Pastor Suzuki’s Testimony
When I was a junior in high school, I listened to gospel broadcasting, and during this time, my brother already had faith in the Urawa EVF church and invited me to attend. I was an introvert, and my older brother was diplomatic. When I was in junior high, I always did well with my grades, and I passed the exam to enter high school. But in my high school, there were lots of excellent students, and I suffered from a lowliness complex. One day my brother came back to our house with a friend from church. I refused to see him; however, I had an interest in the church. It was when I went to church that everyone became friends with me, even though it is a time when everyone is busy with school exams. The next time I went to church, I heard the gospel of the Bible. However, I would compare my self-centered sin among other people, and I noticed the narrowness and weakness of my personality. I spent six months and finally understood that Jesus’ death on the cross was due to my sin. From that moment, I changed.
I’ve been involved in church planting and have served as a chairperson for the Kansai district church planting council. I’ve been a member for over 15 years of the National EVF church mission committee and serve six years as a chairperson. I was also involved with Radio evangelism and served as a chairperson for six years. In 2006 I was chairperson for the Kinki missionary church Executive committee; we had 300 pastors and 1,000 missions’ conferences. My involvement continued with the Korean CCC New Life 2000 project national headquarter general affairs for ten years. We had 13,000 Korean students dispatched to domestic churches. Lastly, I still serve on the trustee of Japan Bible seminary; this is my third term.
I want to share my family’s background further. I am seventy-five years old, and my wife Sayoko is seventy-three. We have been married for 50 years. We were saved and baptized at Urawa Evangelical Free Church in Saitama Prefecture in the Kanto area. We started our ministry career as church planters at Higashi-Omiya Church; this pioneer church was blessed, and two buildings were built in ten years. I still worked for a company; my wife was an elementary school teacher. After that, I attended seminary for four years while my wife supported our family. We were led to the Kansai area, where I pastored three churches over 30 years: Uji Church as the first Japanese pastor in the 5th year of the church planting after missionaries founded and served; Mukaijima Church as pioneer church planting, and Kyoto Church which had a 60-year history. God led me to Ueda Church in Nagano, where I pastored for nine years. Our ministry lives have been a series of many blessings but also hardships. I was 68 years old when we devoted ourselves to the current pioneer church plant of Shinonoi.
We have two sons, two daughters, and eight grandchildren. At the beginning of the church planting of Mukaijima Church in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto Prefecture, we had a lot of difficulties, especially in the first year. However, we had regular monthly support from other churches in the Kansai area. I pastored this church for eight years; God blessed the group, and it became a self-supporting church of 40 members.
During the early years of raising our children, we were in financial difficulties, and my wife and I could not afford to take the train as a family, even for one station away. We encouraged our four children with inexpensive sushi rolls as a reward. We would walk hand in hand for an hour between the parsonage and church every week along the riverbank near the railroad tracks during our children’s elementary school years.
My oldest son, unfortunately, left the Church for a while because he did not fit into the churches he tried to attend during his college years away from his hometown. We thank God that he is now gradually returning to his faith walk. My oldest daughter majored in art in graduate school and studied abroad in Korea. The Lord called her to transfer from graduate school to study at a seminary, and eventually, she married a pastor. My second son, Naoki, worked for a company in Nagano, received God’s call, and then devoted himself to pioneering evangelism. He studied at a seminary for four years, graduated last March, and was led to be involved in church planting tent-making activities at several locations in the Nagano-Shinshu area. Currently, he is preparing to be ordained as a pastor. My second daughter was working for a long time at King’s Garden, a domestically well-known elderly-care facility run by Christians. She married a welfare worker who was a member of Tsuchiura Grace Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the Kanto, greater Tokyo, area. She moved to Nagano last year to support Nagano regional community welfare and is now part of our pioneering effort.
I have experienced the hardships of a pioneering mission with my family, but God has given us His grace to help us each season of our ministry lives. The generous support from the White Fields at the current time is an excellent help to our son Naoki’s vision and preparation for the next pioneering project along with us.
Mengumi, whom I mentioned earlier in my prayer requests, had been dating a non-believer man but repented. She and her boyfriend are continuing their faith study with Pastor Kim. They are both initially from Kyoto, with a strong Buddhist influence. Please pray for the salvation of her boyfriend. In my past forty-six years of ministry in pastoring, I have witnessed fifteen couples, each of which led the partner to become Christian, and women led their boyfriends for salvation fourteen out of those fifteen couples. Each shared stories of complications in their relationship and spiritual warfare. I encouraged and prayed with believer women who were in tears and advised them to lead their partners and friends to salvation by the grace and mercy of the Lord.
On Saturday, November 18, we had a rose-growing workshop and party. Aiko, a conservative peach farmer, and Chieko, who has participated in the rose-growing seminar for over a year, attended a recent concert outreach event where I shared a short message from the Bible.
Tetsuya who has been coming to our worship service periodically since this summer is the husband of Miyuki, who recently made a decision of faith in Christ. Tetsuya is about forty-five years old and is a truck driver. He comes to worship whenever he has free time on Sundays. He is a long-distance driver who travels all over the country so he says work can feel very lonely. We send him cassette tapes of my sermons so he can listen in his truck and video messages from my cell phone. He and his wife are friends of Sadao, who recently had a revival of his faith at last year’s Christmas service. Tetsuya attended the worship service with us and is becoming very attracted to a new faith in Christ.
We had a church retreat and Rev. Takashi gave a lecture on the theme of Church and Family. We learned about church formation based on the principles of worshiping with adults and children together in the same service. We have five children at our church ranging from an infant to grade three. We continue to hold services together and have not been able to do a separate Sunday school due to logistical reasons including lack of space, time, and volunteers.
However, in the past, two elderly families left the church because they were dissatisfied with not hearing the sermon well when children, especially toddlers, were incorporated into the service for adults. We are trying to form a church that nurtures children as we anticipate them being the future of the church despite a declining birth rate and aging population. We are encouraged by the fact that our church plant has four young families who are attending, supporting, and being a part of the church. In our region, there are three elementary schools with six to seven hundred students attending. The recent composition of the community reminds us that we are a city of young families, and we also need to remember to have a good balance in reaching out to the multiple generations in our community. I sense the importance of reaching the older generations who have funds and time to spare for ministry and involvement.
The last weekend of the month, there was a joint cooperative distribution of tract flyers from churches belonging to the Kanto West District Council. Pastors and members from seven churches participated, traveling three hours each way and visiting three-thousand houses with flyers. The purpose of the visit was to publicize the concert of Ryoji, a former cellist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. A total of thirty-four people attended the event. We stopped distributing flyers for three years due to covid and are grateful to be able to continue this outreach event. We have had three people connected to the church so far through this outreach. One is Ms. Chiaki who made a clear decision about salvation and attends the introductory class. We are grateful to the participants who circulated the flyers and for their support and cooperation.
I was invited by the Yasu Evangelical Free Church in the Kansai area, the west central region of Japan, to give a sermon at their service and share my testimony of church planting during the afternoon. When I received the initial request from them, I asked why they wanted me to come to their distant Kansai region. They replied that one of their congregants remembered my involvement in resolving a church conflict and they wanted to hear my testimony as a pioneering missionary, and so invited me to the church during their pastor’s summer vacation. I also learned that my experience with an incurable disease was a great encouragement to them. A former core member of their congregation who lost his eyesight suddenly due to an incurable disease attended the service and looked up to the Lord with me. The pastor later contacted us to say it was a great encouragement. I praise God that our church planting testimony was helpful to this church group.
- Pray for the successful completion of the renovation of the parsonage for the evangelist that was approved by the church general assembly.
- Pray for God’s direction and guidance in the next Nagano church planting and development at our pastor’s meeting. A new discussion began last month, and I was getting the impression that the voice of certain generations with no experience in church planting is getting more dominant in making future decisions.