I came to GRC thinking that I wanted to meet other returnees from Kanagawa and entrust RIK (Returnees in Kanagawa) to someone else. I came with the expectation that something would change for me in the midst of many dilemmas, such as me being a leader of RIK, a returnees gathering, even though I am not a returnee myself; the changes in life stages of the core members causing us to become unable to continue the ministry that we have been doing; even though we know the needs of returnees ministry, being unable to work out an effective plan; and so on.
God gave me a huge blessing in a totally different way than what I had imagined.
The first way this happened was through the messages. To be honest, I wasn't expecting anything from the messages. Though I had known of Pastor Oshima because of his work with KGK, I hadn't known Pastor Matsumoto or Pastor Seki, and I didn't even go so far as to wonder what they might speak about. However, on the first day, I was hit hard by Pastor Seki's message. It was the first time in a long time that I had felt such good excitement. If I make my sin clear, that will be my salvation. I felt Pastor Seki's passionate message penetrate my heart. I felt hidden passion in Pastor Matsumoto's matter-of-fact way of speaking. The opposite of faith is not a lack of faith. It is fear. Our lives are the realization of God's dream, and so we must let go of the realization of our own dreams. There are several more statements that left an impression on me. Pastor Oshima incorporated humor into his messages while grabbing the hearts of listeners, speaking the truth with passion like one would see at a sporting event, with words that reached my heart. While all three speakers had their own types of speaking, my spirit was moved, and I felt as if layers of coverings were being removed from my heart one by one. My identity as God's beloved and God's dream was revived.
The second way God blessed me was through my small group. I was able to fellowship mostly with people my own age from various walks of life, including pastors, missionaries, seminary students, and businessmen, which was very valuable for me. I gained courage from being around these people who are all testimonies through the way they live their lives. The time of fellowship, and deep talks about ministry and living life where you are, from the time small group ended until bed, made me feel that sleeping was almost a waste of time.
The third way God blessed me was through meeting new people. Pastor Seki, one of the speakers, was my roommate at the previous ANRC. This GRC wasn't the first time I met him. I had completely forgotten. It was really exciting for me. I don't know if it was like hitting a bulls-eye, or a sense of resonating, but at any rate, I became a fan of Pastor Seki. I also met Mr. K, the leader of my small group. I really felt that he is a testimony for Christ through the way he lives his life. I don't have words to describe my gratitude for meeting someone I respect so much. I also met Ms. K, who sat next to me at dinner on the first day. After that, I saw her in many places and we spoke many times. I was interested in getting to know her. Ms. U sat next to me during the morning session on the second day. She was beautiful in the way she worshipped with her whole body and spirit.We were also able to pray for each other during the prayer time, and I am thankful for the prayer she poured out for me, and I felt the prayer resonate in my spirit. I felt that I wanted to do something together with her.
At the Kanagawa regional gathering, many people were able to gather, encourage each other, and pray for each other. There was the joy of one part of the seven thousand who did not bow to Baal being there. I felt that, if I, together with everyone there, prayed together with one heart, we could do anything. I felt that I would be glad if something new started, even if it wasn't RIK.
I had been trying to plan how to pass RIK on to a successor, but my way of thinking changed to start anticipating what God will do, far beyond my ideas, and to follow along with what He is doing. I don't see yet what He is doing. However, there is no mistake that this will lead to a blessing. I will continue serving in returnees ministry in anticipation of what God is going to do.
It has been one month since GRC. The passion that I felt at that time is of course starting to cool down. However, like a charcoal fire, even if what we can see is just ash, the heat is still there underneath, quietly continuing to burn. It's not a bright fire that burns meat quickly, but a heat like infrared that slowly cooks delicious meat. I think that everyone who attended GRC will continue to burn like charcoal. It is not something that burns alone, but together with other pieces of charcoal. I hope that we also will gather when we can, regain our heat, and continue burning with confidence.