In Awe of God’s Sovereignty: A Profile of Serve Asia Worker Elissa Kunihiro
At the age of 19, I begrudgingly attended a campus ministry conference. Christians who loved me persistently persuaded me to do this, despite my guardedness and doubt. It was there that I felt I first heard about God’s grace, glory, and heart for all nations, despite having heard this many times before growing up in a Christian family. For the first time, I recognized the depth of my sin and need for grace, and how this grace is freely offered in Christ, and I wanted the rest of my life to be for His glory.
However, as I read Isaiah 43:7, I wondered what it actually meant to be created for His glory. In the first months following my new life in Christ, I met a Japanese student at a campus outreach week. We connected easily, and she told me, “I feel close to you—maybe it’s because you’re Japanese, even though you don’t speak Japanese!”
As a fourth-generation Japanese Canadian, with Japanese ethnicity but little language or culture, I was stunned. Did God make me Japanese so I could connect with Japanese people for His glory?
A year later, I went to Japan for a two-week Prayer Journey with Serve Asia, hearing stories of God’s faithfulness and praying for His work in rural Japan. And afterwards, returning to Toronto for my final year of university, I prayed that God would continue to reveal His will for my growing love for Japan. God answered through an outpouring of opportunity. A group of friends with a heart for Japan evolved into a campus ministry when God introduced us to ten Japanese international students. We practiced English over Bible studies and conversations, and got to share our testimonies and the Gospel over Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. I was in awe of God’s sovereignty — that He would bring these friends across the world for our lives to intersect in Toronto, for their chance to experience the love of Christ and to confirm my desire to serve the Japanese people.
God used one friend in particular as confirmation. As he learned about Christ through our friendship, he said, “I’m really lucky because I got to come to Toronto to hear this — but most people in Japan will never meet a Christian. I want more Japanese students to get the chance to hear about Christ!” That was my prayer too and I felt compelled to be a part of the answer.
In 2021, I will be returning to Tohoku, Japan with Serve Asia to serve in student ministry for one year. Perhaps God made me Japanese and saved me through student ministry so that I can serve Him in student ministry among the Japanese. I pray that the ways God has written my story would be for His glory and praise. I pray that God might also use this year to help me discern whether He may lead me to serve as a long-term missionary in Japan or in Japanese diaspora ministry in the future. God has done much in my life in these three years, and I pray that my life would be an offering of thanksgiving in this year in Japan and the years beyond!
In the meantime, since my departure for Japan has been postponed due to COVID-19, God has provided me an opportunity to work with OMF Canada! I will be working in media mobilization, using social media to engage the younger generation in global missions. Check us out on Instagram at @omf_ca!