Testimony of GRC21 Participant “In Jesus’ Name…A Prayer to Extend His Kingdom”

Testimony of GRC21 Participant

In Jesus’ Name…A Prayer to Extend His Kingdom

Etsuko Hotta

Hallelujah! Praise the name of the Lord! My name is Etsuko Hotta and I live in Tottori Prefecture, which is the least populated prefecture in Japan. I’m grateful for the opportunity to testify about what the Lord has done through GRC21, and I want to give glory to the Lord.

 

A few years ago, I was given the vision to evangelize students through study abroad by utilizing my position at the International Exchange Center where I’m responsible for students from English-speaking countries in charge of the university where I work. I attended GRC18 when I was praying to the Lord about how to support students who had just returned home with an interest in the Gospel.

 

Before attending GRC18, I was afraid to evangelize students because of my position as a university employee. However, through GRC18, the Lord prepared my heart, led me to repentance, and gave me a calling to evangelize students through study abroad. After receiving this call, I was able to find local families of God, communities, and educational institutions in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia that agreed, prayed, and cooperated with this work through God’s grand plan. Students who had never even heard the name of Jesus Christ were given the opportunity to experience the love of the Lord during their study abroad, from short-term study abroad for four weeks to long-term study abroad for one year, and some were saved during their study abroad, while others were not yet saved but returned home with an interest in the Bible. In order to support these students, we started our ministry by starting small groups and worshipping with students unconnected to the church.

 

After GRC18, my daily prayer to the Lord was to attend the next GRC21 with the saved students who were the fruit of this study abroad mission started by the Lord. However, the students connected to our small group were so busy with part-time jobs, coursework, and assignments that they were unable to commit to study and worship, which was our biggest prayer challenge. However, as Isaiah 55:10-11 says, when rain or snow falls from heaven, it does not return unchanged, but it always moistens the earth and brings life to it, just as the wilderness becomes green and beautiful flowers bloom, so the word of God never returns in vain, and the hearts of those who hear it will be filled with joy. No matter how dry and barren the hearts of those who hear it may be, the word of God will be sown into their hearts, and they will be transformed into a lush heart. I continued to pray, believing that the Word of God would be transformed into an abundant heart of love for God in God’s time, and that this was what the Lord wanted.

It was also a challenge to encourage students who were unable to attend small groups and worship services regularly to participate in GRC21, but the Lord answered the prayers that had been pouring in since GRC18. The Lord answered our prayers, and we were able to participate in GRC21 together with the returnees from New Zealand who had just graduated and the returnee students from Canada who started supporting us right after GRC18.

 

The theme of GRC21 was “In Jesus’ Name…” The Lord spoke abundantly to both of their hearts in Jesus’ name, and they were able to connect with new returnee Christians and see their faith grow through this GRC21. After GRC21, it was difficult for them to get together, but now they are willing to fellowship and study together. This is a great joy and a sign that we have been praying for each person’s spiritual growth in Jesus’ name. It is also a testimony of our prayers to expand the Kingdom in Jesus’ name, that we received the call at GRC18, and three years later at GRC21, we are able to join with the souls of the fruit of the Lord’s work and see the growth of the Spirit!

 

I pray from the bottom of my heart that the precious work of JCFN will continue to be protected and used to support returnee Christians in connecting with God and His family, being transformed into Christ’s likeness, being equipped, and being sent so that their faith will not be isolated after they return home.

From Despair to Hope (Testimony of an EC20 Beyond Participant)

Ryoko Kawaguchi (JCFN member in Miyagi)

I was in despair. I was really in despair. I was so busy working, going to bed, waking up, working, going to bed again…. There was no hope for me. I was desperate to finish the day. Before going to bed at night, I even wished that tomorrow morning would never come. Even now, as I write this, I am crying from the pain of living a life without hope or joy. ______

 

I studied in California for six years starting in 2000. I had a hard time studying, but I also made many Christian friends and had a blessed time. After returning to Japan, although I had some ups and downs in my faith, I was working at a Christian workplace and participating in Christian gatherings for returnees, so I didn’t fall away from the church, and I was having a good time both at church and at work.

 

It was after I got married that I started to change (no, it wasn’t because of my husband, just so you know). After the Great East Japan Earthquake, my husband, who is a Christian, and I began to live in the Tohoku area for long-term support. We came to the area with great enthusiasm, feeling like a hero, to share the gospel with the people living in the disaster area, but I was immediately beaten down. First of all, I had no friends. The church was too quiet (of course, that was not a bad thing, but I was confused by how different it was from the churches I had been to). When I looked to my right and left, I saw mostly elderly people. Even so, I took it as a positive sign and said, “This is the kind of environment God dared to give us.” I continued to attend church diligently, but my faith quickly weakened. My new job became busier and busier, and although I was supposed to be going to church to receive blessings, I came home only feeling tired. I didn’t know what the point of going to church was. I didn’t know what “Christianity” was in the first place, and my old energetic self had gone away.

 

I suddenly realized that I had no motivation to evangelize people in the disaster area, and instead, I was being evangelized by the people in the disaster area (laughs). But I didn’t have the courage or faith to overcome, so I just nodded my head. I think I was more afraid of what people would think if I said, “I’m a Christian. So I decided to go on a wandering trip to find another church (with my husband and children, of course). As a family, we went to a different church every week. However, since I went to church with the feeling that “the church will take care of it,” there was no one church that completely satisfied my heart, and we continued to go to some church every week for a long time (this is an ongoing process). Of course, with such an uptight attitude, it was impossible for the message to penetrate my heart, and I never made any Christian friends. In any case, I wanted to minimize the time I spent on church-related matters, and use the time to get home early to work and do homework for my children.

 

The time was December 2020. It was the busiest time of the year at work, and my heart was finally dying. I was at my limit. That day, after coming home from church exhausted, I took a nap without knowing it, and when I woke up, it was evening and my bedroom was completely dark. I was staring at my phone in the dark, afraid to come back to reality. Then I saw the EC information. And this year, it was online. There was no way I could go to California to participate, not without leaving my husband and children behind in Japan, and not having the money to pay for it in the first place. I wanted to change, I wanted to be changed, I wanted to praise God from my heart like I used to.

 

The morning of the EC day. I was feeling pretty guilty. “What if there are really hot Christians there?” “What if I feel completely away?” “What if I meet someone who knows me from the past? However, my fears were wiped away in no time, and I was in tears immediately after the first message by Pastor Kuroda. I can only explain that God touched me, but anyway, I cried all day long. Above all, being able to share with Christian friends in small groups softened my heart, which had been sharp as a knife.

 

Up until now, I had experienced the so-called worldly life of an ordinary person, away from God. I worked very hard and received a good salary. However, I had children and if I spent money, it would be gone in an instant (of course). When I thought about what I could have left behind after working so hard, I couldn’t leave anything behind. Really nothing. After working so hard and ignoring God, the only thing I had left was fatigue and despair. When I went before God, instead of praising me and saying, “You’ve worked hard and saved up all this money,” God said, “Faithful servant, you’ve done well. You’ve done well. I experienced firsthand that there is no other way but to leave behind “faith, hope and love” in order for God to praise me.

 

As a side note, when I was working for a Christian organization, I had a chance to talk with an orphan boy from Africa. He told me something like this. He said to me, “If you know God, it’s like you have everything. But if you don’t know God, it’s like you don’t have anything. I laughed it off in my mind, thinking, “That’s so exaggerated!” But now I know that what he said was true. After 15 years of being told by a 10 year old, I finally realized the truth.

 

After joining EC, I realized how important it is to connect with Christian friends and encourage each other. In the past, I had thought, “I’m such a person of faith, I’ll be fine on my own! I want to kick my past self out! I want to continue to connect with my Christian friends (even if I have to force myself to do so), encourage each other in our faith, and continue to cling to God’s love.

 

I wanted to write my testimony because I wanted to thank the EC committee members and all the people who made the EC possible. It was my first time to participate in an online EC, and I am so grateful to you for making it happen. If it wasn’t for online, I would never have been able to attend! Thank you so much!

 

“This is why the things that last forever are faith, hope, and love.”(I Corinthians 13:13)

 

The reason why it took me so long to write my testimony from EC2020 to now is because I was busy with work, but also because I wanted to take some time to see if I was just excited about the event. However, my love for God still burns brightly, so I thought it would be okay and wrote this with gratitude to God and everyone.

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