My Returning Experience: Hanae Uekusa

Hi!  My name is Hanae Uekusa.

Today, I’d like to share a testimony about how I was saved abroad and what I experienced when I returned to Japan. I am very happy to have the opportunity to share this.

For those of you that don’t know me, let me introduce myself and introduce how I got saved.

I graduated in March from a college in the city and I started working in a Japanese-owned company in April. There are about 300 people my age there and I’m always introducing myself to someone every day. It is then that I’m always told things like “You have such a botanical name!” (*Hanae Uekusa is written with the characters plant, grass, flower, grace). Lol, in JCFN, my nickname is Flower.

Jesus really is a unique person, and I love how everybody meets Jesus in different ways.

I myself believed in Jesus abroad and came back to Japan a believer, but actually, I grew up in a Christian home with Christian parents.

Until junior high school, my parents, who were both busy with work, and I went to church together. However, when I started junior high school and became occupied with my school club, of course church, the bible, and my faith became very distant things. Everybody around me said I was a kind and serious person, a “good person” at first glance. However, only God and I knew just how much of a selfish and self-centered person I was in the depths of my heart.

And God had a wonderful plan for me, being the person that I was.

When I was a college junior, I studied abroad in Minnesota in America for 10 months. During that time, I had spent the most time with my roommate.

She was a devout Christian, and through her, I gradually experienced the love of God.

One night, when I considered just how sinful the path I walked was and thought about how my parents were likely praying for me without judging me, I was covered by the true love and peace of Jesus who was crucified on the cross. This was about 6 months after I began my study abroad.

I had met Jesus for the first time and began walking the path of truth with the Lord when I went abroad.

Before I returned to Japan, my heart was mixed with expectations and anxiety about living out my faith back home. In my case, from a young age, my imaginations of churches in Japan and America were very different, and I imagined that finding similarly aged Christians would’ve been very difficult. But when I look back on my diary entries from that time, every day I simply wrote “I will just give up everything to the Lord and follow Him. Please lead me where you want me to be.”

 

When I first returned back to Japan, for the time being, I just went to my parents’ church. There were about 30 elderly people and a Japanese pastor in this church. While I was thankful to have a church I was familiar with, I also felt that I needed fellowship with similarly aged brothers and sisters in order to grow in my faith. And so I began searching for a different church.

I found the current church I’m attending, Tokyo Baptist Church, on the internet. I still clearly remember my first day in this church, how I followed a map to get there.

Of course I was nervous at first, not knowing anybody there. Even as I checked out other churches, I became acquainted with more and more people as I attended the same church multiple times. While this is a big church, it places big emphasis on fellowship in small numbers and I started going to small groups with sisters my age.

Also, I found out about JCFN through a sister who attended the same small group at that church. Since that sister was the leader of the JCFN Shibuya small group (I’ll refer to it as Shibuya SG), I started attending this Shibuya SG.

Moreover, I started participating in the Kanto area gathering GiFT, and last year I took part as management staff. Since all other staff were also working adults, I learned a lot from seeing fellow brothers and sisters do ministry while working full time.

Particularly when I was searching for a job, the brothers and sisters I met through GiFT and Shibuya SG were an enormous support to me. When I was desperately praying for God to show me where He wants me to work and what He wants me do, it was nothing but the grace of God that there were many working Christians near me that could pray with me and give me advice.

At that time, God opened to me Matthew 6:33.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

After hesitating for a while,  I was eventually led to a company that deals with human resources.

Though I just started my life in the workforce, I believe there are new joys and challenges waiting for me, different from when I was a student.

But wherever I am, whatever I am doing, God’s love never changes, and He knows and supports each and every one of us from the side.

I want to serve the Lord as a disciple of Jesus wherever it is I’m sent. Also, I pray that the Lord uses me as I do work in Shibuya SG and in GiFT, as I develop relationships with returnees, and as I look up to Him in my walk.

In the Name of Jesus (Henri J. M. Nouwen) Part 1

Dr. Sachi Nakamura (Christian Books Translator, JCFN Board member, Spiritual Director) 

 

Starting this month, I would like to share from the book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” by Henri Nouwen in three parts.

Henri Nouwen wrote many books and was a Dutch Catholic priest. He also taught pastoral theology at Yale Divinity School, and was appointed at the Harvard Divinity School as Professor of Divinity and Horace De Y. Lentz Lecturer. After two years at Harvard, he resigned the position as he was not able to enjoy its ambitious and competitive environment. He then accepted an invitation to become a priest for one of L’Arche Communities, an international movement of communities to welcome mentally handicapped people, in Toronto, Canada. He chose the path to live with people with disabilities.

Nouwen was a well-known, very popular professor at Yale and Harvard. But for the people in the L’Arche Communities, he was nobody. He started living among the people who did not know anything about his title or accomplishments, or even who did not care anything like that at all.  The book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” was written based on what Nouwen reflected on the Christian Leadership in the future through his experience in the community.

This book consists of the following three parts.

[I] From Relevance to Prayer
  The Temptation: To Be Relevant
  The Question: “Do You Love Me?”
  The Discipline: Contemplative Prayer

[II]From Popularity to Ministry
  The Temptation: To Be Spectacular
  The Task: “Feed My Sheep”
  The Discipline: Confession and Forgiveness

[III]From Leading to Being Led
  The Temptation: To Be Powerful
  The Challenge: “Somebody Else Will Take You”
  The Discipline: Theological Reflection

In the Chapter 1, “From Relevance to Prayer”, Nouwen tells us that a new Christian Leadership is not to claim and offer “what we do or accomplish.” Rather, as the one who is loved, chosen, and redeemed by God, it is a leadership to proclaim God’s love by offering its vulnerability.

 

Nouwen talks of “contemplative prayer” as the discipline needed for such a Christian Leadership. He even says, “We have to be mystics.” Contemplative prayer is not a kind of prayer to bring our petition to God, but a kind of prayer to keep us safe in the presence of God. It does not require many words. It is a prayer that helps you taste the love of God. Contemplative prayer keep us in the love of God who keeps asking “Do you love me?” and it helps us rooted there. That makes possible for us to dwell in God’s presence.

He writes,

“It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time. All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership. The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?” 

 

Nouwen continues to explain our need of contemplative prayer. “The original meaning of the word ‘theology’ was ‘union with God in prayer.’”

 

Nouwen says, “It is of vital importance to reclaim the mystical aspect of theology so that every word spoken, every word of advice given, and every strategy developed can come from the heart that knows God”, “the incarnate Word, Jesus” intimately.

 

Perhaps you might remember your own experience. When being asked for an advice, you might have responded based on your own knowledge or experience. Your urge to appeal that your knowledge or experience is relevant to the burning issue is rooted in the temptation. But if you sincerely listen to God in prayer, the Spirit will give you wisdom and words, flexibly, deeply, and timely to the situation. God would not lead you with simple solutions. The longer you have been in a leadership role, the harder to refrain from finding answers from what you have already obtained. But please remember to listen to the One who gives us the living water. You might be provided with something you had never expected. You might be able to unexpectedly touch the heart or the situation of the one you would like to help. There is no formula in this. Just rely on God’s heart. The Spirit will lead you.

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