In light of this opportunity, the Encompass Japanese Returnee Ministry in Long Beach, CA has established a team prepared to receive incoming Japanese. Transitioning into American culture can be challenging. So, it is a great service to provide support for these Returnees while they are in the States. Working faithfully to develop authentic relationships as well, the Japanese Returnee Team has created relational bridges such as Campouts, Surfing, Gospel Choir, and other group activities to further friendships and share the Gospel message.
Shutarou Sugawara “Shu” grew up in the Sendai area in East Japan. He was in high school when the infamous 2011 mega earthquake created a tsunami, which devastated the country’s eastern coast. Shortly after that event, he moved to Long Beach, California to attend college. While living there he met the Japanese Returnee Team.
The team mentored Shu and became a great support group for him. Shu eventually was receptive to the gospel and later became a Christian. Like some new believers, he had some ups and downs. At some points, he even doubted the fairness and existence of God, especially in light of tragedies like the 2011 earthquake. Even through his faith’s rocky times, the team continued to love on Shu.
Thankfully, this past Easter Sunday, Shu decided to be baptized. This was his experience.
I FINALLY got baptized last Sunday on Easter. It's been three and half years since I became a Christian but somehow I did not get baptized. As time passed, I grew away from my Christian community and away from God, but He didn't give up on me. Everyone from our gospel choir and our church cared about me and showed love from God. It's amazing how He used people around me to show His love through these people and I'm thankful for their love.
I appreciate Ken Kuroda and Cecil O'Dell for not giving up on me, and Masa Endou and choir members for showing acceptance. People told me that a baptism is a symbol but it meant more than a symbol to me. I wouldn't be able to overcome hardships without the love from people who came to celebrate the baptism. Thank you for everyone who cares about me and who prays for me. I'll remember this wonderful day when I face hard times in the future. I’ll remember how great our God is and how He helps me every single moment of my life.
For his final year of college, Shu will be traveling to Ghana for an internship. His experience with the 2011 Earthquake instilled in him a desire to help people in crisis. Africa specifically, has been on his heart for a while. He hopes to one day serve in this capacity. After his internship in Ghana, he will also be interning with the Encompass partner ministry NorthStar in Japan.
Shu is one of the many people impacted by the Japanese Returnee Ministry. God has used this team mightily and continues to bless their ministry. Please keep them in your prayers as they continue to reach out to incoming Japanese. Pray for relationships to be built and the Gospel to be communicated well.