Newsletter (Equipper)

Happy New Year!  

One of the biggest blessings from last year was Global Returnees Conference (GRC15) held over the fall holiday in Japan near Mt. Fuji.  We had about 450 returnees and those who are involved in returnees ministries gathered together from Europe, Asia, North America, Oceania and other parts of the world.  It was such a blessed time of encouragement and fellowship.

This year will the 26th year for JCFN ministry and will have the 25th Anniversary Conference in Honolulu in June.  In North America, we will continue to provide conferences and seminars to prepare those who will return to Japan and will follow them up once they return. Also at the end of this year, we will have EC!   In Japan, after GRC, many returnees are encouraged and are starting to meet together to support one another in different regions of Japan.

Please continue to pray for us.

 
MI and Beyond Network Report
Setsu Shimizu
JCFN North America Director
 
     I have been so grateful to be a part of our Lord’s work with you through Michigan and Beyond Network and want to share with you some of what I have learned during the time I have been involved.

     First of all, thank you so much for all of you who made this network possible by hosting us, praying and caring for us.  Thank you, most of all, for your love for Japanese people and to God.

     It was 3 years ago when I was first invited to a JMA (Japanese Ministry Association) meeting held at St. Matthew Lutheran Church together with Yosuke Mikami as representatives of Japanese Christian Network Fellowship (JCFN).  I was pleased to present the information about our returnee ministry as well as the testimony in regards to how JCFN started in the United States in 1990. JCFN has been working to follow up for those who become believers of Christ outside Japan and return home. We support networking between churches that are engaged in outreach to Japanese mostly in the United States and churches that would receive such believers as returnee Christians in Japan.

     At the meeting I realized the need for more networking between local churches in Novi area that provide Japanese community various courses such as ESL which assist in their daily lives, and some of churches in Toyota City, Japan. It is because most of the Japanese expats in the Novi area will return to Toyota City area in Aichi Prefecture.

     In June, 2013 this meeting became Michigan and Beyond Network to which I was able to present the Toyota Church information since I had visited some churches and met Pastor Kashima in person by then. I was happy that he had attended equipper conference by JCFN before and we had the same idea regarding the returnee ministry. For the Michigan and Beyond Network in June, 2014 his video greeting made us consider a further step of planning to have them see local ministries in eastern Michigan. This past June, Pastor Sano and Mr. Kinoshita together with Pastor Kashima joined us through Skype to confirm their visit to Michigan. Pastor & Mrs. Miyamoto also met pastors of the churches in Toyota City during their last trip to Japan.

     Further, at Global Returnees Conference by JCFN the ministry of St. Matthew International Friends was introduced live through Skype, and Pastor Kashima explained the experience of his church to help people who lived in Michigan and continue to come to ESL and other programs.

During their stay on 10/26 - 11/2 they visited Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church, St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Oak Pointe Church, Crossroad Community Baptist Church Japanese Worship, and Faith Covenant Church for observation of an ESL class. Pastor Kashima, Pastor Sano, and Mr. Kinoshita saw the Japanese Women's Life Group at Oak Pointe Church, and joined the American Volunteer Training meeting at St. Matthew.  They also had fellowship with Japanese Christians at “Michigan Kai” (Praise and worship), dinner with Japanese Christian business people and breakfast fellowship called “Big Boys”.  On Sunday they attended services at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Faith Covenant Church, and ICC Detroit and in the afternoon, they attended 4th Michigan and Beyond Network.

     I also wanted you to know that all of the financial needs were met!!  Praise the Lord! Their airfare and hotels were the major cost ($2,475) met through several donations including Sunday afternoon free will donations.  We ended with $94.83 surplus for now. The donations were received by JCFN designated for Michigan and Beyond Network.

     What a joy and honor to be able to serve God with all of you, Godly Saints!  Thank you for EVERYTHING you do for glory of the Lord through your strategic ministries to Japanese in MI and beyond!

 
Michigan Experiences
Nozomu Kashima
Pastor of Toyota Higashi Christ Church

     I thank God for the recent trip I took to Michigan planned by JCFN.  I was able to meet many who are ministering to Japanese there.  There are many Japanese living in Michigan, and rather than international students, most of them are business people and their families related to auto industries.  The wives of these business people are attending English classes and Bible studies offered by local American churches and are enjoying great friendship with their volunteer staffs.  It was amazing to observe first hand that these ministries are carried out by so much love and sacrifice of volunteer staff and local churches for Japanese people.

     Many say, “Business family returnees will not come to the church,”  but our desire is to follow these returnee families once they come back to Japan.  We want to build deeper relationships with them by providing English classes for returnees, events for children, and to welcome short-term mission teams from Michigan.  We also want to build partnership with other churches in Toyota city so that all of us will be ready to receive and welcome returnees.

 

[Urbana15 Report]

Urbana15 Missions Conference was held in St. Louis, MO in the end of December. JCFN hosted a tour of KGK students, and provided Japanese translation and Japanese gathering during the conference. The tour group visited Los Angeles after Urbana15 and had sightseeing and opportunity to experience Japanese ministry there. We would like to introduce testimonies from those who attended this Urbana/LA Tour.

Urbana 15, bringing up big assignments
Manami Asagi
Urbana15 Attendee

     Urbana was a time when I am given a lot of homework.  Two things stuck out to me. They are evangelism and my future path. As for evangelism, I feel that God has been speaking to me in various ways throughout the past year or so.

     There are several people that I want to evangelize to. Among these, there is one person in particular that I really want to be saved. However, contrary to my desire for her to be saved, every time she starts to become connected to God, she instead becomes even more distant from Him. Was she tired of meeting and talking to me? However, when I look at her, suffering without knowing love, I feel that I have been sent to her.

     At Urbana, during the Bible study we were given concrete things that we can do. Maybe she would come if I invited her to a Bible study? At any rate, it doesn't matter how she's saved, so I decided to at least keep praying.

     From there, I was led not to full time ministry, but to live as a single Christian believer. Not as a pastor or a missionary, I want to be just a normal person who gets to know non-Christians.

     Next is my future path. I went from thinking about the beginnings of job hunting to having a faint expectation of if maybe God was telling me something. However, during Urbana, I felt that what I learned about was how to work. I want to work faithfully, so that someday, when I stand before God, I won't have to be ashamed. I also thought that I want to tell people about God through business.

     Right now, I am studying business administration, which I felt matches my personality and environment. Therefore, I thought that it was right for me to get a job. However, that wasn't the end. An even more unexpected thing hit me. It was to continue with school.

     After Urbana ended, on the last night of my study tour in LA, as I was taking a shower before going to bed, I realized this.

     In the first place, I had been thinking seriously about continuing with school ever since my freshman and sophomore year. There was a lot outside of the field of business administration that I wanted to do. However, I didn't think that there was any reason to continue with school beyond my four-year degree, so I began to stop thinking about it, and in my junior year, I thought that I would just get a job.

     In the midst of that, I came to Urbana. I strongly felt language as an obstacle. Urbana was held entirely in English. I feel that I absorbed less than 40% of Urbana. In addition, in the middle of Urbana, I realized that there are Christians living in persecution. I didn't realize that there are countries in that kind of situation. I had known, but this time it struck me as reality. After that, I arrived at the decision to continue with school. I would like to learn English and put myself in an environment where I can learn about the religions of the world.

     “God, evangelism and my future plan are both too heavy for me to bear.” God brought some pretty big subjects up in my life.

     Before attending Urbana, I had anticipated going home feeling blessed and happy, and to get something out of it for myself. I accomplished the latter. However, I received the opposite of the former.

     The emotion I felt most strongly after Urbana was frustration. That was because of English. Although I could have calmly listened to simultaneous translation, I decided to try hard and listen to the English on my own. Maybe it was unnecessary pride, or maybe I had a fighting spirit, even though I actually don't speak English very well. Because of that, when I think that I got much less out of Urbana than others, I'm frustrated. I think I must have a hopeless personality.

     However, using this frustration, if I continue to work hard at English, I would like to come to Urbana again. I want to have my revenge on those feelings of frustration.

     I went home, having received heavy assignments and feelings of frustration. These are what I received from each of the programs at Urbana, as well as through the tour of LA after Urbana. I feel that participating in the tour, as well as each of the decisions I made along the way, were God's guidance. This is because each of these things are connected to those subjects I was given by God.

     It was truly amazing to look up to the same God with 16,000 people. This is an experience that will never change. The moment the new year began was the best. At that moment, I was truly happy. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that that might have been the most amazing moment of my life. In fact, it was!

     The God I believe in is truly on the one true God.

     “He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

Your Story
Moe Higa
Urbana15 Attendee

     Urbana 15 was a time of recommitment for me.  It was a time when I rededicated myself and gave my all to God.
 
     I first learned about Urbana Mission Conference in November of 2014 at an IVCF camp where I became a follower of Christ.  A staff announced, “There will be Urbana next year,” and the crowd cheered, but I thought it had nothing to do with me, so I didn’t pay much attention to it.  However, God’s plan is full of surprises.  Three months later in January of 2015, I decided to take a year off.  I was supposed to graduate in May. My plan was to continue my study of education at a graduate school in California, but while I was on my leave of absence, through study and prayer time, God led me to dedicate my life to the Lord.  When I shared this with an IV staff who led a weekly Bible study by Skype for me, he encouraged me to attend Urbana, and that is how I decided to go.  With my salvation testimony and my letter describing my desire to attend Urbana, he raised funds for me in the US, and God provided all of my financial needs through churches and individuals.  I give all praise and thanksgiving to God who provides no matter what.
 
     So, here I was at Urbana.  Now that I look back on it, I don’t think I was very prepared, because I was so busy getting ready to go back to school and return to the US.  During these busy times, all I could do was look to God day to day and nothing more.  In the midst of busyness, I said goodbye to my family and returned to Wisconsin.  I spent Christmas moving into my new place, and the next day, I was off to St. Louis.  I joined the group from Japan that evening for a pizza dinner.  It was great to see some familiar faces and catch up as well as to with new people, sharing testimonies.  I felt I was finally ready for Urbana with such a good start and expectations.
 
     However, once Urbana begun, for the first three days I was so discouraged.  Even as I was enjoying messages and fellowship as usual, I was reminded of sins from the past which I didn’t remember in my daily life. “I thought I came with empty hands. Why did I bring so much baggage?”  I began to feel uneasy.
 
     On our first day, we learned about the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus.  After that we shared about “We, too, see the star and it is Jesus.  These wise men chose the best gift and left to worship the baby Jesus right away joyfully.  However, we are still inside our house, trying to figure out which gifts would be easy enough to let go of.”  I felt like I had a veil in front of me and couldn’t see God clearly.  I began to see wounds that were yet to be healed.  My sins were heavy in my heart.  I knew in my head that Jesus’ cross is far greater than my sin, yet my heart was hardened.  I started to feel physically weak, had a very bad headache and on top of that, for the first time in my life, I had a sty in my left eye and couldn’t wear my contact lens.  I didn’t feel like praying and didn’t have enough strength to ask someone to pray for me.  As I was looking at my left eye in the mirror, I realized, “In this moment, God can take this eye, or even my life.”  Then, I realized that everything was in the hands of the Lord.  The entire city of St. Louis in the rain, all 16,000 Urbana participants, my life, and everything else were in His hands.  I was deeply moved by that fact.  I was filled with awe and fear of the Lord who rules and reigns over everything.
 
     I wanted to go to Bible study and have fellowship with others, but I decided to pour my heart out to the Lord, and stayed in my room.  I skipped Bible study and seminars and slept.  I got what my body was craving and ate well and healthy.  As I was sitting alone in my hotel room, I opened my notebook, and began writing down the cry of my heart.  I wrote down everything to God without holding anything back, tears streaming down my face.  As I continued to write, the wounds that were hidden deep in my heart became clear.  I threw away my shame, and confessed to God, “This is who I truly am.”  It seemed like a childish selfish prayer, but that was all I could pray.  Then I remembered the gentle voice of God, telling me to come to Him just the way I was.  I was comforted.  I wanted to go to prayer ministry before dinner, but I gave up because I didn’t have enough time.  However, God prepared different people, and we were able to pray together.  It was a great encouragement for me.
 
     During the evening session, we prayed for persecuted churches.  My heart was deeply touched by the stories of brothers and sisters who serve in the Middle East.  I was moved to tears by realizing that Jesus is with them even in the midst of unimaginable difficulties.  He is living with them, persevering with them, and working through them.  At the same time, my eyes were opened to realize that the issues that were bothering me were so small.  Right before I went to bed that night, I opened my Bible, and read the scripture of that day, which was Psalm 51.  I had read this passage many times and knew about it, but as soon as I began reading, “Have mercy on me, God”, I couldn’t stop crying.  God’s words were soaking up into my dried heart.  I read as thought it was my own cry.  Since then, I read Psalm 51 both in the morning and in the evening.  Now after Urbana, I still am reading Psalm 51 on top of my regular reading.  I have copied it and read it out loud, meditating and reflecting on it.
 
     The next morning, I got up feeling great.  My left eye was almost back to normal and my headache was completely gone.  I gave thanks to God.  He listens to every single prayer no matter how selfish, small or soft it might be.  He is indeed our good good Father!  Even when I doubt His limitless power, He still accepts me just the way I am. He loves, heals, and transforms me.  I truly desire to believe in this Great Father God with childlike faith.
 
     That morning’s speaker was my favorite speaker, David Platt.  I really wanted to listen to him up close, so I waited for the doors to open 90 minutes ahead of time, and sat in the front row to listen to him speak.  He spoke from Matthew 26.  We learned from the life of a woman who poured fragrant oil on Jesus.  She knew that no matter what others might think of her, the only purpose in her life was to give her all to Jesus.  When I was asked, “Is THIS your life?” I hesitated.  “How am I actually following Jesus?”  “What have I been surrendering to God since I committed myself to surrender all a year ago when I was saved?”
 
     It was not about what emotions this woman who loved Jesus had in her heart.  It was about what she actually did for Jesus.  She, as well as a person who found treasure in Matthew 14, knew that Jesus Christ is the only one who is worthy to surrender all to.  Both of them actually gave all that they had with joy.  When these facts were laid right before my eyes, I immediately understood something so clearly.  This one phrase was echoing in my heart.  With trembling, I wrote these words down in my notebook.  The phrase so captured my heart that I couldn’t even hear David Platt’s voice.
 
     “I only want YOU. That is all. Your whole entire being. Your life.”
 
     What God desires of me is nothing else but myself.  I realized that instant that He wants all of me, even if I am a worthless person who is filled with sin, naked, small, weak, and has nothing to boast about. Jesus went through unimaginable pain, sorrow, suffering, and even death to redeem such a person as me.  I could not stop crying.
 
     What God wanted from me was not about how trustworthy person I can be.  It wasn’t how well I understood the Scripture.  It wasn’t how I would strategically share the Gospel to many people.  The only thing God desires is me, my whole being.  He just wants me to surrender my all to Him so that I can love and enjoy Him with everything He has given to me throughout my life.  He told me, “Let me be in the center of your life – in every minute of your life.”  That’s all He desired.  I can’t think of a word to describe the feeling I had the moment I realized this fact.  What I had in me then was not unwavering conviction or strong will.  What overflowed out of me was limitless love, filled with compassion, overflowing from the ever so gentle eyes of Jesus.  I was filled with that love, and my tears of joy didn’t stop.  “I was already Yours.  I was already made to love You.  It is because You first loved me and bought me back.  I remember it all now.”  I felt like I was released from the bondage called “me,” and filled with peace that God is mine and I am His.  I prayed from bottom of my heart, “Lord, who gave all to me, I give all to You.”
 
     On the last day, I learned from my friend's Facebook page that there would be “Japanese Interest Group.”  I joined the group late.  An American man came to me asking, “Are you from Okinawa?”  He used to be in Okinawa and had been doing a church plant for several years as a pastor.  He knew Pastor S who had told me about the Good News for the first time.  His daughters were born at the hospital where I was born. I told him that I was volunteering at a hospice care at that hospital.  I continued to share with him how these hospice patients came to know the Lord. Then his eyes were filled with tears and he said joyfully, “I came here to hear these stories!  God is indeed at work in that land.”  I couldn’t believe that such fellowship was prepared for me.
 
     At the end of that meeting, we began praying for Japan as a table.  One by one we prayed, until was my turn.  I began by praying “Heavenly Father…”  Then I began crying so much that I couldn’t continue my prayer.  I was reminded of the sorrow that I felt this past year while I was in Japan.  There are so many people who have never heard of the Gospel.  The fact is that people are trying so hard to fill their desperate hearts with something because they don’t know God’s love.  I prayed, “God, I know you won’t forsake Japan.  You are a saving Lord.  Have mercy on Your people.  Use me.”   I knew ever so clearly that God was giving me a calling and a heart for Japan missions.  When we were praying together with rest of the people, my heart began to be filled with blessings rather than sorrow.  Each one of these people from different backgrounds has a heart to serve the Lord and has a heart for Japan.  It was because God loves them so much that He gave His heart to them.  I felt like I saw a glimpse of God’s love for Japan and His great plan.
 
     “On that day, the entire world will lift up the name of the Lord.”

     We sang this worship song every night at the Japanese fellowship.  As I was singing, these words became unshakable truth in my heart.  For me, attending this Japanese fellowship was like an oasis during Urbana.  As I was saved in America, to join 100 or so others in unity to sing praise songs in Japanese was an incredible joy.  The fellowship time was too short, but there are stories in each person’s life, and it was a great joy to be able to share, rejoice, and pray together in God’s great plan of love.  It was as though these many different colored strings came together in St. Louis, received many blessings, and now were sent out to different parts of the world.  When would I see them next?  What story will we be living then?  God is the only one who knows when and where these strings will come together again.  Each encounter was a precious work of God, and all of them will be woven together in the day when the entire world worships the name of the Lord.  I get so excited just thinking about the beauty of God’s plan.
 
     When I reflect on my days at Urbana, there was so much more that I experienced.  Not every day was good or beautiful.  I feel like now I have important homework, including my wounds that need to be healed, questions that need to be answered, social issues that I can’t see as my own, and others.  If I were to put the entire experience in one phrase, it would be “deliverance from myself.”  I had been thinking where “I” would go to share the Gospel.  I thought about what would be the most beneficial choice for “me”.  I thought about how “my” wound be healed.  However, this “me” was broken in front of the pure, honest testimonies of brothers and sisters.  Even in the midst of unimaginable pains and sorrows, they were seeking not “themselves” but the Lord.  It was not their strength but God’s that was at work.  My life was not my own but His.  This sinful “me” was already filled with love and was made holy, good, and whole by the Almighty God.  My eyes were opened to this truth.  God was already calling me to the place where He wants to bring the Good News.  God will help me to choose the way that is most beneficial to Him.  I believe that God will heal my wounds.  My story can begin because God’s love exists.  The Lord who is Alpha and Omega is at the very center of my story every moment of my life.  I learned this truth.  I now know that it is beautiful.  I prayed once again that I would walk and live God’s story.  May I surrender all of every moment of my life until the end.
 

* Winter Special Fundraiser North America Final Report
and Japan Office Interim Report *

Thank you for your participation for both North America office and Japan office Winter Special Fundraiser.

North America Office Final Report
$10,520
70.1% of the targeting amount ($15,000) has been achieved.


Winter fundraiser for Japan Office is until the end of January
We appreciate your corporation.

Japan Office Interim Report
As of January 28th: 443,824 yen
29.5% of the targeting amount (1,500,000 yen) has been 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.
 
 
 
 
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