Japan Update: Reflection On the Equipper Conference

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Over the next few days,  I will be posting about a few of my experiences during the Equipper Conference this week. There is really so much experience to unpack, I cannot possibly summarize it in a single post. If you’d like to hear more about my EC experience, keep checking back for new posts.

I must confess, I had no intention of attending the Equipper Conference this year. I volunteered as a driver and photographer, but if neither of my offers were required, I would just stay home and enjoy our last Winter break in America with my family. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to EC, but I thought to myself “We’re leaving for Japan in the middle of next year. Since the English track is focused on supporting Japanese students here in the US, there isn’t really any benefit to going just to learn about that.” Looking back, I can hear the selfishness in my perspective seeping out: what’s in it for me?

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A moment of joyful fellowship at the Equipper Conference.

Fortunately, God had other plans for me. I was needed as both a driver and a photographer, so I attended EC for the first time without the rest of my family. It’s been years since I had to sleep in bunk beds with a room full of guys (and one bathroom) so I was a little worried about that. As it turned out, I had a great bunch of guys as cabin mates and since we were all in small group together, we were really blessed by each other’s company. Some of us were also able to share network connections with one another to help support each other’s ministries. God surely handpicked each of us to be in that cabin together.

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Setsu Shimizu has led the Equipper Conference many years and has been a mentor to many leaders in Japanese ministry.

One of the things that was hard for me attending EC in the past was the feeling of being an outsider. About 80% of the attendees are Japanese students and 90% are Japanese speakers (or they choose to speak Japanese as their primary language during EC). With my limited language capabilities, I rarely tried to strike a conversation with someone outside of the English track. Of course, it was all very silly since almost every Japanese person at EC speaks some English and most are pretty fluent. This year, I made it a point to sit at a different table for each meal and meet at least one new person. Some were Japanese and some were English speakers but God was able to use those times to introduce me to some amazing people, many of which I will see again in Japan or as we visit churches along the West Coast in search of ministry partners.

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Worshiping God in the Japanese language.

The general program this year was, like every year, packed full of opportunities for God to work in the hearts of those attending. I won’t go into specific details but I was extremely blessed by the worship times. Seeing so many Japanese worshiping God with such passion never fails to move my heart. The Holy Spirit was certainly moving throughout the conference. At least two students that our small group prayed for accepted Christ during the conference.

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Prayer is a critical behind-the-scenes aspect of Equipper Conference.

Another aspect of the conference which I get to notice as a photographer but most people wouldn’t see is how much prayer goes on during the conference. The prayer team is praying constantly, often in the back of the room or in the prayer room, out of view from the attendees. This team is such an inspiration to me to remind me how critical prayer is when we are asking God to do something awesome like transforming people’s lives.

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If there is one thing that sticks out in my mind, it was during the men’s breakout group when our speaker Kuni Onishi kept telling the group that their generation is going to bring revival to Japan. As I looked around the room and saw the passion and determination on the faces of these young men, I sensed God confirming the truth of Kuni’s words. Japan is finally ready to receive the gospel and God is raising up a team of young Japanese Christians who are passionate to expand His Kingdom.

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Praying for Shimomura-san, evangelist to Japanese businessmen.

I would also like to believe that God brought me to EC not just to be blessed but to be a blessing. I can’t go into a lot of detail here but I did have many opportunities to pray with and for people, including several of the students, some of whom received Christ during the week. I had a short time to collaborate with a Japanese pastor in Tokyo who desires to reach young people in his city. I got a small taste of what ministry in Japan might be like and that taste was sweet.

I’m sad that I probably won’t be able to attend EC again for a while, but who knows? I didn’t intend to attend EC this year and God brought me anyway. If I can be a blessing to others and God can provide a way, perhaps we can come from Japan again to bless and be blessed by EC.

2 thoughts on “Japan Update: Reflection On the Equipper Conference

  1. Charles says:

    I am encouraged by your posts. I just came back from 5 years in Japan, and I can say that God has indeed been preparing you well, because many of your insights or analysis are spot on . This EC was my first in 6 years…but the times that I wasn’t at EC, I had the privilege to ring in the new year with Japanese Christians in Tokyo. There are many more gatherings like this in Japan, many regional returnee ministries that would be blessed by your presence and support.

    It sounds like you are already well connected, but let me know if I can help by connecting you to anyone over there as well. Shalom.

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