Rev. Yoshihiro Takahashi
What I have learned from God in Canada
Thank you for giving me this precious opportunity to share my stories with you. Today, I am going to talk about what I have been taught by God since I came to Canada. My family and I arrived in Vancouver in December 2017, and since then, I have been taught many things from God. This is my testimony in Christ.
Before sharing my testimony, I would like to give thanks to God for allowing me to study at Regent College, which has a good reputation from theologians and pastors all over the world and allowing me successfully to complete the master’s program. I also thank my family, Mika, Satoru, and Hikaru, who has accompanied me from Japan and always helped me. Also, I thank you, Rev. Shihoko-san and all CAN members, for praying for my family and giving us many clothes, toys, and even a car. Thank you very much for everything you have done for us.
Now let us turn to the sharing of my stories. As I mentioned, I have spent about three and half years in Vancouver. These three and half years are very important in my life because I believe that I have grown up as a Christian and been strengthen in faith in these years. living in a foreign country is kind of a journey. One old Chinese proverb says, “He who returns from a journey is not the same man as he left.” I learned this proverb in one Regent’s course, called Spiritual Practice. So, to Christian, a journey is more than a journey. It is a spiritual practice. Spending some time in a foreign country will make you more trust in God and into the image of God. In travelling, you will experience not only many trials but also God’s help, which will make you more trust in God. I am going to talk about a couple of such experiences so far.
Firstly, since I came to Canada, I have become able to feel that God is always with me more than ever. I became able to trust in invisible God more. Honestly saying, in my early Christian life, I could not believe that God was really with me although I knew the Bible said so. For instance, one time, one German missionary who worked with me told me, “Takahashi-san, God is with you.” But I did not understand what he said and why he could say so. At that time, I had relied on my ability rather than God and his grace. Yet, the Lord trained me to trust in him through various experiences in Canada, and now I can believe in God who lives with me. When my family arrived in Canada, we faced many unexpected troubles and many culture shocks as well as the troubles that came from the difference in language. For example, when we arrived at the airport, the immigration officer did not issue my family’s visas except my student visa. That is because I did not have the official document I could prove that they were my wife and children. That meant that my wife and my kids had to leave Canada within six months if they could not get valid permits. Thus, I had to call for the immigration office to inquire what to do to get my family’s permits and had to wait a very long time, — about a couple of hours —, for my phone call to connect. For non-English speakers, it was very stressful. Moreover, we experienced a lot of troubles that came from cultural differences. For example, in Japan, people sometimes say, “the customer is always right; the customer is the king.” But, in Vancouver, shop clerks were a little bit unfriendly, comparing to Japan. Also, we experienced the weather much different from Japan: Very short daytime and a long night in winter. Because of the environmental change and stresses, Hikaru sometimes had constipation and cried for her stomachache. We went through many other troubles. So, I was about to throw away everything and return to Japan. However, one thing happened and changed my feelings. My wife and I thought that we needed to get a car, so we prayed for it. I thought it would be pretty difficult to find a good car in a short period of time. But, on that very day, the Lord gave us a car, which was a very reasonable price. I exactly remember that it happened on December 19th. I strongly felt that God really heard my prayer and was with me! Also, I am convinced that if the Lord were with us, we would not have to fear any troubles and hardships even if those happened in the future. Afterward, although still faced many trials, I prayed to God and God always answered my prayers, and I was able to overcome them by God’s grace. Also, I often felt like God even encouraged me with many things. At the end of the first semester, I saw so many cherry blossoms were in bloom nearby my house. It felt wonderful, and I felt those were the signs of God’s blessings. Now I am convincing God’s faithfulness and his love to us. I can completely trust in God. Apostle Paul says, “And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it. ” (1 Cor. 10:13) Thank you, God, for being with us and helping us in every moment.
Secondly, the Lord gave me a new vision and renewed my calling during this journey. About twenty years ago, I felt a sense of calling to evangelism and entered a seminary to become a pastor. So, I was supposed to become a pastor again in Japan after completing my program. However, such vision was somewhat altered through my studying. Regent College cherishes a Christian’s sense of calling and vocation. One applied theology class, called Soul of Ministry, was helpful for me to deepen my understanding of calling and talents. Especially, one assigned book, let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation, was very helpful. As you may know, this book is very popular among Christians, and Parker J. Palmer, a famous, American Christian philosopher and activist, wrote this book. The main point of this book is, to put it simply, to focus on the inner voice of our hearts to find out our callings and vocations. For the limitation of time, I cannot describe the details of the book. So, I recommend you read this book itself to learn more about it. I think this book is quite biblical because Philippians 2:13 says this, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” I listened to the voice of my heart and noticed a desire that I had had ever since I was a seminarian, namely, a desire that I would like to do the PhD work. I had almost given it up before because the program required spending a very long time to complete it. But, on the other hand, I was aware of my life’s voice that I wanted to spend much time studying what the Bible really taught us. Afterward, I decided to follow my life’s voice in my heart and started to pray and prepare for the application for the doctorate program. And finally, I got into the PhD program of McMaster Divinity College at McMaster University. Since that program was selective, I was quite uneasy. But God opened the door, and I am going to start it this September.
This is a big challenge, but I would like to do it, believing in God’s promises. I have always kept two Bible passages in mind: One is from the letter of James, saying, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ” (James 4:13-15) So, I have always added this phrase, “if it is the Lord’s will” whenever I pray. That is very important for all Christian. The other is from Psalm 37:5, saying ” Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.” This is one of my favourite verses, which I always remind. If I was successfully able to complete the program, I would like to teach the Bible as a witness of Jesus Christ at the seminary, Christian universities, and local churches in Japan.
Finally, A scholarly research of the Bible is essential to build up the body of Christ. So, I ask you, brothers and sisters, please continue to pray for my family and this vision. I will also continue to pray for the CAN community to grow into the likeness of Christ more and more and to glorify the Lord here in Vancouver. Thank you for paying attention!