I made the decision to accept Christ last April, and I will be returning to Japan next month (February). Since I began my college life, I was surrounded by Christians and that has become my norm. Now, I am going to live as a Christian in Japan, I have no idea what that would look like. I hadn’t even thought about it before EC, but after I had decided to register for EC, I began wondering how I’m going to keep my faith. I was worried about not knowing where the churches are or anything about a Christian life in Japan. I wanted to become a Christian because I had this special environment. I was worried about leaving my faith once I returned to Japan. In fact, I wish I hadn’t said that I would become a Christian. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I even thought that.
EC is a perfect conference for a new Christian and a soon-to-be-returnee. It was just the thing for me! I was able to attend because it was online, but because it was online, I could only listen to the sermons in between my work and it was difficult to concentrate at times. I was able to make many connections with people in Japan in small groups and by region, and was introduced to many churches and related events and communities. Among them, I was able to feel God’s work through the Soul Care Ministry.
When I applied for this counseling program, there was a section on the application form where I had to write down the details of my issues. I didn’t have any major problems at the time, but I thought I’d just apply for the counseling, so I wrote something like, “I made a decision to accept God in April, but everything is online. I’m going back to Japan soon, so I’d like to think about what I’ll do after I return to Japan.”
I thought that the counselor was aware of my issue, but she didn’t seem to know anything about it and she was anxiously praying for the time together with me.
On the day of the session, I spoke with the counselor for the first time via Zoom. At that point, I had some questions and concerns about returning to Japan through the EC program, so when she asked me about my concerns, I told her that I wanted to ask about how to find a church and relationships with my family and relatives after I returned. She had experienced a similar situation as me when she returned to Japan. Her face instantly lit up and it became obvious to us that it was arranged by God for us to meet.
I will be baptized next Tuesday.
I had a feeling that Christianity was a part of American culture, but when I realized that there are so many believers in Japan, I felt that the God we believe in is the same God everywhere, the one and only, the absolute, and that we are all connected through Him.
The thought of being connected with so many Japanese Christians and Christians who support them gave me courage and made me feel less anxious about returning to Japan. I am not afraid because I have friends and the same God. From now on, no matter what people say about me in Japan, no matter what difficulties I face, I want to believe in God’s timing and grow in Him.
From now on, we will introduce one of EC workshops that JCFN staff like and recommend once a month. The first pick is by Setsu Shimizu.
“An Introduction to Apologetics You’ll Want to Talk About” By Kazusa Okaya
(Sorry the workshop is in Japanese only)
“Aren’t all religions the same in essence? Isn’t it arrogant to say that only Christianity is the truth? Isn’t the resurrection chemically impossible? Why does evil exist when there is a God? These are difficult questions that make you want to run away. But if we face them properly, they can lead to opportunities for evangelism and growth. We will consider how we as Christians can respond to some of the most common questions that are stumbling blocks to our faith.
In the United States, Valentine’s Day is followed by a one week break from school in celebration of President’s Day (third Monday of February). This year, the break comes earlier, overlapping with Valentine’s Day, and it would have been extra special.
However due to the stay-at-home order, gatherings at schools and churches have not been permitted since last March. Currently the area of activity is limited to 150 mile radius, and if we were to travel further out, we need to self-quarantine for 10 days. So we spent our winter breaks and holidays at home without going out or a break from the daily monotony. With my heart being left somewhat restless, I watched seasonal merchandises in stores come and go, and was surprised by the passage of time that brought the seasons to a full circle once again.
Yet in this “remote life”, I am now able to participate in seminars in Japan over ZOOM, hop on a virtual bicycle to visit a town I’ve never been to before, and chat with people from all over the world at the Clubhouse. The world and my weight have drastically changed since Amazon and Door Dash have enabled us to live in convenience.
We get used to the status quo, even gaining some free time, and our life’s routine is protected, though it was initially disconcerting. Still, we find that our hearts are slow to recover and stress remains. How are we to restore our relationship with God, our family, and people we haven’t been able to see?
Now, this has become the task on hand, as we look towards the restart of the world.
To restore is to repair or to recover. As you know, it also means to return something to its rightful owner, or to replace it to its place of origin.
The other day, I found a Valentine’s Day’s special sale, and got my husband a mug cup with the word “RESTORE” written in the bottom for his birthday.
This is a word my husband picked for this year’s theme, but since it was the Valentine’s Day’s special sale, the person who receive this order might have wondered if it’s alluding to a restoration of marriage? or maybe it’s a mug cup of remorse??
What I hoped to remind him by placing this word at the bottom of the cup were:
To always cherish the time with God, and return to the bosom of God.
To pray together for the restoration of this world and our hearts.
To return this cup to the kitchen when he is done drinking.
In this pandemic, as the values held by the Church and the World are rapidly changing, our hearts are tossed around and shaken by things unseen. It is easy to forget the importance of reconfirming our identities in order for our hearts to be restored.
As if I’m acquainted well enough with God’s love for me, that I should now move on to gaining the Bible and other book knowledge, praying, receiving blessings through participating various conferences, and getting involved with the work, which would win the approval of others. And to think these, would be far more important and meaningful than to receive that “I am loved”.
Not knowing where to take my invisible anxiety and loneliness, I have tried self-restoration and aimless attempts at stress release.
In the past, after an incident, I started experiencing extreme nervousness and anxiety for public speaking, going out alone, and getting on an airplane. The trigger was “What if”.
I became anxious with imagined situations that haven’t happened, and feelings invoked by words people haven’t uttered. One moment I beat myself up, and the next jump to a possible solution to resolve the issue. My mind raced to figure out how to achieve my own ideals and others’ expectations, and urged me on to actions by something other than overflowing joy or gratitude. I became hypersensitive to words and actions of people around me, and as my heart reacted acutely to them, it soon affected me physically.
Even in the midst of all these, God was ever near to watch over me:
“Wont you rest with me?”
“You are my beloved child. In you I am delighted.”
“Now, shall we go together?”
“You are alright. I am with you.”
In the stillness, God has given me timely words.
It might be difficult to restore the tired and wounded heart, just by going somewhere away from our daily lives to forget our troubles and empty our minds. But how important it is to return to God, who created my heart and body, to rest in his hands, to listen to his voice, and to have Him be the core of my heart.
We are not as strong as we or other people think we are, so the experience of our past failures and hurts, no matter how old, can at any moment threaten to become a trigger to swap our identities. Yet it is the privilege of the saved to be able to realize the presence of Christ, who is with us, every single time. So in such a moment, I try to look through this list, like a child who is trying not to forget anything while packing.
Who are we really List
I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
I am a new creation. ( 2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15)
I am created by God to do good. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am free in Christ. ( Galatians 5: 1)
I am chosen and loved. ( 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
I am the light of the world. ( Matthew 5:14)
I am not ruled by fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am forgiven. ( Colossians 2:13)
I am God’s possession. (Titus 2:14)
I am free from the desires of the flesh. (Galatians5:24)
I am a light in the world. ( Matthew5:14-15)
I am secure in him. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
I am loved by God. (1 John 4: 10)
Even when our hearts are shaken by “what ifs”, and our traumas and the anxieties of unknown future try to overpower us, let us remember our identities and have our hearts restored, sine it is so clearly written in the Bible.
🌿 Who is the true me?
🌿 Who is with me here, right now?
🌿 Who will process what I’m going through alongside me?
I was able to gain unspeakable peace in my heart by knowing these.
Valentine’s Day is not just a day to communicate our feelings to the loved ones. I believe it is also a day to commemorate the significant people who have poured love into us, and the love of many people. As we look back on our identities of God’s beloved, I hope our wounded hearts recover, get filled with love, and then be restored to freely share with people around us from the overflow of that love.
In the coming month, may we truly enjoy the journey, in which God walks with us. 🌿
Makiko Nakao Wife of Santa Clara Valley Japanese Christian Church’s pastor
Mother of three daughters who were born in 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸
Hobby: Observations of her husband, aimless change over of her home decor.
Stay-at-home-mom blogger https://violetteivory.wordpress.com/ (Japanese Only)
Preparing for a silent retreat cafe, as she operates an imaginary cafe.