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I grew up in a strong Christian home and attended a Japanese American church called San Fernando Holiness Church (now called Crossway Church). Our church was involved with JEMS and our church conference made up of other Japanese American churches. So I grew up knowing about JEMS and Mount Hermon. I always had people who were great influences in my life: My parents were very strong role models—my biggest heroes. My Sunday School teachers and my youth group leaders were also influential. I also think that the week long camp experience at Mount Hermon helped me stay grounded in my walk with the Lord.
I can’t remember the year our family started going to Mount Hermon, but I was pretty young when we attended family camp together. I can still remember some of the songs we sang, going to the Fountain (snack bar) and sitting around the campfire at Victory circle. It was something we looked forward to every year and still have very fond memories. It was great going as a family!
Even though I became a Christian when I was young, I believe I can say that Mount Hermon is where I made a decision to make my relationship with Jesus a personal one. I remember it was my first year at Junior High camp. Being on the shy side and away from my family, I remember being nervous and telling the Lord, “Jesus, I need you to be with me and to be real to me.” And you know, He did! I also had a great cabin leader, Nancy Kuwahara. I just remember her saying, “Just seek God and He will be there for you and will reveal to you what He wants for you.” That camp was a turning point for me because I truly felt Him working in me and through me. In those awkward junior high years, I felt so insecure about many things, and yet God just became so real and met me where I needed to be met. And Mount Hermon was great for developing relationships with other kids—friends that I met back then are still in my life today—which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
I attended Mount Hermon every year until college camp. In my last year in college camp, the speaker was Daniel Brown. I was about to graduate college so I knew that it was a significant year with big changes ahead of me. I remember that Daniel Brown spoke one night on stepping out in faith. He said [in my memory], “Most people don’t follow the call God has on their life because they’re sitting around, waiting for a great big neon sign from heaven to tell them exactly what to do. But sometimes, you just gotta step out in faith, because you may never get that neon sign. Let me ask you this: if you step out in faith, what’s the worse that can happen? Maybe you go there and it doesn’t work out. So what? You come back home, maybe a little embarrassed, but at least you tried! But what if, what if you go and it’s exactly where God wants you to be. Oh, there is nothing better than being in God’s perfect will! I see so many who miss out on what God has for their life because they are still waiting for that big sign…when sometimes, you just need to be moved by faith. Don’t miss out on what God has for your life.” That was significant for me. I really took that to heart because an opportunity had come up at camp. Someone at camp opened up an invitation to go to Hawaii to learn about church planting for one year. And I just felt the heart tug. I felt God speaking through Daniel Brown that night. After camp, I prayed and got counsel from my parents, who were JEMS missionaries serving in Japan at that time. I had no neon sign about making this move except the peace of God in my heart.
So shortly after Mount Hermon, I stepped out in faith, moved to Hawaii for one year to learn about church planting. Amazingly, Hawaii is where I met my husband. I never would have met him if I had not gone to Mount Hermon to have the speaker encourage me to step out of my comfort zone and walk by faith.
We got married a few years later and we both had a heart for missions and knew that God was going to call us to the field one day. For myself, that seed of missions was planted in my heart by my parents who served as JEMS missionaries when they reached retirement age. So from the beginning of our marriage, God starting preparing our hearts and equipping us for what He had in store for us on the mission field. It took 11 years after we got married before we ended up on the mission field.
Now, for the past 10 years, we have been serving on the mission field in Thailand. God has called us to fight against child trafficking. We serve under the ministry of ZOE International. It’s a honor and privilege to be on the field to serve our God in this way and help save these precious children from the horrors of child trafficking, whether its being a slave to labor or prostitution.
When we moved to Thailand to be missionaries, my son was only four years old and he’s now 14 years old. In about three years, he’s going to college. He is what you call a “third culture kid,” where he has spent most of his life outside of his passport country in a foreign country. He doesn’t know American culture and doesn’t know a lot of people here, even though we come back every summer. It’s hard to develop friendships for just a couple months.
So I started praying, “Lord, I know he’s going to be going to college soon. And I want to prepare him now. How can I do that?” I read one piece of advice for third culture kids coming back to their home country: it’s important for them to have friends or groups that they’re already familiar with and can relate to when they get back. So immediately, Mount Hermon came to mind. I thought, what a great opportunity! We can go every summer, and it will be his chance to meet other kids his age and have a connection in some ways so that it’s not totally foreign when he goes to college. So we have been going to Mount Hermon for the past four years now. It’s amazing to see, my son having the same opportunity that I had when I was his age, to go to camp to develop friendships and deepen his relationship with the Lord. When I reflect back on my Mount Hermon experiences, I just appreciate how God really used the camp and the people who came to camp, to impact my life.
Lynne and her husband Lester Ginoza have served in Thailand with ZOE International since 2005. ZOE International shares the love of Jesus and helps to rescue children from human trafficking.
Lynne Ginoza’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.
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