Feb. 2016: Monthly Newsletter "Testimony of A Returnee" "Announcement for Honolulu Conference"
Praise to the name of the Lord!
As for JCFN February Newsletter, we would like to share a testimony of one of the returnees.
Also, we have an announcement for JCFN 25th anniversary conference "Honolulu Conference" coming up this summer.
[Testimony of A Returnee]
My experience of returning home and finding the complete grace of God in my weakness
Naoki Okada JCFN Member
While I was in Japan, I became very emotionally depressed and for a while I never left my room. At that time, the only friend I had left was a Christian, who recommended that I go to New York, which I did. While I was there, I was miraculously led to a church where I began to study the Bible, and I began my life as a English school student. It took some time, but it was at that gathering that I accepted Jesus. Immediately afterwards, I received a clear word from God in a dream to return to Japan.
Since I loved living in New York, I couldn't agree to this, and I tried to refuse many times; still, as it was such a clear revelation, I thought that I would definitely regret it if I disobeyed. After wrestling with God in prayer, I surrender my will, agreeing to return to Japan for two months with the condition that He would bring clarity whether I should remain in Japan.
Even on the day I returned to Japan, I didn't feel any joy. A few brothers and sisters in Christ had returned to Japan ahead of me, but we all lived far away from each other. I knew well that there are few Christians in Japan. In the past, I had always felt happiness when I looked out of the airplane window at the lights of Japanese towns down below as the plane was landing, but this time I felt gloomy and cold towards it.
Even so, I decided to do my best to show my good Christian faith to my unsaved family. Before leaving, I had received a JCFN returnee support kit from a friend; however, I couldn’t help but think of how God naturally led me to a church at the beginning of my faith, and probably due to my stubbornness, I resisted going through this seemingly man-made program. As a result, I didn't read it very well.
Therefore, I ended up going around to some of the local churches on my own. However, I was very confused by the many differences in these churches compared to those in America. Some of them had very strict rules about membership; in Japanese you have to add the honorific “sama” to Jesus's name; and I had never heard Japanese worship songs before. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fit in at any of the churches, and I desperately missed my church in America and my brothers and sisters there. I became bitter towards God, thinking, “This is exactly why I didn't want to come back!” I started to become isolated and worry about my situation. As I worried, I began to doubt God, which led to me no longer wanting to communicate with Him. It became difficult for me to reply to the messages of my friends in America who were concerned about me, asking how things were in Japan. After a while, I couldn't pray at all, and I stopped opening my Bible. I started to think that God had said goodbye to me at the airport security checkpoint, that the God I had believed in was powerless in Japan, and that while I had thought that I had met the true God in America, maybe it was just a temporary delusion.
I felt separated from the presence of God for weeks, but finally one night I couldn't stand it anymore, and crying by myself, I began to pray.
“God, I'm sorry. My faith is weak. It's so weak and it gets easily influenced by the language, worship style, and people around me. But You should have known my weakness. Even so, I trusted You and followed Your instructions to come back to Japan. But I can't live as a Christian in Japan. I need Your presence right now in my life. Please give me proof that You are with me. I didn't come back to Japan to look this pathetic in front of my family.”
The next day, on my way home from shopping with my mom, I ran into a Christian group that was trying to open a gathering place near my home. There were no churches within a four kilometer radius; it was a place where you see temples and cults everywhere you look. Meeting these people the day after praying was enough of a miracle to completely turn around my lack of faith. I went home and gave thanks to God in prayer, and, picking up my Bible for the first time in a while, I opened it, and the first verses my eyes landed on was 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
“But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I immediately opened up my heart to the people I had met, and began meeting with them almost every morning for worship and prayer. My family was shocked that I had changed so much overnight.
My faith deepened in the Lord God, who is always with me and is my source of strength wherever I go. I returned to America to begin preparations to move back to Japan. At that time, one of the Christians I had met in my neighborhood urgently needed back something I had borrowed, and I asked my dad to take care of it for me. This led to my dad beginning to meet with these people, and I started to receive emails in America. At first, he was invited to a Christmas party. Then he went with them to a Christmas concert. Then, I was amazed to hear that he went to church to listen to the message. In a way, he was a more passionate follower of Shintoism than I had been, and I thought it was impossible for anyone to lead him to Jesus.
A year and a half later, my dad was baptized before my very eyes. When I had imagined my family being baptized, I thought that I would probably cry or start dancing, but actually, when I saw my dad being baptized, I was in amazement and disbelief. Until that point, I had been making my way around to lots of different churches throughout the Kansai region, but I realized that I wanted to commit to a church and grow there. When I prayed, Pastor Fukuno of Minami Osaka Gospel Church spoke to me. I felt that it was God's leading, so I followed my father in becoming a member of that church. My dad had always been committed to his work and we hadn't spent a lot of time together, so I had always felt estranged from him. But now, with the same faith, worshipping together, serving, and going to and from church together, I am so thankful to be able to spend a lot of time with him. I feel that God is healing our broken relationship.
Going home to Japan didn't exactly go the way I had expected. I was reminded of my lack of faith, and of my self-centeredness. However, at the same time, in my weakness God, in the strength of His mercy and in a way no one else could, was watching over me. When I saw this, I had the amazing experience of seeing my faith grow. For each person whom God has sent back to Japan, I believe that He has promised you rich blessings, and I am praying for you. The experience of going home isn't a dead end for your faith, but a crossroad full of blessing!
Announcement for JCFN 25th Anniversary Honolulu Conference
JCFN 25th Anniversary Celebration Conference Registration is now OPEN!!
Can you believe it has been 25 years since JCFN ministry has begun? It is because of God’s love, grace and His own vision. It is also because of all of you who have prayed for, supported and served together through JCFN.
At this conference, we hope to give praise and thanks to God who has done marvelous things through JCFN, to confirm visions for returnees ministries and ministries to Japanese outside of Japan, and to deepen our fellowship with each other.
If you are a part of JCFN, or have been involved or have interests in returnees ministries and overseas Japanese ministries, or if you love Hawaii, please come and join us! All are welcomed!
Dates: June 30 (Thu) to July 2 (Sat), 2016 Place: Makiki Christian Church Registration Fee: [Early Bird] $75 (Students), $90 (General) [Regular] $100 (Students), $120 (General) (Meals included. Lodging is NOT included.)
＊ Winter Special Fundraiser Japan Office Final Report ＊
Thank you for your participation for Japan office Winter Special Fundraiser.
Japan Office Final Report 458,442 yen 30.6％ of the targeting amount (1,500,000 yen) was achieved.
Re-entry Seminar Video (Intro + 4 sessions) is now available on-line (Japanese only). Please use it for re-entry preparation. Clicking the image above, you can watch the introduction. All videos are available at JCFN website.