I was born in southern Brazil into a family of a Brazilian father and a Japanese mother. Growing up, my parents’ religious life seamlessly combined elements of Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist worship. For me, it was the ordinary way of relating to divinity.
When I was 19, I met Elisia. She told me she was a Seventh-day Adventist. “She must be some kind of Protestant,” I thought. “Good enough for me!”
Elisia also told me her dad was a preacher, and her family was very religious, but that she had, for the most part, stopped attending church. “Even better!” I said to myself.
We were in love and eventually got married. A few years and three daughters later, as Brazil was going through difficult economic times, we decided to immigrate to Japan in search of a better future.
A Solution to Marital Problems
Years passed. Economically, we were doing well in Japan. Our daughters were happy and healthy. Our prospects were great, but our marriage was not. It seemed our love for each other had gradually faded away.
Then, one day, my wife, who at heart had never stopped being a Seventh-day Adventist, suggested that maybe the solution was to learn more about each other’s religious traditions. “I will learn more about Buddhism,” she said, “but you must get more acquainted with Adventism.” “Fair enough!” I said. “It sounds like a good idea!”
We began to attend different Christian churches until someone told us about a Seventh-day Adventist Church. We began to attend an Adventist congregation with our three daughters, two of whom, by then, were teenagers. Since at the time there was not an Adventist church close to our place, we had to travel four hours by car to find an Adventist congregation.
When I met the pastor, I was very open with him. I told him that I was a Christian and a Buddhist. I was surprised when he didn’t criticize or mock me. He just invited me to study the Bible.
Our daughters loved the church, and a year later, the three of them were baptized. I kept studying and getting acquainted with Bible truth, but two things prevented me from committing fully. The first? I found it difficult to stop worshipping my ancestors, something I had learned to do since I was a little child. Only when I apprehended what the Bible said about the dead, was I able to finally let it go.
The second was keeping the Sabbath. In Japan, strong work ethics often implies additional shifts on Saturdays, and I was afraid I would lose my job if I asked for an exception.
The Most Unlikely Preacher
I was already keeping the Sabbath, but one Friday, my boss in the factory told me that he needed me the following day. Since I didn’t want to displease my boss, I went to work, praying that God would somehow intervene. I arrived at the factory and got ready to start my shift. But then my manager approached.
“Kazumi, what are you doing here?” my manager, who was not even Christian, inquired.
“I came to work, sir,” I replied.
“Kazumi, you should be in church with your family, keeping your Sabbath,” he sternly told me.
“But sir…,” I said.
“Listen to me,” he told me looking directly into my eyes. “I am the manager, and I have come to the factory on Saturday to cover your shift. Now I am here, so you better leave and go to church!”
I thanked him profusely, with tears in my eyes. I felt it was the sign from God that I needed. I left the factory and ran to church, where my family was very surprised to see me. In 2012, I finally committed to the Lord and His church and was baptized.
A Near Death Experience
One evening just two weeks after my baptism, however, as I was transitioning to another job that would allow me better Sabbath accommodations, I felt a sharp pain in my chest. I was far from home, staying at a rented place, and I was alone.
Not knowing how to proceed, I firmly embraced my Bible against my chest and asked God to take care of me. After praying, I let myself fall on the couch. Then I passed out.
When I came back to my senses, I looked at the time. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as I found out three full hours had elapsed! I called my wife, who told me to run to the nearest hospital. Since she sensed I was hesitating, she called an Adventist church member who lived nearby and asked him to take me to hospital.
After checking my signs, the emergency staff rushed me to surgery. A few days later, I was told I had suffered a massive heart attack, and that I needed a second very risky but potentially life-saving surgery. In both cases, the interventions ended up being longer and more difficult than what doctors had first anticipated.
To this day, they cannot explain how I didn’t die before making it to hospital. They plainly told me, “You should be dead, or at least have arrived in a coma.”
God’s Blessings, Unbounded
It’s been six years since my massive heart attack, and I have recovered completely. God has blessed our family beyond measure. Our eldest daughter has married a pastor from Africa who got his theology training in the Philippines. They are now serving on the island of Okinawa, in southern Japan. Our second daughter graduated with a degree in nursing and is now serving at Tokyo Adventist Hospital. Our youngest has been studying in the United States and is now planning to come back to Japan to become an English teacher and a translator. Recently, we became grandparents. We feel so blessed!
The Lord keeps watching over our family and His church. All we want now is to serve Him with all our heart and strength. We want to use our talents for His glory. We know Jesus is coming soon. It is our hope, and it is our prayer.