Today I am filled with happiness that I am being baptised, and it will be my truly memorable, spiritual birthday. There is nothing so important or so fulfilling as following Jesus Christ. Without Him life is empty and meaningless. I became a Christian and promised to follow Jesus Christ on the Saturday evening of 6th May this year in front of the members of Japanese Christian Fellowship at the Henry Martyn Hall. I thank God for Bartow, Gordon, Cecilia, Genevieve, Liz, Mike, Sakae, Hazel, Yoshiko, Lisa, David, Julie, Julia, John, Esther, Ard, Alison, Chiranjib, and so many, many Christian friends in Cambridge. You always help me, support me and teach me the Bible seriously. At first I could not understand why you are so kind to me because I am only a foreigner to you. But now I can understand clearly that your pure kindness is God’s love and mercy in action. I cannot possibly put my thanks into words. This is God’s plan. I believe that God called me to Cambridge.

Now I am very relaxed and calm, because at last I have been able to find the truth which I have been seeking for many, many years (about 40 years). From when I was a junior high school student, I wanted to see the truth. In those days, I did not know what the truth was. Nevertheless, I yearned to know the truth. I got married to a Buddhist priest, because I thought that if I was near Buddha in the temple, I would be able to find the truth and spend an ideal, spiritual life. But I could not find the truth there. I felt as though I was suffocating; it was as if I couldn’t breathe at all. I could not endure living this false life, which was full of sin. I was all but dead. I was very, very thirsty. I wanted to drink true water, life-living water.

Although I had two children (a son and a daughter), I decided to divorce my husband and leave the Buddhist temple. I went back to my parents' house with the children. But when I was not at home, my daughter was kidnapped by my ex-husband. My mother held my son in her arms and ran away. After that, a messenger sent from my ex-husband told my parents that if I came back to the temple, everything would be fine; but if I would not, he would never let me have my daughter. I was forced to face the harsh reality of having to lose her. If I left the temple, I would have to leave my daughter, too. At that time she was only 7 years old. Of course, I did my best to recover my daughter, but all my efforts were in vain. In those days in Japan, patriarchal society still prevailed and the court took the man’s side. It was the cruelest reality of my life for me. Which way should I go, stay in the temple with my daughter without life-living water or continue to seek the truth? I could not describe the anguish in words.

Being in agony, I decided to seek for the truth. That was when I lost my daughter. Rationally speaking, it is inconceivable for a mother to abandon her loving daughter. It was most painful for me. Why didn’t I decide to stay in the temple with my daughter? Why? Why? Why? Why did I have to separate from my daughter? What a terrible mother I was! Suffering from heavy burdens and sins, and seeking the answer, I have been living in a dark tunnel for a long, long time. I longed for the light, I wanted so desperately to find the true light. Even if it were a very tiny light, it would give me hope. My daughter’s name is Nozomi, which means “Hope”. I lost my “Hope”. I could not find the light and the truth. I was in a helpless plight. Since then, for 20 years, my heart has been empty and meaningless; I felt as though I were drifting through life, without purpose and without hope. It was this same feeling that prompted these words from the Teacher in Ecclesiastes in The Bible:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless”. What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.
(Ecclesiastes 1:2-5)

And another verse:

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
All of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
(Ecclesiastes 1:14)

With such an empty heart, I arrived in Cambridge at the end of August last year. By chance I went to the Barn of St Barnabas Church, and began to read the Bible. I started to learn about Jesus Christ. But now I know that it was not “chance” that I went to church but that it was all part of God’s plan. God began knocking on the door of my heart. After studying the Bible for about 5 months, I had to go back to Japan for a fortnight to take my Ph.D. viva. However, I fell and fractured my right ankle at Heathrow Airport and was in hospital for two months in Japan, as many of you know. At first I was very irritated, confused and lonely, because I could not understand that God was in the hospital and in Japan. Truly I missed all the friends in Cambridge, who kept encouraging me and praying fervently for me. Thinking of God, praying to God, and reading the Bible, my heart gradually became calmer and calmer. I knew that God was not only in Cambridge, but was always with me. God is in my heart. The accident was a good opportunity to think seriously about God, his love, mercy, grace and friendship.

After coming back to Cambridge again, at last I found the absolute answer why I had had to leave my daughter. The Bible tells me the following:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters --- yes, even his own life --- he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”
(Luke 14:26-27)

“I tell you the truth”, Jesus said to them, “no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life”
(Luke 18:29-30)

When I read these sentences, my heart was moved with emotion, and I realised that I had had to leave my daughter in order to find God. I met HIM, who saved me. God is my Saviour. At last I found the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth, the life-living water, which I have been seeking for a long time. It was a long, long journey for me. I thank God for Jesus, and I thank God that, now that my daughter is an adult, it has been possible in recent years to make contact with her. My prayer is that our relationship will grow and that we will be able to make up for lost time.

“Oh, Dear Father, thank you for this worthwhile pilgrimage. Now I am only a little baby Christian. Please encourage me to become a true follower, and let me stand firm. In Jesus' name, Amen”.