I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity to share how God’s been working in my life through Central Conference 2023.
To be completely honest, CC or anything that involved being in a Japanese community was something that made me uncomfortable. I had been away from anything Japan related since coming to the States for college in 2016. For the past 7 years, I struggled with my identity as a Japanese American who grew up in Japan. I spoke the language less and less, I worshipped or read scripture in Japanese less and less, and my main way of expressing my faith became predominantly English. Japan and what it meant to me became less in my life over the years. Deep down, I believe a huge part of me grieved that.
In the past two years, a friend would always invite me to CC or other Japanese events, and I would always decline – I was hesitant to open that door back up again. A huge part of my hesitancy had to do with the Christian communities that I was a part of growing up in Japan. Growing up as a Missionary Kid in Japan, I had moved around at least 8 different times, and had been to 6 different schools up until college – but my home Church in Japan was the most consistent place I had growing up, attending there for 10 whole years. Unfortunately, the one place of consistency was the place that created the most pain. Looking back at my teenage self, I remember feeling nothing but spiritual loneliness. I wanted to know God deeper, I wanted to have conversations of depth, but felt as though the cultural and language barriers hindered opportunities for that. That loneliness turned into bitterness for me. I remember always asking God, “Where are you? I want to know you more, I want to be a part of a community that seeks you, but I feel stuck”. I know there are passionate Japanese Christian communities out there, but I’m sad to say that I’ve been to more churches that were spiritually dead than alive. Not seeing God move in such a dry space created this bitterness and hurt in my heart that I still am working through. However, after hitting rock bottom in early 2022, God’s been softening my heart to rediscover my identity in Him, and to seek out healing and transformation in all aspects of my life. This included rediscovering myself and my roots as someone who grew up in Japan. It hasn’t been until this past 2022-2023 year that I’ve been open and stepping into Japanese communities again.
Therefore, CC came at a perfect time for me to lean into that. I had no expectations for CC; I just knew that God was calling me to experience this conference with open arms. and sure enough, God moved and softened my heart. Meeting Japanese Christians that genuinely love Jesus with all of their hearts, meeting non-Japanese people that have a heart and passion for my home (some of them have never even been to Japan) broke me. God reminded me of His deep love for Japan and its communities, and how present He is and has been all along. I thought to myself, when was the last time I’ve prayed for my home? When was the last time I actually put my hope in God moving in a place like Japan? When was the last time I’ve prayed for a revival in this place? To witness other Christians fiercely praying for this revival made me realize how far I am from putting my trust in Him and how He can move in this place. Being surrounded by people passionate for change convicted me that it starts with me; it starts with the cold hearted, bitter, clenched-fisted me to change my heart in believing in something bigger than myself and my hurt. God kept asking me throughout the conference, “Jessie, are you ready to let go? Will you open your heart? Does your heart break for what breaks mine? Because I’m here in this place. I’m moving, even when you don’t see it. I love Japan and I have not abandoned this place. Will you make more room for me so that I can work in you? Will you make room so that I can work through you even more? I can’t work through you if I don’t work in you first, and I’ve got so much more planned for you”.
CC confirmed over and over again of my love for Japan. I’m beyond grateful that CC was the launching pad for my healing journey in reconnecting with my roots and meeting people that share the same passion and love. I don’t want Japan to just be a part of my past anymore… I have no idea what involvement with the Japanese community will look like for me personally in the future. However, I come with open arms and a posture to receive whatever He has planned for me.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)