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Praise the name of the Lord!

JCFN is having annual joint staff meeting on March 8th to 11th. Please pray for this important meeting!

For February newsletter, we would like to share Equipper Conference 17 testimonies.

Guided by God
Mayu Sunamura

     I came to America as an exchange student, came to know God at EC, and made a confession of faith. At EC, the first thing that drew me in was the fact that God never changes. After my grandfather’s sudden death, I had some problems with my family. After that, I was looking for someone who would always accept me. During the plenary session on the first day, the words “God will always be with you no matter what” gave me great courage and comfort. And, since I had been searching for a place where I could feel truly satisfied, the idea of “God’s love overflowing from inside of you” took away the burden I had felt of having to find a perfect place where I could be myself.

     Next, God gave me the gift of meaningful encounters. At the biggest Japan regional meeting, Southern Kanto, even though we randomly split up into groups, I ended up in a group with people who go to a church near my parents’ house. I was surprised to find out that that church is on the way to my high school, a place that I passed by every day for three years. Also, as I listened to one of the pastors who was the speaker during the plenary sessions, I realized that I wasn’t listening to God, but was clinging to myself. I understood sin and being set free for the first time, and felt that I was released from my selfish lifestyle. Right after the session, when I told the pastor that I had been moved by his message, he prayed for me. That night, I went to the footbath with my friends, and ran into that pastor as I was getting out. I was blessed by the opportunity to talk to him again. Aside from that, I met a lot of other people who I have mutual friends and connections with. I felt like it was God’s leading.

     The biggest blessing I took away from EC was the knowledge of God’s sacrificial love. I learned about Passover during Bible study, about how a lamb was sacrificed in order to save the oldest son. I was moved when I considered how Jesus died for all of sinful humanity, sacrificing Himself in the place of countless sheep. Up until then, I had never really understood Jesus’s sacrifice, but on the night of the 29th, which was the one month anniversary of my grandfather’s death, thinking about his death made me realize how precious life and being yourself are. At that time, I realized for the first time that if Jesus hadn’t sacrificed Himself, I wouldn’t exist. I couldn’t stop crying, and the next day, surrounded by the pastor and friends, I made a confession of faith. In order for me to understand the sacrifice of Jesus, God first had me experience the death of a person and then sent me to America. When I go back to Japan, I will share the gospel with my family and friends, and work so that more people can know the love of God.

Blessings I received at EC2017
Mayuko Shono
     It was my first time to participate in EC. Through this participation, Jesus showed me various promises.

     The first fulfilled promise was the fact that I was led to this EC by His power.  I graduated from college last year.  Thus I have spent past four years in this small town in Kansas, where I would hardly bump into a Japanese, nor it has been even more unusual to meet a Japanese Christian.

     Two years ago, God led me to decide to move back to Japan in this March to spread the love of Jesus there. But I had no idea about Christian communities in Japan as I was saved after coming to the U.S. I started praying that I may find a Christian Community as strong as the one I have been blessed with. While getting ready to return to Japan with some uncertainty, I heard about the EC. I felt God intervened with His perfect timing. I felt it a huge blessing that I was led to EC by God’s power.

     The second fulfilled promise was my encounter with the right people at the EC.

     Many believers who would welcome the returnees were participating in the EC from Japan. In my small group, there were two people from Tokyo, my hometown. Not only that, many other people invited me to their churches or their small groups. I felt confident that this network initiated by God would continue to develop after I go back to Japan.

     The third fulfilled promise was I was able to share my art at the perfect timing during the EC. This could only happen by God’s guidance and the support of the fellow Christians.

     While I was working on my piece at the EC, I felt such a great joy that I had never felt as well as the power of God. This experience taught me that I can make a big contribution through my Christian art in Japan and gave me hope for my future project as a missionary.

     Finally, I reconfirmed the power of prayers and God’s vast love for Japan through EC. I was convinced God actually listened to our prayers and had plans beyond our imagination for us. I am filled with gratitude toward everyone who has supported EC and made this conference possible. Thanks to this experience at EC, my heart is ready and I can confidently go back to Japan as a Christian. May God continue to bless many Japanese Christians through EC. Amen.

The Blessing that is Serving, and Responding to Love
Yuki Hata
     This EC, I was able to participate in the ministries of planning for the Men’s Meeting and its worship vocals support, as well as leading an IBS (Inductive Bible Study) group. Although I am normally reluctant to speak in front of people, God showed me His will through His word, which was,  “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35, and in prayer, He prompted me to experience this at EC.

     However, back when I first was approached to do this ministry at EC, I kept focusing on my own shortcomings, and my feelings of nervousness came to the forefront. While doubtful of my own preparedness, I resolved to trust in the Lord, who I knew would work through my own weakness, and do my best. As a result, I was able to serve in wonderful praise and thanksgiving with my wonderful family in Christ. God took away my anxiety about the situation, and He gave me more than I even expected from Him. I prayed deeper than I had ever prayed at any EC; I was able to “wrestle” with the Word, and I praise God that I was able to take one more step through ministry.

     Also, at this EC, I was reminded of the grand magnitude of God’s love and grace, and was able to take this time to renew my dedication to Him. I am currently in Seminary, but at some point, I had gone from being satisfied with “knowing knowledge about God” rather than “personally knowing God”. He showed me that my faith had become somewhat jaded, and more about knowledge, like the Pharisees.

     Through the plenary session messages, I was confronted with the question of whether I was truly dedicated to responding to the love of God, and it hit me. I thought of Christ, who gave me grace and mercy; and the freedom from the bonds of sin through faith, and the truth that is living in Christ’s freedom. I repented of my own view that had underappreciated the enormous love that God the Father gave, through Jesus on the cross. A prayer welled up from my heart: “I want to know more about the amazing love and the will of God. Please open the eyes of my spirit. Please take away the spirits of fear, shame, and anxiety that get in the way of dedication to You. Change me into a person that can be pushed along by Your love, and that I can share the Gospel to others.”

     I praise God that EC has given me the opportunity to deepen the relationship with God, and this time has given me a new strength and encouragement.

GRC18: Global Returnees Conference
May 2 - 5, 2018

@ Hotel Evergreen Fuji (Yamanashi)
Theme: Dwell ~The Lord will live among us~
Theme verse: “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,”declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.
Main Speakers: Rev. Kenichi Shibusawa, Rev. Aogu Tateyama, Rev. Kazuhiko Yamazaki-Ransom

Online Registration
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* Registration ends on April 6.*

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