Why are YU in North America?②

Three weeks have passed since the internship started. After participating in the Central Conference 24, I have been working with the JCFN staff at the North American office on weekdays, attending online meetings, and seeing staff’s work. I have been spending fulfilling days because there is so much to learn. I evangelize for Japanese students in Southern California, attending youth ministries, and visiting Japanese churches on Sundays.

In the morning, I went to a quiet place surrounded by nature and meditated. It is important to calm down to be with God sometimes.

From next week, I will be participating in a three-week retreat and leadership camp. I will enjoy the remaining days of internship and serve the Lord, believing that the Lord will prepare and strengthen me physically and spiritually.

Central Conference 24 Testimony (1) Junko Carper

Hallelujah, I praise the name of the Lord Jesus.

This time, CC 24 was titled “Kingdom Citizenship” (Philippians 3:20).

For me, there was a more compelling reason to participate than the title itself.

Currently, in my faith, although Jesus is near, He is obscured by a mist, making Him unclear to see and inaudible to hear. However, because I believe that the living Jesus is by my side, I wanted to cling to even the hem of His garment or His shadow.

Believing it was the Lord’s will, we began a church plant in our area at the beginning of this year with home gatherings after long prayers.

Though it started with joy and hope, the attendance has been less than expected, making me doubt if this is truly God’s will, if this is the right place, or if we are the right people for this task.

I found myself giving up on inviting seekers after multiple attempts and hesitating to reach out again.

Just as I thought the foundation had been laid, I was at a standstill, wondering what God wanted from me when CC happened.

On the first day, Pastor Ichikawa, the guest speaker, spoke about our identity as citizens of God’s kingdom. At that moment, I realized I had lost sight of my identity in God’s kingdom. Guided by the Holy Spirit, I started by examining my own heart.

As I participated in the main gatherings, small groups, and early morning prayer meetings, the Holy Spirit poured into my dry heart like water into a sponge. Even as it overflowed, it continued to be filled without running dry.

It felt as if all the accumulated burdens within me were washed away and replaced with new, fresh water.

In the meeting, Pastor Ichikawa said that in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is represented as fire, water, oil, and wind—sources of energy.

We also cannot function without the supply of this energy.

Perhaps I was merely content with my actions of praying, having devotions, and worshipping. I had forgotten to persistently seek God.

When I heard this, the initial desire to cling to the hem of Jesus’ garment resurfaced strongly, and I couldn’t stop it. As this feeling grew, I felt the Holy Spirit filling me. I physically felt the compassion of the Holy Spirit. I finally regained my identity, and my perspective on the church plant changed. I realized that I had been trying to do everything by my own strength, without truly seeking the Lord’s help.

Now, I find joy in everything the Lord has prepared for me and can look forward to what He will provide.

I realized that what I thought was good on my own was actually an attempt to move without the fuel from the Holy Spirit.

CC was filled with constant touch and gratitude toward the Lord, and renewed anticipation for the kingdom of God. We witnessed many works of the Holy Spirit, including the salvation of one person and her child in our small group. We saw her face change day by day right before our eyes.

We shed tears of joy together.

The reasons I needed to attend were answered from the first day until the end, and I am still filled with joy.

God truly provides what is needed at the perfect timing.

Let me share the word given by the Lord:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)

I am grateful to our Heavenly Father for giving me this time, to my family for sending me off warmly, and to everyone in the church who prayed for this.

 

Through the BBWIT

On 29 April (national holiday), a seminar on ‘Understanding Returnee Christians’ was held at the CBI near Nagoya Station.

At first, around November last year, he said, “I want to do a seminar in Nagoya. I would like to form a team and build up the seminar.” JCFN staff called on us to do so. I wondered if this was possible, as there were currently only a limited number of people involved in returnee ministry in the area, but I joined the team in the hope that the understanding of returnee Christians in the area would spread to local churches and individuals.

The team consists of six people who are involved in the Tokai region and have a desire to work with returnee Christians, and started in February this year. Preparation took about three months. The main preparation was to take charge of each chapter in pairs and present it based on the text book ‘Understanding Returnee Christians’. In between Zoom meetings, which were held about once a month, each pair read the text, compiled it into a PowerPoint presentation and prepared it by frankly discussing their opinions at the meetings. Although we only had a total of four Zoom meetings to prepare, we felt that what each of us had prepared was exquisitely intertwined and came together as one. In particular, team members followed the Lord’s lead in saying, “Bring it here” (Matthew 14:18), and offered their individual gifts to the Lord, such as making flyers, leading worship, sharing testimonies, negotiating, and preparing refreshments, and we were overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for blessing us many times over with them.

 

On the day of the seminar, just under 30 people gathered. Starting with the testimonies of two returnees, we were able to think about “how to understand and accept people with different backgrounds from our own” and return to the idea that “the essence of the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ should remain the same” no matter what their background. I myself was a returnee Christian who stumbled after returning home, but through the seminar it became clear to me that this experience was also a way to be there for someone else. I was also grateful that I was able to reaffirm my Christian identity, saying that a returnee Christian will always be a returnee Christian.

At present, our ministry to returnee Christians in the Tokai region continues to be a small ministry. We believe that more and more people will encounter Christ and return to their home countries in the future as a characteristic of the region. We would like to continue to connect with the people who participated in this seminar, and we hope and pray that the Lord will continue to do new things in the future.

Yoshiko Nishisako

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