Newsletter (Equipper)

Hallelujah! We praise the name of the Lord!

For this month newsletter, we would like to share one of the testimonies that was given at a plenary session during ec14.

"The Bible as the Foundation"
Yuma Nakagawa
EC14 Attendee

yumaI gave my testimony just like this at Equipper Conference 2011 as well. At that time, I was living in Honolulu, Hawaii, and I gave a testimony of how I met Jesus Christ there and was saved. This year, I decided that I wanted to give my testimony at EC again.

In the three years since the last time I was at EC in 2011, I received a call from God and made a decision to become a pastor. I returned to my home country of Japan and am attending seminary in Tokyo. Right now I am serving at what can be called a traditional Protestant church in Ome City, Tokyo Prefecture, where about thirty people attend.

There is a Scripture that has been resonating deeply in my heart recently. It's a passage where Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." Out of all of the things that we can see with our eyes right now, this world, and everything humans have created, there is nothing that will continue forever. This is why I strongly believe that the foundation of our faith must be the Word of God, which will never pass away.

The first time I heard the Word of God in my life was right after I graduated high school and entered university in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was drinking with my friends, doing things that no one should ever do, and got involved in mob violence. When I was excluded from relationships with others, I was led to church, and in the message during the service, I heard a passage from Isaiah 60. "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." I met God through this Scripture, and He grabbed a hold of me, gave me faith, and led me be to who I am today. That verse has been my support through sad times and happy times.

In 2010 (four years ago), I graduated from my first university in Hawaii, and I decided to go home to Japan for the five months until I started at my second university. This was the first time I set foot on Japanese soil as a Christian. As my return to Japan grew closer, I naturally started thinking about what church I should go to while I was there. I searched online for a church near my home that was in the same denomination as my church in Hawaii, and I chose a church. It was a church of about 60 people in Ueno, Tokyo, that has a lot of history and respects tradition.

At first I was excited to go to church for the first time in Japan, but when I actually attended the service, I was really surprised at the difference in the atmosphere. The church building looked like a normal house, so I felt like I was going into someone's home. And before the service began, no one talked to each other, but rather sat silently, looking down and praying to prepare themselves for the service. When the service started, I picked up a book full of hymns called a hymnal for the first time and worshipped while looking at that book. When it was finally time for the message, the part of the service I was looking forward to the most, the message style was to go through and explain Scripture one verse at a time in the style of Biblical interpretation, which made me feel like I was taking a class. When the message was over, I just remember that my brain felt tired.

If I'm honest, I felt like the atmosphere was really different from my church in Hawaii, but I never once considered not going to that church the following week. Somewhere in my heart, I was thinking that you don't choose a church based on your own preferences; as long as you can worship, minor differences in the way of doing things don't matter. And so, I attended that church every week for five months, my first returnee experience ended, and I returned to Hawaii to go back to university. While I was going to my second university in Hawaii, a lot of people at my church were baptized, and I saw them off when they returned home to Japan. But I didn't hear any news about those people being connected to a local church after going home, and I remembered the atmosphere of the church I attended for five months and thought to myself, "Maybe they didn't fit in because of how different it is from church in Hawaii. Or maybe they're not even trying to go to church." And then somewhere in my heart I started thinking, "Nobody goes to Japanese churches because they're so serious and closed off," "They aren't connecting with a church because they don't have enough faith," and other things criticizing the style of Japanese churches as well as other returnees.

In the midst of that, I decided to attend seminary in Japan and returned to Japan for good. In seminary, the school assigns each student a church to serve at. I was assigned to a church in Nakano-ku in Tokyo, and I started my first year of serving at seminary. I also did various jobs at that church. I did the message during the worship service; spoke with church members and new people coming to the church, listening for hours sometimes; and went out into town to pass out flyers advertising the church. Because many Japanese churches don't have a lot of staff the way American churches do, there's a huge mountain of things for one person to do. It's especially difficult because you have almost no one to help you.

While I was working in that situation, I realized a lot of things that I hadn't been able to see while I'd been a simple guest at the church I attended for five months. In Hawaii, I was in a society and community where Christianity is overwhelmingly dominant, and so even if I just go with the flow, my faith will be sustained. But in Japan, in my local area, each Christian really has deep faith, and I saw them bravely sharing their faith right before my eyes. In comparison with the environment of the Hawaiian church where new guests come every week, in Tokyo, Japan, you enter into the crowd of people coming out the ticket gates in front of a train station, and you walk up to someone, thinking, "Maybe this person will take my flyer." Sometimes they take it, and sometimes they throw it away right in front of you, and as that process was repeated over and over, I experienced how difficult it is to bring even just one person to church.

As for the message during the worship service, in Hawaii and other places in America, there are a lot of speakers who use their charisma and personality to attract an audience, and while I think that's fantastic, pastors in Japan carefully explain the Bible one verse at a time in their sermons. They are truly keeping Scripture as the foundation of their life of faith, and while this may seem tedious from one point of view, I realized that the reason they do it this way is because they are valuing the Bible.

After that time, I never again said what I had thought before, that the Japanese church is too formal, it's difficult for someone to go in for the first time, or the atmosphere is too serious. This is because I experienced the reality of what the Japanese church is like, and even now I'm still serving God there.

This is my experience as a Christian returnee in Japan.

As far as why I was able to maintain my faith in Japan, in some ways it's because I was sheltered by seminary. If it wasn't for that, I don't know what would have happened to me. I learned, however, that it is certain that people who have the Word of God as a foundation will continue to be connected to God, no matter where they go, no matter what circumstances they're in, even if they stumble due to cultural differences.

When I graduate from seminary, I will finally be ordained as a pastor. I don't know yet where God will send me, but no matter where I go, as long as I have the Bible as my foundation, I believe that God will bless me. That's because I have experienced it firsthand. Now, I want to share the Word with everyone that God brings into my path, and I want my walk with God to be used to testify of Jesus Christ.

That is the end of my testimony. Thank you very much.

* Winter Special Fundraiser *

Thank you very much for your contribution for "Winter Special Fundraiser" goes at both Japan office and North America Office.

Japan Office was targeting 1,000,000 yen (Administration fee: 500,000 yen; Staff special support fund: 500,000 yen). 577,000 yen, 57.7% of what we are praying for has been given. Also new 7 supporting members were added as we were praying for 50. Thank you.

North America Office was targeting $15,000 ($5,000: Global Returnees Conference travel and conference fee for staff; $5,000: WIT Leadership Training and MI network development; $5,000: Office administration costs). As of January 29th, $9,870, 65.8% of what we set as a goal has been given. Final report will be stated shortly.

Thank you for your participation. We are continuously praying for ongoing supporters for JCFN administration.

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