Though her parents weren’t Christians, Saotome started attending an English class at a church planted by Christar workers Nathaniel and his wife, Trudy, when she was in 2nd grade. Speaking English is a valuable skill for many Japanese people, which opened the door for her not only to learn the language but to hear the Bible stories shared at the end of every lesson. Through the class, she learned about the Sunday school programme at the church, and began participating in it as well.
I BELIEVE IN JESUS
Saotome recalls, “Through the teachings of Sunday school and the worship services I came to believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day. I also learned that those who have sin could not go to heaven. Though I was little, the night after I learned about it during the worship service I prayed, ‘I believe in Jesus. Please forgive my sin. Let me go to heaven.’ I still remember it clearly.”
REMEMBERING SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
By her high school and college years, Saotome had drifted away from the church, but she never forgot the lessons she had learned in Sunday school. During college, while studying in the United States, a Christian woman invited her to attend worship services, which brought to mind her experiences as a child. And as an adult, though she didn’t fully understand what it meant to accept Jesus as her Saviour, Scripture she had memorised as a child would come to mind and encourage her when she was troubled.
She recalls, “I realised that I was seeking God, but there were so many things about God that I did not understand. I wanted to learn more.”
In 2014, both of Saotome’s parents fell ill, so she moved to their city to be with them. After several years of spiritual searching, Saotome wrote a letter to reconnect with Nathaniel and Trudy. Over 15 years had passed since she’d last been in contact with them; and they excitedly went to visit her. They answered her many questions and arranged for a Japanese believer from the church to disciple her online. Last fall, Saotome was baptised.
SEEING THE FRUIT AFTER MANY YEARS
Nathaniel shares, “Although it may take many years before fruit is borne from the seeds that are planted in the proclamation of the gospel, God is often working behind the scenes.” It truly is a blessing to see fruit in peoples’ lives, and Nathaniel and Trudy have been greatly encouraged by Saotome’s compassion for others. “[Her growth and discipleship] didn’t stop when she was baptised,” Nathaniel says. “She wants to disciple others.”