Ministry Camp in Miyazaki

As mentioned in the previous blog, this week we went to Miyazaki for the Ministry Camp. So many things happened during this weekend and I feel like it has been weeks since we’ve been there. So I will write this blog post in two sections. First, I will describe the weekend’s schedule and second, I will write about impressions and testimonies from this camp.

The weekend in Miyazaki officially started on Friday night, but, I already went ahead on Thursday, because another Ministry School member had a ticket for Thursday that he couldn’t use because of work, and he wasn’t able to reschedule and had to buy a second ticket. So I simply took his first ticket and went a day earlier than the rest. In Miyazaki, Kana welcomed me and her 6-month-old son Leo. I already met Kana, and many other Miyazaki church members, back when I was in Japan in 2019. We then went to pick up Kana’s daughter, Mana, from kindergarten before we headed home. Because I mentioned I liked Okonomiyaki, Kana and her husband Koichi cooked that for my first night at their place. The next day, we had to run many chores and pick up other ministry school students from the airport.

Because I had mentioned that I like the ocean and that we do not have an ocean in Switzerland, Koichi and Kana squeezed in a short visit to see the ocean through our busy schedules. How beautiful!

The first trip to see the ocean

In the evening, all the Ministry School students who had already arrived gathered in the Miyazaki church for the prayer night, and together we prayed the night away. Now it wasn’t only me at Koichi’s and Kana’s place, but we were 6 women sleeping there. I and two others had the privilege of sleeping in a room on the top floor, while the other three slept in the living room. You can probably imagine that the next day’s Morning Star took a lot longer than when me and Yuka do it alone, as we were 8 people sharing what stood out to us the most. So we started our Morning Star at 7 A.M., ate breakfast and went to church at around 9 A.M. The worship team practised for a bit while the rest of us read in the Bible or prayed. At 10 A.M. the program started. Once again, we began with the Japanese part, and Naomi taught us about the Book of Acts. After about two hours, she finished her teaching and asked for two volunteers to share their preaching (as I have mentioned in my previous blog, as homework, we all headed to prepare a sermon for this camp). When the two first students finished their preaching, Christian stepped in and taught about “Oneness”, focusing on loyalty and Ruth’s story. He further taught about rebellion, betrayal, and repentance. We were so engrossed in each other’s preaching and Christian’s and Naomi’s preaching that we didn’t realize how much time had passed. And so it came to be that we delayed our lunch to 5 P.M. After this delicious, and energizing meal, we continued with more of Christians teaching, once again about Loyalty, and we heard some more of the students preaching. Finally, we all sat in a big circle and shared what of today’s teaching stood out the most for us. At approximately 11 P.M., we returned home and had a small dinner at midnight before going to bed.

The worship team practising before service

Sunday morning started the same as Saturday. Morning star in a big group, breakfast and going to church. The worship team was again practising, the rest of us praying and reading the bible, as well as preparing the room for church.

This week’s Sunday message was about “Love”, specifically about “putting your love on fire”. After the message, we sat in small groups and shared what touched us the most, and after we just casually talked and ate lunch together. At 2 P.M. a bus arrived for us ministry school students. The main “camp” finally began. We drove to a hostel and continued our day in a conference room. We started with worshipping, and then more students preached before Naomi gave us a quick message and information about the continuation of the day. Soon after, we could check into our rooms, where we dropped off our luggage and readied our beds. At 6 P.M. we met in a restaurant where we were treated to a grand barbecue, with lots of seafood and meat. We stuffed ourselves with this delicious food and chatted through the evening.

After we all finished our plates, we all went to an Onsen (public hot spring bath) which is included in the Hostel. Fully stuffed and relaxed, we met once again in the conference room. Spontaneously, Naomi asked for one more volunteer to do their preaching, and I gathered all of my courage and volunteered to do my preaching. After I finished, Christian added a few words and gave us another short message before we could fully relax.

The original plan was to go outside and enjoy the night at a bonfire, but unfortunately, it was raining, so we stayed in the conference room. One student quickly drew a fire on a piece of paper, so we sat around that, ate ice cream, chatted and shared about what we had learned.

At 11 P.M. we were kicked out of the room so we all returned to our rooms where we continued chatting about various things (at least in my room we continued chatting, I do not know about the other rooms).

On Monday we started our day once again with the morning STAR, but this time we split into small groups for sharing, as all School Students would have been too many. After we had enjoyed an all-you-can-eat breakfast and went to the beach for a bit. Because it was raining, we only took a couple of pictures and then returned soon after. We took all of our luggage and walked to a building where rooms could be reserved for a day. We listened to the final students preaching before Naomi gave us general feedback and some tips for future preaching. Then, Christian began a new teaching series about Timothy. This time the focus was on ‘being a son versus a servant’. Because we ran short on time, he could not finish it, so we will continue this topic the next time we have ministry school. We quickly ate our Bento boxes, which the church leaders from the Miyazaki church and the Fukuoka church brought us.

Then we returned to the hostel where the bus driver picked us up again. We first went to the airport where we dropped off two students because they had already had their flight. The rest of us returned to the church, and we shared our overall impressions of the entire weekend we had spent together. We ended the weekend with more talking, playing with the children, and eating delicious Miyazaki Mandarins. The other members started slowly to return to Fukuoka, while Christian, Naomi, Sweetbert (another Tokyo Church member) and I remained, as we only returned on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning was back to just me, Kana and Koichi in the Morning Star. We then went to a bakery to get breakfast before we met up with Sweetbert and a Miyazaki church member. Together we went to the beach again, because they wanted me to enjoy some more time at the ocean, this time with beautiful weather. We were treated to delicious seafood before they took us to the airport where we met up with Naomi and Christian and returned happy but also tired to rainy Tokyo.

Now that you know all that has happened, I would like to share some impressions and testimonies. First, I need to say how much every single member has blessed me in these couple of days. They all went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and treated me like family, even though some of them barely knew me or even met me for the first time. Especially Koichi and Kana gave their best to make sure that I would have the best possible weekend. Whenever I mentioned a food I liked, they would try to include it in the weekend’s menu plan. After I said that I wanted to see the ocean, they made sure we did so, even though we had little time. They spoke slowly and with many gestures, so it would be easier for me to understand and helped me find my words when I replied to them in Japanese. But also all the other church members. They all made sure I was comfortable. They all tried to talk to me, to include me in their conversations and when they were talking to one another and I was just listening, they still made sure that I could understand. In all the Jesus’ Call members, you can see the trust they have for each other, their care for one another, and everyone’s willingness to help, to serve and to honour one another. I was extremely touched to not only be a witness to this lifestyle, but to be included in it, and it automatically inspired me to also try harder, to be more attentive to the other members and the church’s needs. I would also like to talk a bit about Mana. What an inspiring little girl. She is only 6 years old and whenever I looked at her I was reminded of Jesus saying, “You must change your thinking and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3 ERV). She surely is a child we can all learn from. During our worship sessions, she sang sincerely, when we wanted to pray before a meal she would raise her hand and shout “Can I pray?!”, while we were in the Onsen she would just strike up conversations with strangers and invite them to church, and if she realized this person was open to the idea she would call the nearest church member and tell them they can now continue talking to this person about God and bring them to church. We also had an intensive prayer session, where we prayed that God may free us from negative thoughts, self-doubt, self-hatred, and so on. Mana stood in the middle of our group, ready to pray for those who needed it, ready to put her hands on the weary, ready to proclaim blessings over those struggling, and also ready to hug whoever needed a hug. We were all truly touched and inspired by her faith and strong will to lead people closer to God. Let us all become like children and proclaim how great God is, just like Mana does. And last, my testimony of my preaching. I dislike standing in front of people and holding a presentation, and preaching, that sounded even scarier. So when Christian and Naomi told us that we had to prepare a preaching, my first instinct was to panic. Instead, I prayed and laid my worries before God, and within just one minute, I already had an idea of what I wanted to talk about. How great is that?! The preparations went fairly well. I jotted all of my thoughts into my notebook and then tried to find suitable bible verses and put everything into order. But when Friday arrived, and I knew that I would have to preach on one of the next days, I worried again and overthink everything I had written, tempted to erase everything and start from scratch. Once again I prayed, and I prayed on and on until I felt myself calming down again. I kept repeating over and over that this message was about God and not about me, so it didn’t matter what I thought or what I said. All that mattered was God’s word. When it was finally my time to stand in front of everyone, I felt like I was shaking, but while preaching I was constantly praying in my head for God to guide my tongue and repeated over and over “This is about God, not about me or my ‘performance’”. I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me when I was finished. And even greater was the joy when my peers told me that they were touched by my message. I knew very well that if I had tried to preach on my accord, I would have been a panicked mess, and I know God helped me and guided me during my preparations and while standing in front of the ministry school. I am so grateful that HE helped me to stay calm while was preaching, and that HE formed the words in my mouth.

This may not be sunrise, but it was a beautiful view of Tokyo I could enjoy on my flight back

P.S. The title of my message was “Jesus is my Sunrise”, inspired by the sunrise hike, my dad, my sister and I did this summer. The main bible verse was Proverbs 4:18-19.

18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.