Central Conference 2021 Testimony (2)

My name is Luke Weng, and I live in Vancouver, BC. I am in a strange position where I am neither in work or school. That’s because I am recovering from 2 cancers and going through a 3rd one as of this moment.

I first heard about CC through my Gakusekai small group at VJGC(Vancouver Japanese Gospel Church). I have heard them talking about it, and it piqued my interest. I tried signing up for CC20 but I couldn’t find the register button haha.

I feel that God taught me many things through the conference. My knowledge and understanding of being a neighbor has been taken to another level. It happened when I was told that Jesus has become my neighbor and to do likewise to put Luke 10:25-37 into action. That statement really made me put myself into the perspective of the person who Jesus was talking to. Not only does it change my view of this scripture, but see Jesus not just as my Savior but as a good friend.

My favorite part of the conference were the games we played before ending each day, especially on the 2nd night (even though I didn’t get picked </3). It not only broke the ice between the participants, but it allowed me to make friends with the other people. I was deeply moved when everybody treated me with love and kindness even though I was a foreigner who doesn’t even speak Japanese. 

I’m definitely coming to the future Central Conferences. Now, every time I think of the phrase “Christians” the people in CC are who first come to my mind!

Central Conference 2021 Testimony (1)

Natumi Iwamoto  (in Wisconsin)

I am currently studying abroad in Wisconsin, U.S.A. In 2019, where I met Jesus for the first time in my life and then got saved, and now I am sharing the joy and fun in the Lord with my brothers and sisters through InterVarsity, a campus ministry.

I first learned about JCFN when I attended the National Gathering hosted by IV online last summer. Since then, I’ve been introduced to many people that God has connected me with, which led me to EC and CC.

Through CC 21, I was able to rethink the immeasurable love of Jesus, who sacrificed so much to be with us. No matter who you are, no matter how difficult it seems, Jesus is the first one to come close to you and touch your wounds, not because of what you have done. I hope we can always look up to Jesus, our best model, and love others with a lower self. I kept praying during CC21 that I would be able to do more of that, and that you would help me to do so. I am so grateful for the three wonderful CC days, where I was repeatedly fascinated by God’s wide, long, high and deep love.

🌿Re-Connect🌿

As the 4th of July approaches, American life, which kick started the regeneration process, seems to be gradually coming back to life. 

Half a year ago, I mentioned that I’m working on my rhythm for:

🌿Rest, 🌿Restore,

🌿Connect, and 🌿Create

I expected our anxiety and stress that we have had since before the pandemic would be exacerbated by stay-home life, but oddly enough, I find myself freed from them after a year.  

During this year, we re-evaluated what are the essentials for us, and made an effort to protect them dearly. For me as a pastor’s wife, the biggest challenge as well as joy was the online church service we broadcasted from our living room. While the stay-at-home order was in effect, we were concerned about the mounting anxiety for our church body, so we recorded videos of the pastor’s Stay Home Life and uploaded it on Youtube, and increased the number of phone calls and visitations. As a result, our days of being chased by an increased business begun, quite contrary to the rhythm of rest and restore. 

Yet it was a timely offered grace of God that I had the chance to ponder what it is that my soul is truly seeking, in contrast to the previous days when I lived my life in constant comparison with others, driven by something. 

It was a great comfort and encouragement even in the midst of quarantine to be able to hold online service every week, and get connected to people from all over the world through JCFN conferences and other opportunities. 

The happiest moment after the pandemic subsided was when I saw people attending the service for the first time as the church reopened. She has never come to our church before, and was put in a situation where she has to live apart from her family and friends. The pandemic begun while she is still in that condition and was able to get connected with the church and God’s family through online service and ZOOM Bible study. Her husband, who have been a seeker, was able to get baptized this Summer with the support of the church community 🙌. This was a major event that taught me how essential the “rhythm of connection” is.   

The “Rest” and “Restore” are the rhythms of input in order for our busyness and stress bound souls to be filled by the peace of Jesus.

The latter “Connect” and “Create” are the output rhythms that can get us out to a new world where we can receive joy and blessing, while without them we tend to shut ourselves in with fear and anxiety. 

The Rhythm I’m talking about is the contemplative way of life to retreat in silence, and then proactively go out in the world to connect with people, as Jesus did. Through the “forced quit” of this year, I learned personally that this contemplative rhythm and balance are important to our souls.

Right before the stay-home order was put in place, I attended a retreat. Until then, I saw going to a retreat for “rest” and “recovery as a treat to myself, and the time of equipment for the next, higher step and self actualization. However once I was there, I had the time of reckoning with myself that could not be satisfied even when I rested or had my wishes come true. Moreover, I saw my weaknesses and shortcomings, ugliness, and easily-hurt self. Later I realized that the retreat was not the time for me to learn a new skill or merely rest, but a superb gift of grace from God to help me to notice important needs for my soul. 

Now that I look back, the whole ear was the time of retreat for my soul. Grace I received through online CC, EC, GRC, and weekly services became milestones that led me from the bondage of self-affirmation, anxiety, and fear to freedom as a child of God. In each step I took this year, there was a gaze of Jesus who is with me in pain, and through it my soul was able to see myself from a new vantage point. The peace I was given at each moment showed me the meaning of what I’ve been through, but also the meaning of the connection with people God has placed in my path. 

On June 15th, the restrictions for quarantine were lifted, and I started reconnecting in relationships with church and others. 

Where there is regeneration, there is also pain. Not everybody can easily jump the distance after experiencing enforced social distance and political division and discord. For example, don’t we sometime regret confiding in our friend, parent, souse, or lover our innermost thoughts? We have already experienced the hurt and pain of not being accepted when we wanted our core being, opinion, and vulnerability to be known. We live in an era when we don’t know how to regenerate our connection with others just because the world reopened again. 

To be honest, I’m quite uncomfortable with small groups. I am a shy person😅. I probably had negative images (too much work. hard) towards small groups before, and was the type who couldn’t wait for it to be over. I think it was because the past pain with connection made me uncomfortable with sharing something that I’m not interested in or inconsequential surface matters. Also I was not open to sharing the innermost part of my soul that I haven’t really recognized myself. Yet if stayed afraid of connections, the soul will sooner or later be isolated and be in the optimal condition to doubt God and others, which is what the enemy who wants us to be alone.    

Since I got married, I lived in three countries 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸 and moved 12 times. That was a memory of repeated desolation and pain, the accomplishment  I’m not even proud of. In my 40’s it has been my major goal to rebuild the connection with trusted friends and church in a different location. For me, who are not comfortable with crowd and social situations to interact with many people, it was a struggle to go along with others. I might have looked normal to others but in my heart I was like a crown who are juggling frantically.

I’m thankful though, that I was always able to share my feelings and thoughts with my husband Suke-san (while there might be other challenges in our marital relationship😅). Through this pandemic, I learned that the connection that is important to me is not just the ones to share time and fun, but people who I can share what’s in each other’s heart, responsibility, and aspiration, even if we live far away from each other. 

Especially this year, I remember instances when God has timely placed a fitting person or connection in my life. Starting with retreat, even if it was a short and limited time to share, Mrs. K who I had the honor of being in the same small group at EC, a young person who is filled with the joy of salvation and desire to serve, a person who is fighting valiantly with trauma, or someone else who sent me a surprise gift. By focusing on God’s timely placement such as these, the connection with others that used to feel like a bothersome chore transformed into the connection of grace where I can face my soul. 

I made prayer Lei for my daughters. I heard that Lei has a meaning of “beloved child”, so I have prayerfully woven raffia and flowers together for every graduation. There are connections prepared for us, which God himself planned and leads us to meet those people. The connection that provides rest for the heart, by simply being there, and the connection to provide encouragement and sincere interaction through just sharing time together. Even the connection that pains us or cause suffering, when it is connected and woven by the hand of God, it becomes a one of a kind, original “Lei-a beloved child”, even though it may appear a little awkward. At each milestone of our lives, God gently place it on our neck and lovingly utters “You are my beloved child. In you I am delighted”, and teaches us that the connection has become a beautiful Prayer Lei. As I thought of my children and prayed, wouldn’t God instead of counting our shortcomings and weaknesses,  to remind us of these connections and communicate how much we are loved and blessed?

From now on, instead of seeking connection for self validation or for pride:

I want to re-receive the connection God gives with thanksgiving. 

→ I want to choose to bless others sincerely and love them. 

→ To be a friend who others want to be friend with.

This pandemic was the time to give thanks again for Jesus Christ who became my friend friend and loves me as a whole, weakness and shortcomings and all. I hope to enjoy the connection with Jesus who walks with me, and the true freedom as God’s beloved child in this era of new regeneration.   

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I was nervous every time since I was not used to sharing in this way. With thanksgiving for such precious opportunity, I would like to keep writing in my blog about the rhythm of soul. Thank you for reading, everyone! 🌿

 

 

Makiko Nakao  

Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christ Church pastor’s wife.
Mother of three daughters born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸.
Hobby: Observing my husband, aimlessly change interior decorations.
Saty-at-home wife blogger ++Violette ++https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/

 

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