Japan Update: Reflection On the Equipper Conference


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Japan Update – Equipping for Japan

Celebrating the New Year at the Equipper Conference

Though much of the preparation for going to Japan centers around sharing with others about what we will be doing,  remembering to continue to take the opportunity to learn about ministry in Japan is also important. To that end, I will likely be attending the Equipper Conference in Southern California next month.

The Equipper Conference or EC, is a conference put on by Japanese Christian Fellowship Network (JCFN), an organization which serves overseas Japanese Christians who will be returning to Japan. There are many issues Japanese people face when returning to Japan from living overseas, but when Japanese also become Christians overseas, there is a whole new dynamic of difficulty introduced. What is it like to live as a Christian in Japan as opposed to America? How do I find a good church or fellowship when there are so few Christians in Japan? How do I discuss my faith with my family and close friends?

The Equipper Conference is geared to “equip” Japanese students, many new in their faith, for their lives when they return to Japan. It helps them build a network of new friends who live in their areas. JCFN also works with churches and fellowships in Japan to find appropriate churches for students returning to Japan.

For me, it’s a great opportunity to gain insight and empathy for the challenges Japanese Christians face in their daily lives. Japan Christians aren’t persecuted by the government, but being such a small minority in Japan, they do face “cultural persecution” for having a different cultural outlook than most Japanese people. There is also “social persecution” from family and friends who sometimes have a negative view of Christianity or religion in general.

If I can be used as an encouragement for a young Japanese Christian living in Tokyo, I would love the opportunity to do that. Over the past few years, we’ve had a number of Japanese students pass through our home for English conversation groups whom we have adopted as part of our family. I know very well what a challenging time college and post-college is to deal with and I empathize especially with Japanese students who face extreme pressure to complete college and find a good job. It’s also a great opportunity to teach young Christians to be active in their faith though Japanese society would rather that they would keep it to themselves. In fact, the theme of EC this year is “Salt and Light: Blossom where you’re sown.”

I had not intended to attend EC this year (though I’ve attended a couple of times in the past few years), but God has other plans, as is often the case. A friend shared something on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that perfectly describes what we feel like we’re going through right now. It said something to the effect that we are always trying to have “face-to-face” time with Jesus but perhaps what we need is more “face-to-back” time. Because when we’re looking at Jesus’s back, we’re following Him.

Day One

Photo by Paul Gor

For our 90+ first time attendees of the World Christian Conference that took place this past weekend, this post is especially for you. For the rest of you, you’re welcome to read this post too! 🙂

As first timers, and I count myself among you, attending the World Christian Conference can be a shock to the system. It is, after all, a weekend packed with messages from the Lord that are by nature going to turn our worldviews inside-out. When we are in complete obedience to God’s calling in our lives, we realize the priorities the world measures us with have no relevance to us. We may find ourselves caught up in the battle between flesh and Spirit.

Today, on Day One, the Spirit has the advantage. But even now, the world and the prince of this world, Satan, are relentlessly chipping away at your resolve with distractions and discouragement. They may seem subtle at first, but in time, the passion lit in your heart will fade and you will look back and wonder what happened to your motivation to live out God’s calling.

I want to remind you now, while it is fresh in your hearts and minds, that your relationship with World Christian Fellowship did not end yesterday when you left Redwood Christian Park. Your relationship with WCF began when you arrived at camp and we are still here, walking beside you to support you in prayer, encouragement and networking. As long as you stay plugged in with your WCF community, we commit to helping you find your place in the Great Commission.

There are currently two very practical ways for you to remain connected with us:

Prayer Groups. WCF Regional Prayer Groups were the foundation of our organization, existing even before the World Christian Conference. We still believe Prayer Groups to be the heart of our ministry, giving our community a place to meet regularly throughout the year to pray, learn and network with other World Christians going through the same trials and joys you are. You may contact the Regional Prayer Group Facilitator in your area on our website to find out about the group meeting near you.

What? There’s no Prayer Group meeting in your area? Well, that’s even better news! If you have the heart to establish a Prayer Group, our Regional Prayer Group Coordinator can train you to host one. Prayer Groups can meet in homes or churches; the important thing is that they provide prayer, learning, and networking opportunities for our community members.

Serve. If you believe God is blessing World Christians through the ministry and events of WCF, we welcome you to join us. We are in the process of defining the roles and skills we  need for our ministry, but it is never too early to let us know you are available and willing to serve with us. Currently, you can contact me and I will keep your information handy and send you an information packet once we are ready to communicate about our volunteer opportunities.

We are encouraged as your co-workers in Christ to accompany you on the journey you are on. Let’s keep pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14)!

Patterns In Themes

CMC West Coast ’11:

We have created a fictional character called a “Christian” who has all the benefits of salvation in Jesus Christ without any of the responsibilities of a “Disciple” of Jesus Christ. The fact is that we cannot separate the responsibilities of discipleship: loving selflessly, defending the poor, bringing the good news to the nations, from calling Christ our Lord and Savior. If He is truly our Lord, we must follow His commandments.

based on Greg Ogden’s message from his book “Transforming Discipleship”

Equipper Conference ’11:

The Jews awaited the arrival of God’s Kingdom as a cosmic event that would restore Israel to political prominence under the leadership of the Messiah. Jesus taught that He is the physical manifestation of God’s Kingdom and that we, through Him, would do the transforming work of His Kingdom in the world. God’s Kingdom is in the midst of us, as our Lord Jesus Christ, and He has included us in the work of “Kingdom building” here on earth.

based on the EC ’11 theme verses, Luke 17:20-21

World Christian Conference ’12:

As sons and daughters of the Most High King, we reflect imago dei – the image of God. As bearers of His name, we have been entrusted with both the calling and authority to carry out His purposes to bring His salvation to all peoples…All the nations are crying out for the good news, and it is time for us to fully embrace what the Lord has bestowed to each and every one of those He calls His own. We will never be completely alive unless we respond to the call and step out in faith with our God-given authority.

description of WCC‘s theme, Entrusted: Stepping Out With God’s Favor

Do you see a pattern emerging here? What are you going to do about it?

Reflecting On EC and CMC


I’d like to say I’ve had five days to process my time at Equippers Conference and CMC West Coast last week, but the fact of the matter is I came home right into my new job with WCF (my official start date was Jan 1st) and I haven’t sat still long enough to completely process the whole time.

What I do know is that it was an extremely busy time. At EC, I was responsible for photography and leading a small group, neither of which I did particularly well because of all the activities on my plate. I also spent a full day at CMC West Coast which honestly could not be done justice in a single day with all the fantastic workshops and plenary sessions going on there. On top of that, I had plenty of people to catch up with during the in-between times; missionaries, potential missionaries, ministry consultants and other leaders of missions organizations.

As I write it all down, I can now completely understand why it has taken me so long to process it all. The Lord gave me a drink from the firehose last week. But it is difficult to gripe about too much blessing.

I suppose because of the busyness of the week, I failed to completely engage with either conference well. But I found that God is faithful about meeting us where we are. He knew I was going to have a busy week and He provided spiritual food in less conventional ways.

First off was my amazing small group at EC. As I am basically an introvert, I am generally a reluctant participant in small groups, let alone a leader of one. But God gathered such an diverse collection of men in my group who were open and honest with each other about their lives and truly engaged during our sessions. You don’t usually expect a lot of transparency during a short conference small group but we had a quality time of sharing and praying together, and really, just having fun.

Second were the many divine appointments that happened during the week. I met countless people during mealtimes, on breaks and even skipping sessions (yes, I did that a couple times) who provided me with encouragement, wisdom, and opportunities to share about missions. The reason we go to conferences is not just the messages; if it were so, we’d simply buy the CD after the fact and listen to it in our car. The reason we go to conferences is to meet other believers who are travelling the same road as we are, seeking the path God has for their lives.

Lastly, the Lord continued to confirm my calling to serve with WCF in many ways. There was so much encouragement for my decision coming from old friends and people I had just met. I heard messages that reinforced my view of the role of Asians and Asian-Americans in global evangelization. It was as if God was telling me “See how I have prepared you for such a time as this.”

Overall, I think it was a great time of preparation for the role I have now stepped into. But now, it’s good to be back and starting to focus on the issues at hand.