joy of being a part of God’s work and the joy of seeing God restore people. We hope that through this ministry, God will heal, encourage, and draw even more “adult” returnees and supporters of returnees to Him. With thanksgiving to the Lord for everything.

Let’s hear about JxJ!!

Hello everyone – JxJ (a Seattle-area outreach ministry) closed its ministry in January. In this issue, Mina Chen, who was involved with JxJ from its beginning to the end, talks about JxJ!

A brief self-introduction, please!

My name is Mina Chen and I came to the U.S. as an international student in 2002 and became a Christian that year. My family consists of my Taiwanese-American husband and our 7-year-old son. I currently reside near Seattle, Washington.

My involvement with JxJ
I myself met Christians, read the Bible, and encountered Jesus for the first time when I came to the U.S., and I wanted to share about God with Japanese students who had also come to the U.S. At that time, I met a friend who also had a burden for Japanese evangelism, and in June 2006, we decided to start JxJ (Japanese – times – Jesus; Jay Jay). We had help and supports from mission organizations such as JCFN, ISI, JEMS, as well as local churches. We are grateful that we have been able to continue our activities as JxJ for 15 years until the year 2021.

Memories at JxJ / Blessings received at JxJ
JxJ started with the prayer that the number of Japanese who have a relationship with Jesus would increase like multiplication. As the name implies, God gave me many encounters through JxJ, and it was a huge blessing to be able to see up close how people met Jesus and were raised to believe in Him as their Savior. Whenever people were woken up to make a faith decision at JxJ summer camps and other events, I was encouraged to reevaluate the foundation of my own faith. As I was planning the JxJ Reunion in January 2022, I realized once again that God has sent hundreds of people to JxJ throughout the past 15 years. I am grateful that JxJ was a part of each “only one life (by encounter) that each encounter determines”. At JxJ, we had a monthly testimony time, and each person had a beautiful story of how God led them to Him, and I was encouraged every time. It was also a blessing that even though there are several churches in the Seattle area, each staff member went to a different church, we were able to unite and serve together beyond the confines of our church.

 

Has there ever been a challenge at JxJ? If so, what kind of things? What do you think you learned from it?

I was grateful for the opportunity to serve together with people of different personalities, backgrounds, and ways of thinking who were brought together to form the JxJ staff, but even though we all had the same reason for evangelism (why) – to share Jesus’ love with people – our methods (how) were different and sometimes conflicting. We also sometimes took personality assessments among JxJ staff members, and learned to understand and respect each other. Through JxJ, I also became aware of my own pride and judgmental nature, and it was a time for me to learn humility. I am grateful that each of us learned that Jesus forgave and loved us through the cross, learned to love and serve like Jesus, and experienced unity in our underlying desire to share that great love with others.

 

Thoughts on future evangelism in the Seattle area

At the “JxJ Reunion~ Under the same sky” in January 2022, JxJ ministry was ended. At the reunion meeting, Pastor Roger Olson gave us words of encouragement and challenge. He spoke about the importance of having a desire to strengthen the soul of believers and follow God’s leading and to be used, even when we do not know how things will turn out in the future. Many of those who passed through JxJ have returned to their home countries, entered the workforce, married, raised children, and are now in different environments and life stages. We pray that they will continue to seek God in their respective environments and be used as vessels to share God’s love in their relationships, and that souls will be raised to be saved. Right now, the future is uncertain due to the Corona disaster, but if it is God’s will, we believe and pray that He will provide for the needs and resume the ministry like JxJ.

 

 

Thank you so much!

You can watch the JxJ finals through this Youtube link. Let’s continue to pray for Japanese missions in the Seattle area!

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