Dr. Kuge's Testimony
Translated By M.A.F., IN, USA
Kuge's Testimony at Highland Baptist Church, Georgetown, Indiana, USA July 25, 2004
1. Good morning. I am very thankful to be attending worship services with you at Highland Baptist Church in Indiana. I am Tomoo Kuge from Osaka Nozomi Church in Japan. As we begin, let us say a word of prayer.
2. Dear Father God, I thank you for this special opportunity. I usually worship you in a place far away from this one, and I thank you from my heart that even though I don't know these people and they don't know me, and our languages are totally different, we can worship here together like this. How blessed that we can praise and worship you [differently but] the same! May my words make sense to my American friends. May the Lord God speak directly to the audience even through my poor English. I pray in the name of the Lord.
3. Today I will speak a little in regard to Japan, our church and the work there, and about the grace God has shown to me personally.
4. First off, did you know that the Japanese each have two stomachs? No matter how great a dinner a Japanese may eat, after the meal, if we haven't eaten rice, we don't feel right. Basically, we are not satisfied if our two stomachs don't get full. In America, maybe Americans, even Asian Americans, aren't satisfied if they don't eat chocolate cake after a meal, I wonder? I also wonder that since Jesus Christ was born in Asia, he should have said, "I am the rice of life." Asians are not satisfied if they don't have rice. Do not the words of Jesus clearly express our spiritual condition? We cannot be satisfied when we don't have Jesus in us. Despite that fact, Christians in Japan, who are Asian members, are less than one per cent. Those who observe worship faithfully are less than 0.7%. Regretfully, the gospel has hardly been fruitful even after it began one hundred and thirty years ago after evangelists came from America. In contrast, how has Buddhism been doing since it came to Japan over one thousand six hundred years ago? When you travel in Japan, you will see Buddhist temples everywhere. They say in Japan and it is a well known fact that just after one hundred years, Buddhism had already permeated even the very center of Japan. Japan is usually counted as a Buddhist nation. But, I don't think that the Buddhist mission has been successful here. [I don't think it is successful] because even though there are lots of temples, there are hardly any worshippers in them. I don't know anyone who reads Buddhist scriptures except for scholars. The only time [Japanese] go to the temple, besides for funerals, is for sightseeing. If the Japanese regard both Christianity and Buddhism as pretty much useless, what do they believe in? In my judgment, many Japanese put a high value on order, they respect the elderly, and they have this characteristic about them where even though they might not understand something, they will by nature be tolerant of each thing as something great, as something excellent. I think this is their faith mixed along with Confucianism and Shintoism. The Buddhism passed on in Japan, along with Shinto and Confucian doctrines, were accepted as superior teachings from China. As a result, they became part of what it means to be Japanese, though [these teachings] have changed very much in their natures. Some scholars call this Japanity (Japan as a nation as a religious organization, the deification of Japan).
5. Basically, the religion of Japan has a special feature in that various doctrinal bases are mixed together. I enjoy the Buddhist monk and philosopher, Saigyo, and as he sings of the countryside, he expresses his faith, and after putting them into an anthology as a confession of the faith, he presents them at the Shinto temple of the Grand Shrine of Ise. In short, he pursued a harmony of the two different views of Buddhism and Shinto.
6. Therefore, the Japanese have been accepting of Christianity, and we even had a Christian prime minister, and many of the presidents of Tokyo University, beginning with Yanaihara and Shigeru Nanbara, were Christians. Surprisingly, the wife of the emperor, queen Michiko, is a former student of the Sacred Heart mission school and went there until almost being baptized. Christian believers are not persecuted in Japan. But, if you make the claim that only Jesus Christ is the truth, that he is the way, that Christ alone is the bread of life, you will get a reply right back of NO! These are the circumstances in Japan. Followers of Christianity are respected, they are considered as serious minded and good people, but most people will not want to become a Christian, because [Christians] reject other religions.
7. The major point for missions in Japan is that as you understand Japan and show respect and tolerance for "Japanity," we don't need to permanently damage [people's] faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, but we need to tell people about Christ for the first time, lead them to him, and accomplish church formation [that way]. This is generally the way it is in Asian nations. Many American ministers have ignored the culture and the traditions of Japan. We must reconsider this point once more. We should not be just an American church [following American ministers], or a transplant of American style faith, [but a Japanese church following Christ].
8. Next I would like to tell you about the Christian day to day life in my country of Japan as I described it. As we've seen in what I've said earlier, most anything good is accepted in Japan and because of the national trait of the people to not make any strong statements about oneself, the way it usually is for a Japanese Christian is to be "like a chameleon." Chameleons change their colors to match their surroundings. In other words, we are inconspicuous so as not to stand out but will conceal ourselves, and I have observed that there are many people who live without ever expressing out loud that they are a Christian. They [may] go to church but only very few people [will tell] at work or school that they personally believe in Jesus. Religion tends to be a personal matter [in Japan], and when some Christians pass away, there have been cases where the people of the household [might say] "Our father looked like he was a Christian," and they might say that because "He went out regularly on Sundays and he just might be one, you know. I wonder if he used to go to church." Faith is kind of like some philosophical personal conviction, it has a tendency to last only one generation not being passed on to the children by the parents. I think it is because there is an invisible social pressure behind it [due to Japanity]. It is group pressure or peer pressure on a national level as a Japanese.
9. I hope that everyone will want to be like the pupa in the butterfly cocoon. Even though we might be hard and quiet on the outside, we will soon turn into a beautiful butterfly, and we'll have to flap our wings, won't we! In our church both the adults and the children have worship services together. We set up our worship program so that the family is able to worship together. Thankfully, not succumbing to group pressure, the teenagers attend worship. This is really rare in Japan. Japan is always on the go on Sundays with all kinds of functions held at the schools and the local communities.
10. Last of all, I will speak to you a bit about what God has done for me.
11. I received baptism when I was twenty years old; nobody in my family, not any of my relatives, were Christian. As I was lead to a good solid church, it was a blessing, I delcared in college and in society that I was a Christian, and I participated in the works of things like the Christian Club as a student. Two years after my baptism my younger sister was baptized, then after that I met my future wife in church. As we took our three children to church, in the process of time [the Lord] let my wife's father in, and then seven people were Christians. Then my wife's mother, my wife's brother, nephew, my aunt, then at last both of my parents were baptized, and every member of my house became a Christian. Everyone goes to worship services each week. Also, my second son was married just Monday six days ago. What do you know, my son's wife and her whole family are all Baptist. In only thirty years, a Christian family of about twenty people from one person has started. I've heard it said many a time that the church in Japan is small and weak, but I am doing my part in the work of the church by looking ahead two hundred years, three hundred years. In two hundred years from now, I think Japan could change fundamentally. When you think about how after two hundred years the first century church, which used to be under imperial Roman persecution, had changed the entire empire, it could be huge.
12. For that reason, today we realize that it is important that we worship faithfully, evangelize, and keep strengthening our [Christian] education and fellowship.
13. Thanks to Mike, the sermons in our church are being translated into English each week, and people around the world can read them on the internet. The records from the board of directors of our church, the works of our choir, the records from our church school are all being stored on disk. Right now it may be a little extra trouble to do, but I hope that some day in the future someone will understand the way our church in Japan was at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
14. Today singing voices of praise are covering the entire world. According to the time zone differences, the Lord is being worshipped and offerings are promised from Japan to China, India, the Mid East, Europe, and finally in America. Isn't that wonderful? We are brothers. We are one.
15. Lastly, I will conclude my talk with you with my favorite verse. It is the statement the Lord gave to his disciples. I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.