Kikue [kee-KOO-ee] can’t seem to stop smiling. “I’m so happy!” she says. “I’m 94 years old, but I feel like a child again. I’ve discovered the meaning of life, and it’s wonderful!”
Kikue lives on the island of Amami Oshima [ah-MAH-mee OH-shee-mah] in southern Japan. Life hasn’t always been happy for Kikue. Her marriage was troubled, and she’s lived alone since her husband died eight years ago. Many of her friends had died, and her children lived far away. She felt lonely.
Kikue had worshipped her ancestors and prayed to them every year on certain holidays. But it was more of a custom than a religion. And it brought her no peace of mind.
Two literature evangelists from neighboring Okinawa [oh-kee-NAH-wah] stopped to visit. She’d met them several times over the years and had even bought some books from them. They were so pleasant that she looked forward to seeing them. “I especially liked it when they prayed for me before they left,” she says.
“They invited me to visit the little Adventist church in town, as they often had before. But I always said no. I wasn’t sure the people would accept me, and I couldn’t stand to be rejected again. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but these two gentlemen said, ‘The people will love you! Let’s go to the church together. You’ll see for yourself that they love you!’
“Then let’s go!” she said. Kikue went with the literature evangelists to the church that meets on the second floor of a bakery in the heart of the small city. She was nervous as she entered the room, fearing that people might reject or ignore her. “They welcomed me as a lost family member,” she says. They loved me from the start. I needed friends who would help make life meaningful, and these dear people did that. I felt the love immediately.”
Kikue didn’t know much about what Adventists believed, but she knew that she had found a safe haven. She relished the love she felt, a love that is difficult to find in Japanese society, where people often don’t reach out to others. She sensed that she had found God’s people and God’s will for her life. Little by little she learned who Jesus is and how much He loves her. She studied God’s Word with the Korean pastor and his wife, who until recently led this flock of believers and had worked hard to teach them by example how to love. And last year at age 94, Kikue was baptized in the sea, becoming the newest—and oldest—member of the Adventist church in Amami Oshima.
“My marriage wasn’t easy, and my husband wasn’t faithful to me. Sometimes the memories left me depressed and sleepless. But God has taken all this anger, this sadness away. I’ve forgiven my husband, because God has forgiven me. And now I have peace in my heart. I just wish I had known Jesus while my husband was alive. Perhaps he would have gotten to know Jesus as well.”
Today the church and its members are Kikue’s whole life. She has a new family who loves her and cares for her. She thanks them by cooking her best food for the church’s fellowship dinners.
“I feel safe in the church, and I am filled with joy as the believers greet me in church and visit me in my home during the week,” she says.
The church in Amami is small but growing. A few years ago only eight members worshipped together. Today more than 40 members and lots of visitors crowd into the upper room they call their church.
“I’m 95 now, the oldest member of the Amami church,” Kikue adds. “But I feel so much younger. Maybe that’s because I’m just a babe in Christ.”
People who have known Kikue for many years have noticed the change in her. She looks and acts younger and happier. “I tell them that I’ve found the secret to youth and happiness. It’s Jesus! I’ve invited my friends to learn more about Jesus, but they hesitate. I try to be patient. After all, it took me 20 years to find God’s people.”
The little church in Amami, Japan, could grow even faster if they could meet in a more accessible location. The stairs are a challenge to the older members, and some can’t attend worship because it’s difficult for them to walk or climb. This quarter part of our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide a more accessible and appropriate place of worship for this growing church in southern Japan. Thank you for sharing so that others can find Jesus.