From Despair to Hope (Testimony of an EC20 Beyond Participant)

Ryoko Kawaguchi (JCFN member in Miyagi)

I was in despair. I was really in despair. I was so busy working, going to bed, waking up, working, going to bed again…. There was no hope for me. I was desperate to finish the day. Before going to bed at night, I even wished that tomorrow morning would never come. Even now, as I write this, I am crying from the pain of living a life without hope or joy. ______

 

I studied in California for six years starting in 2000. I had a hard time studying, but I also made many Christian friends and had a blessed time. After returning to Japan, although I had some ups and downs in my faith, I was working at a Christian workplace and participating in Christian gatherings for returnees, so I didn’t fall away from the church, and I was having a good time both at church and at work.

 

It was after I got married that I started to change (no, it wasn’t because of my husband, just so you know). After the Great East Japan Earthquake, my husband, who is a Christian, and I began to live in the Tohoku area for long-term support. We came to the area with great enthusiasm, feeling like a hero, to share the gospel with the people living in the disaster area, but I was immediately beaten down. First of all, I had no friends. The church was too quiet (of course, that was not a bad thing, but I was confused by how different it was from the churches I had been to). When I looked to my right and left, I saw mostly elderly people. Even so, I took it as a positive sign and said, “This is the kind of environment God dared to give us.” I continued to attend church diligently, but my faith quickly weakened. My new job became busier and busier, and although I was supposed to be going to church to receive blessings, I came home only feeling tired. I didn’t know what the point of going to church was. I didn’t know what “Christianity” was in the first place, and my old energetic self had gone away.

 

I suddenly realized that I had no motivation to evangelize people in the disaster area, and instead, I was being evangelized by the people in the disaster area (laughs). But I didn’t have the courage or faith to overcome, so I just nodded my head. I think I was more afraid of what people would think if I said, “I’m a Christian. So I decided to go on a wandering trip to find another church (with my husband and children, of course). As a family, we went to a different church every week. However, since I went to church with the feeling that “the church will take care of it,” there was no one church that completely satisfied my heart, and we continued to go to some church every week for a long time (this is an ongoing process). Of course, with such an uptight attitude, it was impossible for the message to penetrate my heart, and I never made any Christian friends. In any case, I wanted to minimize the time I spent on church-related matters, and use the time to get home early to work and do homework for my children.

 

The time was December 2020. It was the busiest time of the year at work, and my heart was finally dying. I was at my limit. That day, after coming home from church exhausted, I took a nap without knowing it, and when I woke up, it was evening and my bedroom was completely dark. I was staring at my phone in the dark, afraid to come back to reality. Then I saw the EC information. And this year, it was online. There was no way I could go to California to participate, not without leaving my husband and children behind in Japan, and not having the money to pay for it in the first place. I wanted to change, I wanted to be changed, I wanted to praise God from my heart like I used to.

 

The morning of the EC day. I was feeling pretty guilty. “What if there are really hot Christians there?” “What if I feel completely away?” “What if I meet someone who knows me from the past? However, my fears were wiped away in no time, and I was in tears immediately after the first message by Pastor Kuroda. I can only explain that God touched me, but anyway, I cried all day long. Above all, being able to share with Christian friends in small groups softened my heart, which had been sharp as a knife.

 

Up until now, I had experienced the so-called worldly life of an ordinary person, away from God. I worked very hard and received a good salary. However, I had children and if I spent money, it would be gone in an instant (of course). When I thought about what I could have left behind after working so hard, I couldn’t leave anything behind. Really nothing. After working so hard and ignoring God, the only thing I had left was fatigue and despair. When I went before God, instead of praising me and saying, “You’ve worked hard and saved up all this money,” God said, “Faithful servant, you’ve done well. You’ve done well. I experienced firsthand that there is no other way but to leave behind “faith, hope and love” in order for God to praise me.

 

As a side note, when I was working for a Christian organization, I had a chance to talk with an orphan boy from Africa. He told me something like this. He said to me, “If you know God, it’s like you have everything. But if you don’t know God, it’s like you don’t have anything. I laughed it off in my mind, thinking, “That’s so exaggerated!” But now I know that what he said was true. After 15 years of being told by a 10 year old, I finally realized the truth.

 

After joining EC, I realized how important it is to connect with Christian friends and encourage each other. In the past, I had thought, “I’m such a person of faith, I’ll be fine on my own! I want to kick my past self out! I want to continue to connect with my Christian friends (even if I have to force myself to do so), encourage each other in our faith, and continue to cling to God’s love.

 

I wanted to write my testimony because I wanted to thank the EC committee members and all the people who made the EC possible. It was my first time to participate in an online EC, and I am so grateful to you for making it happen. If it wasn’t for online, I would never have been able to attend! Thank you so much!

 

“This is why the things that last forever are faith, hope, and love.”(I Corinthians 13:13)

 

The reason why it took me so long to write my testimony from EC2020 to now is because I was busy with work, but also because I wanted to take some time to see if I was just excited about the event. However, my love for God still burns brightly, so I thought it would be okay and wrote this with gratitude to God and everyone.

EC20 Beyond Workshop Staff’s Pick, Part 2!

EC20 Beyond Workshop Staff’s Pick, Part 2!

I like this! Recommended! The second pick is by Mr. Maki Goto.

Let’s see!

“Pandemic and Faith” by Rev. Kazuhiko Yamazaki Ransom

“The spread of the new coronavirus has changed our world forever. We will look at how we should walk as believers in the midst of this crisis from the Bible.” (Japanese Only)

 

EC20 Beyond Testimony

Yuka Akashi

I made the decision to accept Christ last April, and I will be returning to Japan next month (February). Since I began my college life, I was surrounded by Christians and that has become my norm.  Now, I am going to live as a Christian in Japan, I have no idea what that would look like.  I hadn’t even thought about it before EC, but after I had decided to register for EC, I began wondering how I’m going to keep my faith.  I was worried about not knowing where the churches are or anything about a Christian life in Japan.  I wanted to become a Christian because I had this special environment.  I was worried about leaving my faith once I returned to Japan.  In fact, I wish I hadn’t said that I would become a Christian. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I even thought that.

EC is a perfect conference for a new Christian and a soon-to-be-returnee.  It was just the thing for me!  I was able to attend because it was online, but because it was online, I could only listen to the sermons in between my work and it was difficult to concentrate at times.  I was able to make many connections with people in Japan in small groups and by region, and was introduced to many churches and related events and communities.  Among them, I was able to feel God’s work through the Soul Care Ministry.

 

When I applied for this counseling program, there was a section on the application form where I had to write down the details of my issues.  I didn’t have any major problems at the time, but I thought I’d just apply for the counseling, so I wrote something like, “I made a decision to accept God in April, but everything is online. I’m going back to Japan soon, so I’d like to think about what I’ll do after I return to Japan.” 

I thought that the counselor was aware of my issue, but she didn’t seem to know anything about it and she was anxiously praying for the time together with me.

On the day of the session, I spoke with the counselor for the first time via Zoom. At that point, I had some questions and concerns about returning to Japan through the EC program, so when she asked me about my concerns, I told her that I wanted to ask about how to find a church and relationships with my family and relatives after I returned.  She had experienced a similar situation as me when she returned to Japan. Her face instantly lit up and it became obvious to us that it was arranged by God for us to meet.  

I will be baptized next Tuesday.

 

I had a feeling that Christianity was a part of American culture, but when I realized that there are so many believers in Japan, I felt that the God we believe in is the same God everywhere, the one and only, the absolute, and that we are all connected through Him.

The thought of being connected with so many Japanese Christians and Christians who support them gave me courage and made me feel less anxious about returning to Japan. I am not afraid because I have friends and the same God. From now on, no matter what people say about me in Japan, no matter what difficulties I face, I want to believe in God’s timing and grow in Him.

 

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