The Testimony of Kumiko Obara Okuyama
From depression to freedom Kumiko now walks in the fullness of her calling and identity.
I was born in 1955 in Tokyo, Japan and grew up in a household with my father, mother and grandmother.
My father was a national public service official and an atheist with Communist sympathies. My mother was a teacher in prestigious school who had grown up in a Buddhist home that for over 300 years produced generation after generation of high-ranking leaders. The family name was considered by the community to be of such a noble pedigree that people would bow to us on the street out of respect for our heritage.
My grandmother, my father’s mother, was immersed in all the cult religions of Japan. But even though I had this kind of background, by God’s mercy, I was sent to a Christian kindergarten that was founded and built by missionaries and offerings from the USA.
I was a very clever girl. By that I mean that when I went to kindergarten, I worshipped the true God, but when I came home from kindergarten and met my mother I would confess that Buddha was my lord. And when I talked with my father, I would confess that there is no God. And when I spent time with my grandmother, I would follow the gods that she believed in, but for me they were all merely different kinds of cult religions.
My father pretended to be a good, gentle man in our community, but when he was at home, he was physically violent. My mother was miserable in her marriage. She had grown up in a noble family, but my father’s background was very common. In our society where position is important, my mother felt like a failure.
As a young girl, I tried to attend a church close to my home, but when I was a junior high student, I began to rebel against my parents; and I made a several bad friends. My life became worse even though during that time I still attended church. One day the pastor of the church gave an altar call, and I responded. He invited anyone to pray who wanted to accept Jesus Christ and have all their sins forgiven so that they could go to heaven. I wanted to go to heaven. However, without true repentance, I tried to act like a Christian and failed. The church that I attended was a major Pentecostal denominational church where everybody spoke in tongues. A lot of the young people there were praying for the power of Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in tongues, but my education had made me analytical and doubtful, and I rationalized the experience away labeling it as a kind of mental trip.
Eventually I left the church and married a young man who had been one of my classmates in high school without my parents’ permission. My husband and I moved from downtown Tokyo to an American Air Force Base in Yokota, outside Tokyo, but my marriage wasn’t legal, and I was miserable. My husband was a selfish man who spent a lot of the money that he earned on drinking and other women. Finally, he began to use drugs, and so did I. As my husband’s life degenerated, he would not come back home. I was forced to take care of our daughter alone and even some of his girlfriends.
FROM THE BRINK OF DEATH TO LIFE
I felt so miserable that finally one day I tried to commit suicide. I tried to jump off the top of my apartment building, but an invisible power pushed me back onto the roof. As I lay there on the rooftop, suddenly I heard a voice saying, “Your life is not yours.” Three times I clearly heard the voice, but nobody was there.
I thought that I perhaps I had had an auditory hallucination, but I tried to respond to the voice anyway and cried out, “Who are you? Reveal yourself!”
Nothing happened, so I went back to my room and a few days passed. Suddenly God’s power came upon me to ask me to repent. For three days and three nights I could not sleep or eat. I began to remember vividly every detail of my life because the Holy Spirit brought them to mind. Without repentance I had no other way to peace and liberty, so I confessed my sins one by one.
On the third day very early in the morning while it was still dark outside, I saw a bright light shine from the ceiling. Spontaneously I raised both hands and said “Lord help me!” Suddenly from inside body some kind of dark power went out and scattered. Like a curtain opening, whatever had veiled my mind was gone, and my thinking immediately became clear. I laughed, I danced for joy, and I sang with words I didn’t know. Afterward I knew that it was the Holy Spirit’s tongues.
Soon my husband came back from somewhere, but when he saw me, he ran because he thought that I was crazy. That was 1982. After I became a Christian, I waited and prayed for my husband; but he never came back again. He left all his debts for me to pay, but in spite of that situation, I was so happy because God had been so merciful to me.
God provided financial blessings, food, a job and a lot of tremendous miracles for my daughter and me.
Many people were saved through my testimony and because of this I started a church. Eventually I went back to my old Pentecostal church and then to Bible school where I received a diploma, but before I went there, the Holy Spirit became my teacher and my Bible school. God also gave me a spiritual mentor, a Korean woman preacher who is the mother-in-law of Dr. Yonggi Cho, the pastor of the world’s largest church which is in Seoul, Korea. She was to be my spiritual mother, and I learned much from her, too, but after several years, she passed away.
After that I committed myself to the church where I had been before. I reached out to Japanese people, but also to people from the Philippines, Africans, Koreans, Hindus and Islamic people most of whom had come to Japan looking for jobs. When many of them were saved, the church supported me to lead an international group and to start a Philippine church and an African church. I still have several groups that I care for as their pastor. One of the groups I call “The Hallelujah Group” is composed mostly of senior adults from various traditional backgrounds.
Although my ministry looked successful, I was tired. I had started ministry to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with joy, but eventually ministry became like a business. I wanted to serve the Lord with the same joy I once had. At the same time, some people on the church staff became jealous of the success I seemed to be having. One day trouble began, and I was eventually asked to leave.
I decided to go to southern California, but although I was welcomed into a new church and was ministering again, people became jealous of me and life became difficult again.
THEN I HEARD ABOUT TORONTO
About that time I heard rumors about what was going on in a church in Toronto, Canada. I also heard that the Toronto blessing was dangerous and not from the Holy Spirit. However, I wanted to see with my own eyes whether this was from the Holy Spirit or not. So I consulted with my pastor and made my first trip to Toronto at the end of 1994.
My first impression of the Toronto church was very strange, and my mind seemed divided about it. On the one hand I criticized it, but on the other hand, I saw people experiencing the same joy that I had seen when I first came to Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke to me.
He said, “You can choose three ways. The first one is to be an analyzer and critic and go back home. The second is to be an onlooker and receive nothing and go back home. the last one is to just jump into this river, drink My blessing and take it back home. Which one do you want to choose?”
I answered, “I choose the last one, Lord.” The final day I spent in Toronto shopping downtown. When I went back to my hotel room and lay down on the bed to try to sleep, suddenly the bed felt like it was swinging. When I opened up my eyes and looked, it seemed to stop. Yet if I closed my eyes, I felt the bed swing again. Then I felt the very sweet love from the Father God as though He were hugging me in his arms. I felt like a baby swinging in a cradle.
As He poured His love into me again, the hurt and tiredness began to leave.
After I went back to Japan, God gradually restored me from being a religious, legalistic Christian full of the traditions of men so that now the greatest priority in my life is to rest in the love of God, to receive His power from above and to live in a new relationship with Him. I now have true godly love for people, and I can forgive other people from my heart. Now as I soak in His presence, each hard place in my heart is melted and removed so that now I only want to be filled with the love that comes from God.
When I first went to TACF, I could hardly understand the preaching and testimonies of people, because I could not understand English at that time. I tried intently to receive prayer during ministry time because that was the purpose of going to Toronto in the first place. I asked God not to let this be a privilege only for rich people or for people who can understand English. During my first visits to TACF, I had no friends, no interpreter, and I had trouble getting to know people, but during my many trips to Toronto, God has given me a lot of real friends and a whole new family. My life is really changed, and my ministry, too.
A NEW MARRIAGE
And the Lord has given me a new husband. I had so many bad memories and fears as a result of my first marriage, but God has also healed my deep wounds. My new husband suddenly appeared in my life in 1995 and tried to propose to me. He felt that God had told him to marry me. He waited for two years for me to respond. And although I rejected his proposal twelve times, he patiently prayed and waited and continued to try to contact me with a lot of pushing from God.
In 1997 I married Nozomu Okuyama. Nozomu is the son of a television evangelist in Japan. He was saved in 1978, and he was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1982. He has been coming to Toronto since 1996. We have a home in Portland, Oregon where Nozomu is studying in Bible school. I continue my ministry traveling every month to evangelize and pastor people in Japan and in the USA and Canada. The Lord has miraculously provided for us financially.
Now I spend my life serving the Lord with real happiness and joy.
Every day I thank the Lord for the people around me. In place of the hurt and bitterness I once had, my painful memories are being changed into good ones by the renewing hand of God. When I attend the Catch the Fire Conference in 2003, it will be my 65th visit to TACF. I praise the name of Jesus, and I pray that I can visit my new Toronto family many more times.