Akarin’s Monthly Report * Special Edition

Photos left to right
* We shouted yoo-hoo to Japan at the beach in LA. Did you hear us?

* At the EC23 commissioning ceremony, we joined hands and prayed.

* My favorite spot Disneyland!

* Experienced the world that God has created, at Setsu’s devotional spot with my favorite Starbucks!

 

It’s been a while, readers, this is Akarin.

My one-year internship has finished, and more than six months has passed in the blink of an eye. Recently, I successfully completed the year-long challenge of my graduation research report, and although I thought I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, there’s still a mountain of things to do before graduation. Despite being busy, I’m enjoying these final days of student life.

 

In this report, I’d like to share blessings from EC23, which was blessed.

 

At EC23, I served the Lord in the Returnee Program, of which “Takumi Café” was a part. I’d like to thank everyone for visiting “Takumi Café” and those who donated the teas and snacks.

I was also grateful to be allowed to participate with a youth from my college church assignment which is part of the TCU program.

 

If I had to describe the blessings I received from God at EC23 in one word, I’d say “guidance”.

 

I’ve been praying and waiting since 2022 to attend EC. This was because I’d been interning at JCFN, the organization that sponsors EC, in order to know how God is working with each and every one of those called “Returnee Christians” who attend EC, and with each and every one of those who receive them and send them. Unfortunately, due to unexpected circumstances, I canceled my plan to attend EC22, but I believe that it was undeniably God’s plan and work that I was able to participate with the EC23 youth program in this way at this time.

 

Two things that changed me greatly during EC23.

First, I was reminded of the importance of fellowship with people my own age. Recently, at camps for middle school and high school students, as well as at camps organized by my denomination, I’ve often been in leadership positions, and had no opportunity to share my faith with Christians my age. However, at EC23 in the U.S., where I spent time with fellow Christians my age, sharing in small groups, praying for one another, and being encouraged by one another, I was able to face myself, meet spiritual friends, and be steadfast in my faith, spending time with God.

 

Second, I made a decision. Since last year, I ‘d been praying a lot about my career path after graduation and about my calling.

Through these prayers, God showed me that I want to be used by God as JCFN staff, which is rooted in the work of Christians who have returned home to Japan. On the other hand, due to my personal financial situation, I needed to find a job, and lost hope, wondering when I should submit my application as a candidate for fulltime JCFN staff and whether it was truly God’s will for me to find a job.

However, on the last day of EC, which has been mainly messages, sharing, and, above all, dialogue with God, there was a time of invitation. I was given such a clear call to seek God’s glory in whatever work I do, and I was able to honestly raise my hand and pray to God.

I was grateful that I clearly understood that after graduation I’d find a job, and once I paid my debts, I’d immediately apply to be a candidate for the position of JCFN fulltime staff and until then I’d continue to prepare.

 

God’s guidance was not only at EC23, but in my entire journey.

Back on December 25th, the young person from my church and I were to travel there before EC23, enjoying Christmas and the environment in LA. After arrival, we slept for 12 hours, recovering from jet lag. Although my body was also feeling a bit sore, but we spent the afternoon taking a leisurely stroll in the quiet city and ate dinner at home.

Later that evening, while driving to see the neighborhood Christmas lights I was involved in a traffic accident for the first time in my life. I was shocked to see a truck that had run a red light and hit us, then fled the scene. The girls who took us, and us were shocked, but most of all, overflowing with gratitude that our lives were spared, we were uninjured, and our car wasn’t wrecked. I was nearly in tears when a friend of the girls who came to see us said, This was not a good experience.

The next day after such a precious experience, we went to EC23. Initially I thought, “What if our journey had ended here?” But then I realized, “No, this is God’s way of inviting us to EC23 and telling us something” and I was unceasingly thankful.

 

I was also blessed and grateful for the straightforward testimonies of the youth and seekers at the Blessing Meeting on January 2ndafter EC23 had ended.

In addition, I stayed until January 10 at various places, and fellowshipped with many church members, as well as new friends I’d met at EC23, and with the JCFN staff, and enjoyed and was blessed until the last minute before returning to Japan.

 

It was a wonderful journey where I experienced firsthand, and I felt in my heart the great work of God who protects and guides me in every aspect of my life from beginning to end.

I cannot stop being excited about what God will do for me in the future.

I want to continue to hope, pray, wait, and walk in faith.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

January is already ending in 2024! I’m sure I’m not the only one surprised by the speed of time passing.

A friend I met today exclaimed, “January is ending, and I haven’t even put my resolutions into words yet… wait a minute!!” Amen.

I have completed EC, but I haven’t been able to take enough time to settle down yet.

My beloved husband, Mao, bought a bicycle last Christmas. He commutes to church by bike, which takes one hour and 20 minutes one way. When he told the church members about it, they asked, “Is it an electric bike?”  That wouldn’t do any good, does it?

Since the new year, he’s been commuting! Wearing a bright yellow hoodie, a helmet to protect his big head, he travels to the church and back, taking one hour and 20 minutes each way. Amazing!

Mao’s remarkable trait is his ability to persevere. (At least more than me.)

This summer, you might meet a “slimer” Mao.

But for now, it feels like Paddington Bear riding a bicycle…

I think about doing something new this year and continue it, but the year might end probably before I even start it.

Setsu Shimizu

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