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In God’s Gracious Time and Place

In God’s Gracious Time and Place

This past spring, a Christar team in Japan held a baptismal service for two women who professed their trust in Jesus and expressed a desire to declare their faith publicly! At the service, Yoko and Saotome* shared their testimonies before members of their church as well as a few nonbelieving neighbors and friends.

Yoko’s Story

Loyal, forthright and independent, Yoko married an American and lived in the United States for 22 years. During her time in the Pacific Northwest, her openness to spirituality and fascination with miracles drew her to the New Age philosophy that was prominent in that region, as well as to ancestor worship. But, though she had a big house and lived a successful American life, she faced deep hardship. When her children were nearly grown, she and her husband ended their marriage, and she returned to the small city in Japan where her parents lived.

While Yoko was thankful to be with her mother and father in her home country, she deeply missed her children who were still living in the U.S. Loneliness and culture shock led to depression, and she began seeking treatment at a mental health clinic. And, though she was grateful for the warm welcome she received from her parents, their care couldn’t address the deep needs of her soul. “Because I was able to eat my mother’s homemade food, my physical body became better each day,” Yoko recalls. “But my heart was still down.”

In a conversation with her doctor about absolute truth, Yoko was shocked and distressed to hear that her physician believed that truth was decided by the majority and that it would change from time to time. She reasoned, “This meant that even if I took medicine, I wouldn’t be completely healed because things change. I would be living a life without any stability or direction.” Despite what she’d been told, she was convinced that unchanging truth did indeed exist.

Amid her search for answers, God was ever-present. When she spotted a man who looked like an American at the mall, her curiosity over what a Westerner would be doing in a rural area of Japan led her to talk with him. That man was Christar worker Ben. While waiting for Ben’s wife, Angela, to return from shopping, they conversed not only about Yoko’s time in the U.S. but also about spiritual matters. When Ben invited her to attend their church, Yoko agreed to visit that Sunday.

After years of attending church and Bible studies, Yoko slowly started growing in her knowledge about the Lord, but she was cautious in her journey as she sought to avoid falling once again into false beliefs. At times, Yoko started drifting away from the church; but a Japanese believer in her town would encourage her to continue coming. “She was used as an instrument of God to keep me connected,” Yoko shares. Though she still had hesitations and questions about various spiritual matters like reincarnation, Ben acknowledges, “[We] thought she was ready to be baptized … and the Holy Spirit was working patiently and gently in her life and heart.”

In God’s gracious timing, and after many years of prayers for her, Yoko expressed her faith in Christ and her desire to publicly profess her faith. At her baptism, Yoko shared, “When I look back, I realize that through faith Jesus used many ways and many different people to lead me to church.” Quoting Matthew 7:7-8—“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (NASB)—she expressed her gratitude that the Lord graciously answered her prayers while she was hurting and searching.

Reflecting on Yoko’s journey to faith, Ben explains, “the whole thing was a miracle.” He shares that almost always, multiple believers invest in the lives of Japanese individuals who trust in Christ and mature in faith. In a country where less than 1% of the population has a personal relationship with Jesus, both local believers and cross-cultural workers have vital roles in seeing people embrace the good news. As was the case for Yoko, God often uses Japanese believers who share their testimonies and come alongside those who are seeking spiritual truth but struggling with cultural norms and expectations.

God also uses cross-cultural workers like Ben who partner with the small number of local Christians and help build the Church. Ben and his teammates minister closely with two Japanese pastors, and they are personally invested in each other’s ministries. Together, they are working to see a thriving, self-sustaining body of believers established in their rural area, trusting the Lord to use their efforts over the long term even if they don’t personally witness all of the results. As Ben says, “God is at work even if we can’t see it.”

Participate by Praying

  • Praise God for His faithfulness demonstrated in Yoko’s and Saotome’s testimonies!
  • Ask the Lord to raise up more Japanese pastors to assist with local discipleship and outreach.
  • Pray that God would lead believers to people in whom He is already at work and drawing to Himself.
  • The wealth enjoyed by many people in the region has created apathy regarding spiritual needs. Pray that their hearts would be opened to the truth and hope found only in Christ.

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