Newsletter (Equipper)

Praises to the name of the Lord! In Japan, rainy season has just started. How is it in different countries? We hope this newsletter finds you well.

Last November, the third ANRC (All Nations Returnees Conference) was held in Japan. Here is JCFN's reflection on God's blessings through ANRC.


Blessings from ANRC and future expectations
Setsu Shimizu
JCFN US staff

Beginning of ANRC

Beginning in 2009, there have been three All Nations Returnees Conferences.

ANRC09 (2009.03.19-22 Kumagaya-shi, Saitama pref.)
Theme:"Bridge to the World" (Colossians1:6)

ANRC10 (2010.03.19-22 Kumagaya-shi, Saitama pref.)
Theme:"One Body Many Parts" (1 Corinthians12:12-13)

ANRC12 (2012.11.22-25 Tsumagoi, Kakegawa-shi, Shizuoka pref.)
Theme:"Responding to God's Calling as a Vessel of Compassion" (I Timothy1:16, Romans 9:23)

These ANRCs were held by God's blessing and grace. All three were the work of God.

Looking back upon ANRC, I think of the following three things.
1) Faithfulness and power of God's work throughout history
2) The greatness and need for ministry work with a kingdom mindset
3) Increase of workers for God's ministry, the expansion of God's kingdom

1) Faithfulness and power of God's work throughout history

Giving thanks to the Lord, I have considered that ANRC is an important movement that began through the expansion of the returnees' ministry. I initially thought that it started around summer of 2004, when the idea came up for holding an international gathering for those involved in the returnees' and follow-up ministry here in Japan. These were two concepts that were gradually gaining recognition. Thinking it over; however, we need to trace history back some more.

Otokichi, Iwakichi and Kyukichi , the first men to translate the Bible into Japanese (Gutzlaff version) , are recorded as the first Japanese Christians to go overseas. They became Christians through a German missionary in Macau. Because they were shipwrecked and Japan had closed its borders, they remained overseas. Despite being in an unwilling situation where they were unable to return home and forced to live abroad, these three had fulfilled the important mission of translating the Bible into Japanese, during the time when Christianity was forbidden.

Another example is Kumaji Kimura and Motoichiro Ogimi, two individuals who were the first international students to study in America from Japan. They attended Hope College in Michigan State in 1870. After having stayed in America for 13 years, while being perplexed by the rapid changes in the Meiji Era , they worked on translating the Old Testament into literary Japanese completing it in 1887. After that, while working as pastors at various churches, they applied their natural gifts as teachers and their experience in the United States, teaching at Meiji Women's School, Doai Kunmou (blind) School, Tozan Gakuin and etc. It is said that they were the founders of women's education in the Meiji Era.

Viewed in this light, it is clear that, beyond any human plan or expectation, God has prepared something in the ministry of reaching Japanese overseas and the work in Japan for Christian returnees. In other words, is this not the origin of ANRC? The starting point of the ministries that reach out to the Japanese living overseas and the returnees? ANRC is a conference that began begun by the faithfulness of the God who ministers to us.

2) The greatness and need for ministry work with a kingdom mindset

I write, not fearing the risk of being misunderstood, that "the purpose of the returnees' follow-up ministry is not to connect Christian returnees to a local church". Needless to say, returnees connecting and assimilating to a local church, fellowshiping with commitment, and vigorously building up the church, is assumed. So, the goal of the returnees' ministry, as it is said in the Great Commission, is for these returnees to grow as disciples of Christ and to be involved in ministry wherever they are sent. To be a disciple of Christ includes connecting to the church, to God's family and community, and living as a part of body to build up the church.

One of the greatest characteristics of the ministering to Japanese living overseas is the need to have a kingdom mindset. Because their stay abroad is temporary, ministry and discipleship must be done while always considering the next step. It is important and vital to think about, not only building up the one church they currently gather and grow, but also the church that they will be sent to in the near future.

ANRC is Christian gathering which values this perspective of God's kingdom. The connection between ministries is essential because Christians are moving from church to church, traveling, across oceans. I am convinced that, while respecting each other's differences, keeping unity in Christ has brought huge blessings to the Japanese ministries. Connecting a returnee to a local church is merely an outcome. The goal is not for a church to increase its membership. Returnee ministries value the blessings for not just one church, but all of the churches, in Japan and all over the world.

At ANRC12, through the connection we had with the ministries in Tohoku, we received offerings that enabled us to invite the children and families from the disaster stricken areas to spend time at the conference center. It was a tangible expansion of God's kingdom perspective, showing that the connections between returnees are developing. We are very thankful that God used ANRC to accomplish this.

As the next step, I would love to see how the churches in Japan will be involved in supporting the Japanese ministries overseas. Of course, there are already established movements, however; as returnees are sent back to Japan from overseas, I hope to see the ministry be clearly extended from the overseas ministry to the ministry in Japan.

The local churches and Christians overseas have been involved in Japanese ministries. As they send missionaries to Japan, they also reach out to the Japanese who come to their countries. I hope that the teamwork with them will be expanded and developed further.

Another ministry with the God's Kingdom perspective that I am looking forward to seeing developed is the ministry of reaching out to the foreigners living in Japan. This is one important ministry that holds great possibilities for returnees because of their experience with different cultures and the blessings of the Gospel received while they were abroad. Ministering not only to international students but to the non-Japanese business people and immigrants as well means that we are also ministering to the countries where these individuals will return someday.

It is a big privilege as well as responsibility that the needs of the ministries reaching Japanese overseas have led us to the expansion of the God's kingdom perspective. Therefore, I have expectations that ANRC will actively and concretely proceed with these things. This, is our mission to the world.

3) Increase of workers for God's ministry, the expansion of God's kingdom

As stated above, the goal of returnees' follow-up ministry is not to connect returnees to a church, but it is rather for returnees to grow as disciples of the Christ and to get involved in ministry wherever they are sent. I believe the characteristics of such people are the following: those with an independent faith, those with the ability to follow-up others, those who have become givers rather than receivers, those who have serve rather than be served. I also must mention that we cannot measure the returnees' spiritual growth as of Christians by the time passed since they have been back. There situation can be different for each returnee and not only in the way they adjust, but their growth also differs from person to person.

I believe it is a very natural thing that returnees get involved in returnees' follow-up. Gatherings for returnees in Hokkaido, Tohoku, Koshinetsu, Hokuriku, Kanto, Kansai, and middle Shikoku were started at ANRC 09 by returnees, and now they have begun to expand. Those who used to be followed-up have started gathering as those who will now follow-up others. ANRC is growing not as a conference, but as a "connection" which expands continually, locally, and intimately in each area.

However, not all returnees get involved in the returnees' follow-up ministry, the ministries reaching the Japanese living overseas, or the ministries reaching foreigners in Japan. But it is certain that all returnees are called to some sort of ministry.

In other words, the goal of the returnees' follow-up ministry is that returnees will listen and follow their calling, find their own ministry area, and get engaged in the place where they are sent. Everything we do is to serve returnees so that they can pursue and fulfill their goal. ANRC values this expansion of the returnees' ministry itself, because there is an extent beyond the returnees' ministry that is far greater than anything eles.

I think that the expansion beyond the returnees' ministry happens when returnees introduce, share and connect with their calling and ministries. For example, if a returnee is called to engage in sports or music ministries, they will be shared freely. It will become a place where they pray for each other and new partnership to be built. Another example would be a returnee called to live as a witness in the market place ministry. it will become a place where the blessing and wisdom, and the difficulties and prayer requests will be shared. I hope that from now on ANRC will be used by a place where unity of ministry, which expands from a common point of returnee, and partnership to be built up.

fucharen

Although I have summarized the things I saw, I cannot comprehend the depths of God's will which will be accomplished through the returnees' ministry. I just think it is vital and essential that we follow the Lord faithfully; He who is leading the work which can be seen gradually through a medium, ANRC, and that we keep working not to compromise, but to be able to follow with flexibility and boldness.

We anticipate the next conference in the future, asking the Lord how He will lead us., I hope to continue looking at things in the perspective of God's kingdom and to be involved in world missions, having importance of the window of returnees.