Great Joy Far above All Things
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February 1, 2018
Great Joy Far above All Things
1. My Son’s Healing
It has been one year since I started my house church gatherings. Let me give testimony of what God has done for me through opening the house church. In February last year, I was excited to receive the Red Book (the vision and guidelines to become a house church leader) from the Main Church. And I started to read it.
From the following day, however, my son completely stopped going to school. In the morning we walked together to school, but on the way he ran away from me and returned home. In New York it is illegal for a 12-year-old kid to be home alone. It is parents’ responsibility to send children to school. Otherwise I would be reported to ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) for child abuse and neglect, and my right to keep my child could be taken away. Every morning I got him ready and we walked to school, and every morning in front of the school building he turned around and went back home. Unable to take a day off from my work, I left him alone at home and went to work with a sinking feeling.
I had never imagined that my child would suffer from schoolphobia. Being a single mother, I had been just trying to make a living, and too busy to spend much time with him. It must have been hard for him. His emotions could explode at any time, and I did not know what to do with him.
His school told me to take him to a therapist. But in a therapy session he got enraged. A policeman was called and my son was carried to a psychiatric unit of the hospital.
In the meantime, I was comforted and supported by the church people, and started my house church gathering in May. Every day was my prayer, worship, praise, and trust in the Lord. In the same month, ACS concluded that he needed a home attendant while being out of school. My company permitted me to work at home for a month and a half.
In June, Yasushi Suzuki (a staff worker of the Kohitsuji no Mure Main Church) came to my house church. My son calmed down a little. In the States the school year ends in June and starts in September. From March to June he hardly attended school ― perhaps his attendance was less than 5 days, and he did not even take the standard New York State test. There was no way for him to go on to the next grade. However, for some reason he was admitted to the 7th grade. It was a miracle!
We started having the Holy Communion every morning. Though he does not speak Japanese, I taught him a Japanese word “Kansha,” which means “thank you.” Every day, before going to school, he drank grape juice of the Lord’s blood, murmuring, “Kansha, kansha, kansha.” But it was not easy for him to make friends in the new school. “I don’t need friends,” he said, but around November, he again started to cut classes.
I could not help but feel depressed, but this time I could sail across by praying, “Thank you, Lord, for everything no matter what.” I trusted the Lord who is with us.
In January of this year, my son, who had refused to see people, joined a house gathering and had the Holy Communion together. Every day I realize that he is getting healed. Now he has a new friend who lives behind our apartment. They live so close to each other that they always play together after school.
The past year was filled with turbulent incidents: his schoolphobia, my financial problem, and hectic days with increasing workload (which is so stressful that I sometimes get panicked even now). But the Lord gave me a great joy far above all those things. It is to praise the Lord in my house church once a month and in Brooklyn Sunday services. I used to be preoccupied by everyday life and prayed only for myself to be out of misery. After becoming a leader, the Lord taught me the importance to praise and pray not only for everyday matters but also for things in the States, earthquakes in Japan, and the peace of the world.
Mitsuko said, “To live is not just to breathe, but to live in joy. It is to live in faith, that is to worship.” I myself could not have lived the past year without knowing praise and worship. It was always the praise that saved me when I was almost lost. I have never in my life been told by anyone, “I’ll never leave you.” Parents and children will eventually leave. I now know that the Lord alone is always with me no matter what, at any time and in any place. I have found the greatest love in the Lord.
Our Palm Sunday service last month was special. I was praising and reflecting upon the past year. And the time to sing my favorite praise “The Cross of Christ” came.
I knew the praise so well that I sang with my eyes closed. Drops of tears ran down on my cheeks. Then before my eyes appeared a black cross larger than my stretched arms. And the black cross, as we were praising, turned into a white cross. I knew it was the sign that Jesus Christ carried all our sins and sorrows on His cross. He turned the cross from black of pain and sorrow to white of healing and love.
The following Sunday was a beautiful day in NYC, and there was the Easter service in Central Park West. I went there with my son. The sheet music had alphabets penciled for Japanese words so that non-Japanese could also sing together. While casually following the alphabets with my finger, from the 3rd praise I noticed my son singing. I was so surprised that I wanted to see his face, but restrained myself, for I did not want to embarrass him. The birds were chirping outside, the bright morning light was coming through the windows, and truly every creation was celebrating the risen Lord. I was reminded that my son too received inner healing and the risen life of the Lord.
In “The Vine (monthly booklet of Kohitsuji no Mure),” Pastor Peter writes that we have a vision entrusted by the Lord, which is the vision and faith of Kohitsuji no Mure: “Everything is completed in praise,” and “The love of Christ alone is sufficient.” Indeed, everything is prepared and perfected in praise and prayer in its time. Lastly, I would like to read the word of the Bible.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NAS)
Honestly, I still don’t know the Bible well. I cannot say the right prayers. Nonetheless, I was allowed to be a house church leader and start my praise gatherings. As you see from this Bible verse, the Lord wants nothing difficult from us. He wants us to be filled with joy and praise. Pray and give thanks ― and we will be healed.
Lord, thank You for meeting me. Thank You for showing me Your love. Thank You for Kohitsuji no Mure. Thank You for the family of God. I will not stop praising You and giving thanks to You in all circumstances.
May 28, 2017
2. This Is Your Home
We had the Kohitsuji no Mure summer retreat in Kobe this past August, and my son and I were able to attend the retreat for the first time.
In July the extension of its registration period was announced, but thinking about airfares and lodging for my son and myself, I knew I could not afford it. Every day I wrote down the verse of John 14:13:
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13 NAS)
Whenever Kohitsuji sisters asked me, “Are you going?” I answered, “I cannot. I am praying for the Lord to change the course.” Sure enough, in the most mysterious way he gave me air tickets.
I got the tickets, but I still had problems: day-offs from work, a place to stay in Japan, and my son not owning a passport. My paid-vacation had been used up for commuting to my son’s therapies. Besides, there was no guarantee for my employer to grant me a 2-week vacation even without pay. And without pay, we would have little money left after the retreat. But believing in Pastor Peter’s words, “If you have no money, come to the retreat,” and betting everything on the Lord, we left New York.
The retreat started two days after our arrival in Japan, and I was filled with joy. Staying at Kobe Portopia Hotel was like being in heaven. The retreat hall was filled with our love for the Lord and the love of the Lord responding to us. In the healing service on the second day, I saw my son cry listening to the simultaneous translation of Mitsuko’s message. Last year his refusal to go to school started, and he was emotionally so unsteady and violent that he turned household items upside down. Even so, the healing and the love of Lord were poured on him. When Mitsuko prayed for healing of hair, he said, “Mom, it’s about your hair.” In October of last year, I was so stressed out that hair of my right eyebrow fell out. My son too had three circular losses of hair on his head. But now his hair is back, and the hair of my eyebrow is slowly growing back.
When “Pater Noster (“The Lord’s Prayer” in Latin)” was sung in the retreat concert, I saw light flowing out of Yuki’s mouth (She was singing in a choir) and going up, and at the same time light descending and going into her mouth. Indeed, heaven and earth were praising. I was so happy to be able to talk about the Lord with people in the lobbies and over meals. Never in my life had I have such a calm and peaceful time before.
Thanks to the retreat, I could return to Japan after an absence of 15 years. For the 15 years I had not seen my parents nor and my brothers. My son had never met them. My home is in Osaka. So I was looking forward to staying at my parents’ house before and after the retreat and going to the services of the Church of the Wind.
Immediately, I told my plan to my mother, and learned that my father was enraged and refused to let us in the house. Fifteen years ago he had paid for my study abroad in New York. But I did not graduate from college, got married without telling anyone, and had a baby. He has not forgiven me to this day. My mother, of course, wanted to see me and her grandson, and tried to persuade him, but he said he would leave home if she let me in. My mother was in between and crying.
On the other hand, I was excited about going back to Japan and participating in the retreat, thinking only of myself, not of my family. Before leaving New York, my heart was troubled. My brother arranged for our place in Japan, and the church staff arranged for our stay in the House of Life after the retreat. In the retreat I prayed for day of our reconciliation. Kohitsuji sisters advised me to forgive them, for Christ has forgiven me.
After the retreat, I joined the 3 o’clock Prayer at the Church of the Wind. I arrived there at 2:30 pm. It was the first time for me to visit the Church of the Wind. The church was filled with the fragrance of wood, which was very calming. Upon sitting in the sanctuary and seeing the cross, I cried realizing that this is my home. I have returned my home! I was back in Japan, but was not allowed to enter my parents’ house or see my family. I was lonely and sad, but Christ gently spoke to me, “This is your home. I am always with you.” In the quietness I sensed myself existing in the peace and the grace of the Lord.
I led the Friday Evening Service on September 1 at the Church of the Wind. We were to stay in the House of Life that night. We first went to the Church of the Wind to drop off our luggage, and after the 3 o’clock Prayer checked in the House of Life. I went into my room separate from my son’s. I had 2 free hours before the microphone test at 6:00 pm. While thinking of what to do, I fell into sleep because it was so quiet and peaceful.
I woke up from an hour sleep, and changed my clothes. And then I noticed one of the shoes, which I brought from New York to wear for the service, was missing. Thinking I may have dropped it in the church, I headed to the church with a remaining shoe. Somehow I stopped by the supermarket to buy a bottle of water, hung around on the way, and then on a roadside saw a silver shoe which was missing. How wonderful the Lord is! I felt like Cinderella.
He returned my shoe on the road I was not supposed to pass, and taught me right before the service that whatever I ask in His name, He will do it. During the service I was so happy that I wanted to praise the Lord endlessly. After the service I returned to the House of Life and slept like a baby. To sleep ― that’s all I remember I did in the House of Life. But what’s so amazing was that I, who suffer from Asthma and cannot sleep without inhalers, slept through the night without inhalers. My body and my soul were rested and I was healed.
The time to leave Japan was near. My mother told me not to come home because of the bad mood of my father. But my son and I returned home without announcement. My mother was resolved and took us inside. There I saw my father after 15 years’ absence. He looked a lot smaller. Upon seeing me, he yelled and blamed me for my long absence and my selfish behaviors. I apologized and expressed my gratitude for my parents who had raised me, which I realized after I myself became a parent. My father said, “Now that you know it, I forgive you. From now on, return what your parents gave you to your son.” After that, he never spoke to me. The day before my departure from Japan, I went home again. My father was not there. He went to the horse racing which was very unusual for him. He left some money with my mother so that we could go out to eat. He went out lest he should say unnecessary things to us. My father is blunt, but is always thinking of us children. I waited at home for my father to return, and I could say “good-bye” to him before our departure to New York. The Lord led me to the reconciliation with my family.
Having returned to Japan and participated in the retreat, I feel day by day that my heart is full. When I was too busy with my job, I overate and overdrank. That was my way of dispelling my stress. I used to try to fill myself up with food. That stopped completely. How grateful I am to God!
It’s been two months since I returned to New York. I have been moved by the word of the Bible:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.(Colossians 3:15 NAS)
In the summer and the fall, there were many disasters both man-made and natural: earthquake in Mexico, wildfire in California, hurricanes in Texas, Virgin Island and Puerto Rico, shooting in Las Vegas, terrorist attack in New York and church shooting in Texas. But I believe the world will be a better place if every one of us pray for peace and trust in the Lord in times of trouble.
May the will of God be done on the earth.
（From the worship in New York on November 12, 2017）