Newsletter (Equipper)

 Hallelujah! We praise the name of the Lord.
     New fiscal year of JCFN has started this month. We are looking forward to your participation in JCFN ministries in various ways.
     May~July is a season of many returnees, including those returning to Japan temporarily. Following to last month's newsletter, we would like to share returnee related issues in this newsletter. In this occasion, please remember returnees in your prayers.

Tips for you to go home, "OSATOGAERI" (Official Homecoming)
for the first time after you became a Christian

Rev. Saku Kuroda
(Principal of Seiwa Jr. and Sr. Highschool)

*this article was reused from JCFN Newsletter Equipper August 2005
     “Now I have become a Christian, what do I need to do as a Christian next time I go home to Japan?”  If you are asking yourself this question, this is for you.  “The Joy in the Lord” is a wonderful souvenir to your very important family.  Please enjoy and read this prayerfully.

① Witnessing is neither a responsibility nor duty for a Christian.
     It is a privilege and a blessing for you now as a Christian. “Now I am a Christian, I can take my “NEW” souvenir home.”  Let us give thanks to God for this new gift!

② It is NOT your job to make your family Christians.
     It is the work of the Holy Spirit to confess that “Jesus is the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 12:3)

③ All you need to do is to share with your important family what had happened to you and your family after you became a Christian, the joys and thanksgiving.
     Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  (Mark 5:19)

④ It is more important to have a considerate heart (positive attitude) than a worried one (negative attitude).
     “Your happiness” is the joy of your family.  They may be worried or would be against you being a Christian because they do not understand what your Christian joy or life is, or maybe because of their prejudice towards Christianity.

⑤ Make your priority according with what YOU CAN DO because now you are a Christian.
     It is important for you to be engaged into the lives of your family while you are being considerate of your family’s expectations and feelings.  “You have indeed changed since you became a Christian.”  That is what you want to hear from your family.  (Of course you want to hear this as a positive remark.)

⑥ There are things you can do in a Buddhism service.

a. It would be great if you can pray to the Lord when you are asked to greet your ancestors.
     First, think where you should sit.  Including your “ancestors”, make a circle with your family.  First, leave a space in front of the altar (leave it for the “ancestor” as it is expected), sit either right or left next to it, and ask rest of the members to make a circle.  Of course, you will be praying to God who is in the middle of that circle who loves your family.
     What about praying like this?  This is just an example, so please prepare your own.
“Dear God who loves me and all of my family, I am home.  Thank you so much for protecting me and my family while we were apart. Thank you for giving us our ancestors.  I pray for the time together this time as the family is together, may you help us to spend a quality time as a family, and that our family will be able to enjoy this wonderful relationship.   …… You can add to different requests such as purposes for this returning home is for, needs for the family, for brothers and sisters who are not present, etc.  ……  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen”
You do not memorize this, but put it on a note so that you can pray as you look at it.

b. It is o.k. to visit the grave site.  It is a good place to remember your beloved family members and ancestors.
     You will NOT pray to the grave or dead.  However, you can clean up the grave site, and put some flowers to show a gesture of remembering your lost family member.
     Put some courage together and ask if it would be o.k. for you to pray.  If it is o.k., then try the “prayer” you prepared in the previous paragraph.

c. The funeral service is an opportunity to show your faith.  As you mourn, show your grief in your personal way.
     Be considerate and observant than anyone else there, work willingly, and use your time and money to help and support the family.  If you are a member of the family of the deceased, then, it is very important for you to talk to your family to remove your name from the list of ‘shoko’ (offering of incenses) order.  This reduces confusions.
     Purpose of the ‘shoko’ is to show your honor to the deceased and condolence to the family. If you have to offer the incenses without the ‘shoko’ order, and that your name can not be removed from the order, before the funeral begins, meet with the family, and greet them very respectfully to show your care and love in order to accomplish this purpose.
     There are different opinions and suggestions regarding ‘shoko’, however, in order not to make your understandings or actions become stumbling blocks to the others, avoid doing the actual ‘shoko’, and make an effort not to stand in front of the ‘shoko’ altar.  If you have to go before the ‘shoko’ altar, then, don’t do the ‘shoko’, but offer a silent prayer putting the deceased in the hands of the Lord, and pray for God’s comfort for the family. (Pray for approximately 20 seconds).
     After the funeral, when everyone has gone home and the family becomes little lonely, visit them or bring flowers to them.  Since you are doing something different from the ‘usual’, in order to show your sincerity, you need to spend time and money.

“Osatogaeri” is not the only chance to witness.  The most important thing is the daily communication.
① You are the original and the first fruit of the real joy for your family.
In order to make your family feeling relieved, communicate them with your joy.
② Does your family know that you have become a Christian?
It is important in some cases to communicate your intention of becoming a Christian before you make a decision.  Communicating of your decision is the very first step of sharing the blessings.  Sending a Christmas card is one of the great opportunities for this communication.
③ Make your usual communication thoughtful and send your heart to them.
Are you calling or sending e-mails to your family for birthday, wedding anniversary, and other occasions?

The Word of encouragement
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:11-12

Testimony of a Returnee
Merciful God

Kayoko Fujii
(JCFN Tokyo Member)

     In 2013, I came back to Japan to help take care of my parents. In 2015, a few months after my father made his profession of faith, he went to the Lord. This year, my mother was baptized. I am overjoyed by God’s grace and mercy. I am wholeheartedly grateful to the pastors in California and Tokyo, the church families, and my Christian friends for their prayers. May the Lord pour his abundant blessings over those who are getting ready to come back to Japan, those who have already come back, and their families.

     When it was suddenly decided that my parents and I were to return to Japan in 2013, I had lived in the U.S. for a total of 26 years due to my father’s job transfer. I was working as a teacher when I was led to faith in Jesus Christ.  Living a Christian life in the U.S., I felt apprehensive about the idea of coming back to Japan. However, I was reminded of the passage from Acts 16:31 (NIV), “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” I believed that it was God’s will for us to return to Japan.  My mother was suffering from some health issues and showing signs of severe depression. She had been wanting to go back to Japan. My father’s health was also in decline.  My parents needed my help, so I went back to Japan with them.

     I do not recall doing anything special to lead my parents to Jesus Christ.  However, I kept clinging to the Lord, asking for His help daily as I made my way along the harsh and dark path. Unaccustomed to life in Tokyo with a new job and a new church, every day was challenging and exhausting. However, I continued to attend church every week.

     Although my parents did not oppose my attending church, they often challenged me by saying that I had my priorities wrong. Whenever they said that, I would explain to them that attending the worship services and serving the Lord at church school gave purpose to my life, and helped restore me spiritually as I faced the challenges of the week. I could not rely on myself, nor my family, nor anyone else, but only on God. I lived to trust the Lord, to pray, and to wait in hope. “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).  

     My father had always kept a very healthy lifestyle. Everyone including himself thought he was well and healthy. However, it turned out that cancer was destroying his pancreas. He had complained about back pain a year after returning to Japan. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in June 2015, only five months after the diagnosis. During his illness, the Japanese pastor from my former church in California visited us and led my father to Christ Jesus. God turned my sorrow to joy.

     While back in the U.S., my parents used to accompany me to church and fellowship opportunities. My father once told me that we had been helped by Christian friends when we had first relocated to the U.S. for his job assignment. He remembered fondly how every staff member at a Christian preschool welcomed us, even though we did not understand English. Seeing how happy we were to go to school every day left a strong impression on him. Once, while I was still young, our family returned to Japan and we all faced tremendous reverse culture shock. During that hardship, an American missionary from a Baptist church helped us to regain our emotional health. Through these personal experiences, my parents grew to respect Christians and to acknowledge them with gratitude.

     As for my mother, she was having difficulties accepting the death of my father. She was tormented by regrets and started losing her will to live. Her depression progressed to the point of no return. She was terrified and so was I.  As the only caregiver for my mother, I was extremely exhausted to a point that I was fearful that we might go down together.

     The title of the 2016 New Year’s Worship Service “Healing and Cleansing of Your Soul” caught my mother’s attention and she accompanied me to that service. The message from Psalm 51:17(NRSV) —“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” — resonated in her heart. Her heart was already filled with pain and deep remorse for being helpless and useless in the face of my father’s illness. She was moved by her strong desire to pray and to be accepted. Before she even realized it, she was stepping forward and kneeling down to pray.

     She once told me about a cruel graphic image of Jesus Christ on the cross that she had seen in a movie when she was young. It had traumatized her and for a long time had been an obstacle in her understanding of the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. However, in the beginning of March, the sermon's message helped her understand its meaning.

     She felt like God rescued her from her endless journey in the wilderness. She experienced an astounding sensation that she had never felt before. After all those years of emotional struggles, she suddenly felt her burden lifted. She yearned to know about God and have faith in him. She decided to receive baptism and find hope in the walk with the Lord.

     When my father professed his faith, she was apprehensive. Now, she is willing to live a life with God, attending church and studying Jesus’ teachings at her own pace. It was such a joy that she was baptized on Easter in Koganei Park, surrounded by late-blooming cherry blossoms and fruit-bearing plum trees where we had enjoyed the beautiful plum blossoms with my late father for the last time.

     As for my future, nothing has been decided yet. I live day by day relying on God in prayer. I participated in a seminary retreat at the end of last year and had a chance to engage in quiet and meaningful prayers in the midst of my busy life. At an ecumenical convention in February this year, the message, “surrender,” reverberated deeply in my soul. Since then, I have been surrendering one thing at a time that I believe the Lord has revealed to me in my prayer. First I let go of my research career. Then I notified my employer of my resignation from the university lecturer position and will be resigning at the end of this academic year.

     I praise God for my mother’s unexpected profession of faith in March, and her baptism on Easter. In May, I was given the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with pastors from California and with the staff members of JCFN. I could be misunderstanding God’s will and I often get distracted by earthly obstacles, but the peace of the Lord stays with me as I journey along the path He lays before me. I would be very grateful if you keep me in your prayers.

Introducing our JCFN Office Part-time Workers

This month we would like to introduce the office workers of North America & Japan Offices

1)  North American Office
Atsuko Yamamoto

She has a family of four with her husband and her 17 year old son and 13 year old daughter.
She has lived in America for over 20 years, and hasn’t been fluent in English, for her children tease her.
How she met Jesus,  she entered a Christian Junior High School, yet she was not saved at that time, she lived life as she pleased. She had many difficulties when she came to America, coming from Japan someone told her about Jesus and she was saved. She was baptized in 2007. She has knowledge of accounting, and she was introduced to JCFN by a friend and came to help us. Her hobby is travel, she hopes to visit all 50 states in the U.S., although she has only been to 15 so far. She wonders when she can do her cross country trip.

2) Japan Office
Izumi Takahashi

She was born in Hokkaido and has lived in Germany and Tokyo. She is the daughter of a pastor, and has been married to her husband for 15 years
She enjoys doing bookkeeping and she is thankful to be able to serve in this way.
When you stop into the Japan office, please fellowship with her.

equipper conference 17

Online Registration is now available.
Click here to register!

Date: December 27, 2017 - January 1, 2018
Location: Murrieta Hot Springs Christian Conference Center
Theme: “Freedom”: Living the Freedom in Christ
Theme verse: 2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Speaker: Rev. Naoto Kamano, Rev. Shinji Seki, Rev. Yuichiro Inatomi

GRC18: Global Returnees Conference
May 2 - 5, 2018
@ Hotel Evergreen Fuji (Yamanashi)
Looking for a Japanese/English Translation Volunteer

Many of JCFN’s publications will be in bilingual format. Please, If you wish to improve your translation skill, or in the future prepare for a translation job, please contact JCFN. We have native speaker to check the translations, so don’t worry.

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