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My Long-Awaited Baptism: A Japanese Woman Shares Her Faith Journey

After 16 years of attending church regularly, I was finally able to get baptized last year, on Christmas day. I would like to give a testimony about my story.

It was 30 years ago when I first started going to church. It all started when my second daughter married a pastor of the Shiboku Church, a church near my house in Kawasaki City, Japan. Back then I only went to church on Christmas, Easter, or on some other occasions. Soon after, I had to move to Okayama to take care of my husband’s and my own aging parents. Nursing four people at the same time was hard work, and I never had the chance to go to church during this time.

When the nursing period came to an end 17 years ago, we decided to move back to Perth, Australia, where we once lived a long time ago, due to my husband’s work.

I saw my sin for the first time

In Perth, I started to attend the Perth Japanese Christian Church, which had just been started by Pastor Stephen Young who was sent by Mission to the World and the Presbyterian Church in America. This time I was determined to learn about the Bible more properly. Through Sunday services, Bible studies twice a week, fellowship with the church members, I was drawn closer to the world of the Bible and the words of God, and my heart was filled with His words.

At first, it took me some time to realize what my sins were. I thought I never committed any serious sin. When I had the time to look deeply in my heart, I realized that there was arrogance, selfishness, jealousy, judging others, vanity, and such deep sinful things. I started to ask God for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart. Especially judging others was one of my biggest sins of pride.

I remember an incident that happened to me before I came to Perth, just after my father passed away, that shook my relationship with my brothers and sisters. A precious artwork done by my father, who was a professional butsugaka (religious painter who paints the image of Buddha or ideas based on Buddhist belief, in a traditional Japanese style), went missing. I was accused by my brothers and sisters for taking it away. I was shocked and could not forgive them for accusing me. Later it turned out that my father placed it in a different spot before his death, but I was still upset that they had ruined the heart of my father’s artwork, something he devoted his life to.

As I look back at this incident, I can now understand that I was judging. Being the oldest child in the family, I always felt the responsibility to take good care of my parents. Inside my heart I was always judging and blaming my siblings that they should be more caring and helpful, while they were helping in the ways they could. This thought of mine had probably appeared to them, made them feel uncomfortable, and led them to this accusation.

“Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1). Through this verse I was able to know my sins clearly and was able to understand the true meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion.

For five years I attended the Perth Japanese Christian Church. When we had to return to Japan, I knew I wanted to be baptized and I talked to my husband about it. He said he needed more time to think about it. In 2007 I had to leave Perth without getting baptized. At the time of my departure, Pastor Young said to me, “You already are a Christian because you have professed your faith in Jesus.” Those words supported me and guided me to this Higashi-Okayama Church.

Journey out of Buddhism 
Before I go on, I would like to tell you about my family background. I grew up in a family where Buddhism was a large part of my life. My great-grandfather was a monk, with the name Shunri-Shounin (Shounin is a title given to a monk with a high ranking). My grandfather was a Buddhist priest, who later became a professor of philosophy of religion at a university and, as I said earlier, my father was a Buddhist painter. He was said to be the last butsugaka with this traditional technique. He lived his whole life in honesty and righteousness, and kept painting the images of a praying Buddha until he died at the age of 92. Today pieces of my father’s artwork are carefully stored in some of the largest temples in Japan, like Kouya-san.

There are some words I remember my father often used to say; “I trust God for everything in my life,” “There must be God, there is no other way.” Although he spent his life as a Buddhist painter, I feel that he had been seeing the light of God. I remember my mother used to say “it’s all God’s will” all the time. The reason why I wanted to learn from the Bible is I am sure from the influence of their way of life and because of my children receiving baptism in church as teenagers. My parents taught me the existence of God, and the way they lived their lives made a great influence on me in accepting the words of God.

Waiting on baptism
In this Higashi-Okayama Church, I participated in Sunday services, adult fellowship, a small study group, Omachi-family group, and another group called Eternity. Through these studies I was able to learn more deeply about God. I had always wanted to get baptized, but my husband had not come up with an answer yet. There were also problems I had to face in the Japanese society. These struggles always stood in my way.

Eleven years have passed since I started coming to Higashi-Okayama Church. I felt the joy of praising God when I went to church every Sunday. I listened to the sermons, sang hymns and participated in the fellowship. Through these means I have come to know more about God.

But the other side of me was suffering from the request of my husband, “Please wait a little.” It was very hard for me that I could not do anything about it, especially when I knew all my church members were praying for me and for my baptism. Sometimes I even thought all these things are happening because my faith might not be strong enough, but I tried to believe that God has a plan for me and He will guide me until the right time comes.

There was one more concern I had about my baptism: my family relationship with the Buddhist temple. Twenty years ago, when my father-in-law died, my husband and I were urged to find a gravesite for him. We agreed on a membership to my family temple, which was one of the temples that stored my father’s great paintings. I had to think about what we were going to do with this relationship.

Last September, my husband suddenly told me we will go to the temple to ask for the removal of our membership. Before this, we had told the priest that our four children were Christians and that my son-in-law is a Christian pastor, but we had never spoken about myself nor my beliefs. In all sincerity, my husband and I talked to the Buddhist priest about what was going on including the fact that our son was living in Germany. There were no children who could carry on the responsibility of the gravesite. The priest accepted the request for our removal. He also promised he will take care of our parent’s grave. We were able to come to a surprisingly good agreement.

My husband, although he never said it out loud, had been trying to figure out a way for my baptism all these years. I would like to thank him for his kindness and love. I was able to get baptized with clear and peaceful feelings.

“Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death, … He has set the right time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 11 GNT).

I thank God for these verses that He had given me. For all these years He had been patiently waiting for me until the right time He set had come. I am thankful to Him for that. I pray that I can live the rest of my life in the deep love of Jesus Christ who atoned for my sins on the cross. I desire to live my life as a child of God, eternally with His peace.

The next verse is what I hope to keep in my heart all the time: “Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 GNT).

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. N, and all the church members from the bottom of my heart for your many years of continuous prayer for me. I would also like to thank Pastor Young and his family, who returned to America, for praying for me and sending me sermons every week, even from there.

This testimony was given on Easter Sunday 2019.  

*Name has been changed.

Yuna*, Perth Australia Jul 11, 2019
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