My name is Samuel Kim, and I am a 2021 college graduate from Minnesota. Growing up, I knew only a handful of Japanese people in my hometown. However, many seeds were planted throughout my upbringing that led me to be curious about the Japanese language and culture. Although I do not have a formal position in ministry, I have put a significant amount of time and energy into personal endeavors related to reaching Japanese with the gospel and learning the Japanese language. Since the COVID pandemic began, I have been a part of various ministry groups focused on reaching Japanese, both in person and online, and I have regularly attended a Japanese church in Minneapolis since the summer of 2021. At CC23, I received confirmation that my personal outreach efforts are not being wasted.
I believe that CC is a very special gathering since people of many different backgrounds come together for the unified purpose of encouraging Japanese returnees who put faith in Christ. At CC23, I was blessed to be part of a gathering where God’s Word and faithfulness were proclaimed in every way, and I was strengthened in my faith in the context of fellowship. I was encouraged and amazed to meet people who were gifted in praise, speaking, testimony sharing, prayer, and caring for others, among other gifts. I was also grateful for the strong sense of community and God’s love which permeated every part of the three-day program. I saw strong evidence that God’s love creates an environment that is ideal for spiritual growth.
CC23 helped me to confirm my personal calling to Japanese people. I would not go as far as to call it a “gifting”, but one area in which I have been highly focused and committed is Japanese language learning. I take inspiration from the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” My understanding of this verse has helped me to let go of my preconceived notions about Japanese people and culture, surround myself with native Japanese individuals as well as missionaries to Japan as much as possible, and find creative ways to learn as much about the Japanese language and culture as I can. My Japanese small group at CC23 was one avenue where this learning took place.
I faintly recall when I was filling out my registration form for CC23 on Google Forms that it asked me whether I wanted to be placed in an English or Japanese small group. I picked both options, leaving the language of my small group assignment to the luck of the draw. Much to my surprise, after the first plenary session on the first day of CC23, I found myself in a small group that was all Japanese individuals, except for me. I felt both excited and nervous at the same time. Since I had never lived in Japan and had only had interactions in Japanese that happened relatively sporadically, I knew that I had to rely on God’s grace and mercy to get me through the three days of Japanese-language small group meetings ahead of me. One takeaway from my small group experience is that God’s grace abounds and that God does not expect me to perform in a way that compensates him back for his grace. In fact, I realized there is no way I could possibly even do such a thing. I was blessed by my kind small group members who welcomed me in discussions and slowed down their pace of speaking whenever they noticed I needed help with understanding. I was also thankful for the opportunity to practice Japanese by sharing my own thoughts out loud on the discussion prompts we were provided with. Looking back, I wonder what it was like for the people in my small group to listen to me speak disfluent foreigner’s Japanese. Anyhow, I look forward to having more opportunities to practice speaking Japanese and being able to share my faith especially with unbelievers and also be an encouragement to Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ. I am looking forward to EC23!