How I Came To Follow Jesus
The Lord has been so good to me. He has been watching over me even before I got to know Him. He has been faithful and guiding me to His path according to His amazing plan with Grace and Marcy. Coming to know there is God who loves me was the very best thing that has ever happened in my life.
I was born and grew up in Japan, where Christian population is less than 5 %. My parents worshipped ancestors and multiple gods just like ordinary Japanese, but because the next door was a church, they sent me to the Sunday School and the preschool, which belonged to the church. I loved both schools and enjoyed listening to Jesus’ stories and singing hymns. I learned how to pray just like learning how to use chopsticks and would pray every night.
But as I grew older my mind was getting crowded with other interests, and especially when I encountered Mormons, who told me as a middle school girl, they were the true Christians, while my Sunday School teacher told me to stay away from them, for the first time I learned there are false churches and teachings. I got scared and concluded that the religions were too dangerous to pursue. I stopped going to a church or praying for next 20 +years until I married George.
Marriage changes our lives, and my case was not an exception.
When George proposed me, he asked me one thing, “ Will you seek God with me?”
That time George was an English Adult School teacher, and I was a typical Japanese who believed in charms or fortunetellers whatever people told me that it had a superpower. I was ignorant about God, but arrogantly said to him,
“ No problem. I used to go to Sunday School and I know Jesus. Christmas is His birthday and Easter is His resurrection!”
I thought what George was asking me was like going to Starbucks every Sunday. Peace of Cake! I
So George took me to a church. It was 21 years ago. My English was so poor that the pastor’s message was way over my head and I was so bored and reluctant to go there.
George also started an ESL Bible study at our house inviting his students. I joined the class, of cause, but I had attitude thinking like, “ Adam and Eve were the first human beings? No. I believe a monkey is our origin. Adam lived for 930 years? Are you kidding me? I didn’t learn such ridiculous things at school! ”
On the other hand, I was showing our boys Japanese traditional festivals, or seasonal customs, all of which were some forms of worshipping idols or gods, and everything what I did became subjects for questions for George. “ Why do you give food to those dolls?” “What is this ornament? What does this mean?” He constantly asked questions to me, and I felt like becoming Christian is quitting Japanese. I didn’t like it at all.
Then God moved His piece.
He Was Coming After Me
George, who worried about my spiritual growth, suggested looking for a Japanese church.
So I did. I found a small Japanese church congregating at current Double Tree Hotel. On the first day I met the Japanese pastor, learning that George used to be a pastor, he immediately asked me if George could work for his church. He wanted to build a bilingual church and was looking for English speaking pastor—he explained to me.
It was crazy, but all of sudden George became a part-time pastor in the small Japanese church, and I, who was not even a believer yet, became a pastor’s wife. On top of that I was asked to be George’s interpreter. That forced me to pay my full attention to what George spoke to the congregation and Bible verses he read. I didn’t have time to yarn any more.
God moved the 2nd piece.
Since I was not Christian, George and I were not equally yoked. We didn’t have a good start of the marriage. We were arguing constantly. However, each time George got upset and left for somewhere, he came back with apology.
Saying,” I am sorry,” is very difficult for me even now days, but he was able to do so, and as he said, “ I’m sorry,” my calloused heart got soften and I could say, “I’m sorry,” too. I was curious why he could become so humble.
Then one day I noticed he was praying. He would say to me, “ God is offering His hand to us. We only need to take His hand, and then He will transform us.” That’s it! George is patient and humble because he is holding God’s hand. Then me, too! I want to hold His hand, too! —It was the first time I truly desired to get close to God.
God moved the 3rd peace. This time it was the real game changer.
Japanese Girl Miyuki
In the spring of 1997, one article in a Japanese local newspaper caught my attention. The article said;
An 8-year-old girl is coming from Tokyo to UCLA Medical Center for a heart transplant. In Japan, brain death is not legal yet, therefore organ transplantations is not available. The parents of the girl, Miyuki, who had a serious heart disease, chose to come to the US for seeking their last hope. Her picture next to the article looked like exactly my niece and I was totally drawn to her story. She was not the first one who came to the US for a heart transplant. There were more, but this was the first time I was moved, and an US radio station broadcasted her story and reported her condition daily.
“She is in serious condition, but still waiting for a donor…” Listening to the radio, I was sobbing. Then George told me, “ Maybe God is calling you. Why don’t you do something for her?”
I never thought about it, but being encouraged, I called the hospital. A lady over the phone declined me saying there were enough volunteers already. I tried, so let it go—I thought, but the radio kept saying she was getting worsen bleeding excessively.
I felt some urgency and couldn’t settle. I decided to write a letter for her and her family. Yet, holding a pen, I didn’t know what to write. I thought I couldn’t say “keep fighting” or “Hang on” because she has been fighting more than enough. Then an unexpected thought came in: God is with her. Whatever happens and wherever she goes, God who created her is always with her. So she doesn’t have to be afraid of anything. I don’t want her to think her life was waste because she touched so many people’s hearts, including mine. I’m so thankful for her being born!
The Bible I used to not believe started empowering me, and I was depending on God who was called ” Immanuel” (God is with us).
I visited an ICU at the hospital with George hoping to meet her parents, but unfortunately they were not at the bedside. So I handed the letters and the angel Teddy Bear, which was holding a red heart, to a nurse and had to leave being disappointed.
The next morning, in the car, I heard the stunning news: Miyuki passed away early in that morning. I wept and had to pull over the car.
“God, Why did you take her away? Why didn’t you save her? Why did you listen to my prayers? She was only 8 coming from Japan all the way to the US. Why? Why?” I blamed God.
A couple months passed. The event of Miyuki appeared to become a past memory, and then a surprise long letter came from Japan. It was from the parents of Miyuki. I was very excited.
“We still have tears remembering how kind everyone was. ”
As I read the sentence, a strong feeling plunged into me and burst into tears again, but this time with joy.
God was there in the midst of the desperation. He didn’t leave Miyuki alone, or the family. Yes! He was with them. He was faithful! I was so grateful.
Shortly after then, the chance to meet the parents came finally. In the emotional meeting, they told me that a new Japanese patient was at the hospital again for a heart-transplant but her heart was arrested.
“Kazuyo-san (my Japanese name), would you please help them?” the parents asked.
Though I had no plan to be involved anything more than Miyuki, and knew nothing about organ transplants, my journey of the organ transplant ministry began this way.
International Organ Transplant Ministry
Soon I learned that the patients were coming one after another constantly. They didn’t have any family or friends here and didn’t speak English.
One day I called the hospital asking for an interpreter for the family, and then I don’t know what happened, but several days later the hospital called me and asked me to come to a meeting with the family. I didn’t understand what that meant first, but once I noticed that the hospital was asking me to be an interpreter, I instantly reacted, “ No way!” and was going to decline the request, but George stood between the phone and me saying, “ Who were you married? How long have you been married? I know your English is not perfect, but the family doesn’t know any English. They are Japanese, your people. Go and help them!”
That time I was an English-Japanese interpreter at a public high school and my English medical knowledge was only from the biology class. What George was telling me was like jumping off from a cliff. Without any confidence, however, holding a dictionary, and praying all the way, I went to the hospital. The first interpretation was only a few minutes, but from then the hospital started calling me for a medical interpretation day and night several times a week. Although my work was a part-time, it was more than I could handle. Then telling me, “Don’t worry,” George went to the Adult school to recruit his students. As nobody responded, He summoned again.
“Why are you studying English? Because you want to play golf in PV, or to make your career? You are taking but how about giving?”
When he came home, he showed me a list of volunteers, and we formed a new volunteer group. We neither had a name nor founds. We didn’t advertise, but the volunteers were always provided by mouth to mouth.
We would find an accommodation, furniture, all house goods, drive them to the hospital or grocery shopping, interpret outside and inside the hospital, and be alongside them even at 2 or 3 am. By doing so, I saw their agonies, fears, and excitements of receiving an organ or devastations of losing their beloved ones.
No matter how much technology has improved, we are always vulnerable in front of death. Like a thirsty person seeking water, I sought help in the Bible. Gradually, I noticed that this world is not “The Garden of Eden”, but is distorted by our Sin. Nobody has a guaranty to live tomorrow. If we have today, it’s all God’s grace. I started thinking that even if it’s a short life, had she or he touched someone’s heart and change the life, it would be much more fruitful than a selfish 70 or 80 years of life in God’s eyes.
Soon after starting ministry, as though a ripe berry dropped on the ground, I had no more reason to hesitate and accepted Jesus as my savior. He won my heart. I was baptized by George 12/27/98.
Everything Has Changed
From there everything has changed. Volunteering has always brought me close to God and words in the Bible have started breathing. Each time when a donor gave an organ and a patient was saved, I felt like watching a rerun of the cross. A donor who gave life by shedding blood and tears overlapped with Jesus who had died on the cross in order to give us the eternal life. Jesus is my donor, I thought, and He has become precious more and more.
As I came to love Jesus, the arguments between George and I were getting less and less. As the relationship between George and I became better, the relationship between our sons and us became better, also.
The organ transplant ministry lasted for 13 years until 2009 when the hospital raised the medical cost almost double from $1 million after the renovation of the facilities. The patients started going to the east coast looking for cheaper hospitals and stopped coming to LA. The organ transplant ministry finally came to the end.
The Ministry Was Preparation for Cancer Battle
A half year later, in May 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. God knew what was coming to me, so He closed the organ transplant ministry. That’s how I feel.
My life turned upside down and I was dismayed. I thought my days might be numbered. Then how should I live? –I pondered. If I will die soon, I’d like to know the Lord whom I will meet in Heaven better. So I decided to retire to study the Bible, to give time to the church, and to support other cancer patients.
This was a right decision. My relationships with God and people have been much tighter.
When I was in organ transplant ministry, I thought I was helping the patients and their families. Yes. God called me, who was nobody so that it was clear that the all the good works were done because of Him. Yet, I also realized that God game me the ministry as a preparation or the training ground for me to battle against cancer.
I had seen how much the patients longed for the donors, how much sacrifice the donors and their families paid, how precious it was to be able to just breath the air without depending on machines. I had learned everything is Grace, gifts, and we are entitled for nothing. There is God who is called, Immanuel, who promised never to forsake us no matter what happens, and the death is not the final word!
Everything I experienced and learned have helped me.
Everything Is In His Hand
At the beginning of my cancer journey, I was too afraid of saying, “Thy will be done,” because I thought I could not handle if His Will is different from mine and go down the hill. Then someone told me to ask God for the strength. I believe God is almighty and doesn’t make any mistakes. Then if He doesn’t take away cancer from me, I need the strength and courage to accept it. So I started praying so, and He has been giving them every day until this day.
A half year before my diagnosis, I changed the health insurance from PPO to Kaiser without knowing what was coming, but because of this decision, my co-pay for the treatments is zero most of the time. Without the insurance one dose of the chemo cost about $10 thousand. Even if the co-pay is 10%, I am not sure if I could’ve continued chemo without changing the insurance.
When my cancer spread to the lungs, it was a Japanese cancer friend that gave me the name of the chemo, Taxol, which brought me into two year remission. Not the doctors I paid to get their opinions, and I didn’t look for her but she reached out to me through this blog.
As our 20th wedding anniversary, George and I could go to the holy land, Israel, out of blue in the midst of the treatment .
When George was laid off, we were given unexpected financial supports and the place to continue his ministry.
There were more miracles and Graces God provided for George and me. Actually if I look all the way back in my life, I see numerous His interventions.
My father was in Hiroshima, when the atomic bomb was dropped. His troop was outside for the morning assembly and they were all killed except my father, who was still tying his shoes inside a house. One year later he was diagnosed with leukemia and hospitalized more than a year. He survived again, but was told he might not have any children. Yet I was born in a good health.
Growing up next to the church learning about Jesus, coming to the US, married George, and involved in the organ transplant ministry—all of them were not coincidences but God’s ingenious plan for my salvation.
My cancer has been progressing since the beginning of this year and my options are getting less and less. If I look at the stormy water, I will sink just like Peter who was walking on the water, but God has told me many times, “ Do not be afraid! Be courageous! You are precious to me. I am with you!” He has been with me even before I was born, and He will walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death until I get to the other side, where I will receive a new body, which never gets sick or die.
I don’t know how long I can live, or what will happen to my future, but my prayer is that I am able to have a good fight giving glory to God every day, and every moment, so that at the end I can say, “ I have finished my race and I have kept my faith,” just like Paul. Because I have the loving heavenly Father and He is good all the time!