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1 A Testimony from Japan Kiichi Ichikawa
The following article "A Testimony from Japan" was written last year (2016), at the request of Lasse Heimonen, the son of Finnish missionary Lauri Heimonen who first introduced me to the message of the Christ about 60 years ago, during his time in Japan. It is my hope that this first posting, in the form of a testimony, will allow me to properly introduce myself to you.
I was born in Kyoto in 1930. In my youth, I was interested in machinery and received an education in technological engineering. During that time, I began to reflect on the notion of humanity and lifestyle choices, a reflection that lead me to quit my engineering studies and, in 1951, enter Kyoto University Law school. There I joined the Kyoto University English Speaking Society and began to study English in order to access a wider world, one that would extend beyond the physical and cultural frontiers of Japan.
In the Society I got acquainted with Motohiro Kisaichi and, together, we began to attend evangelical meetings held by Finnish missionary Lauri Heimonen. It was in the course of these meetings that I was first exposed to evangelical sermons and began to read the Bible. The Bible felt very fresh for me, and, while attending these meetings, the concept of Good Tidings was instilled into me. I often heard from missionaries that those who believe in Jesus Christ would be saved and receive the gift of Holy Spirit, a message that I could not just not take at face value, not with the simplicity and depth the missionaries did.
I decided to follow Christ and was baptised in 1953. For a rather long time I could not reconcile with the concept of Holy Spirit and eternal life, I could not pray and praise God 'in tongue' as fellow believers around me did. I despaired at my weakness, my decision-making and my lack of faith. However, when I eventually gave in completely to the Lord, I suddenly experienced the Word of the Cross, and was overwhelmed by the love of Christ who died for me.
I began enthusiastically praising God 'in tongue'. In 1956 I gave up my secular job and dedicated my life to spreading the words of the Gospel. At first I was supported by an American mission society, but soon I began to feel the need for my own independent evangelical ministry in Japan in order to be free from the restraint of the foreign mission. I detached myself from all foreign support and began an independent and self-supporting evangelical work.
I began to read many works written by Kanzo Uchimura. His Biblical commentary illuminated me and provided me with boundless inspiration. He was one of the first evangelists of the Meiji era, at a time when Japan opened itself to foreign nations and welcomed many traditionalist American Missionaries. Kanzo Uchimura was a Bible purist, and was firmly convinced that evangelical work in Japan should be free of any foreign churches' influence. He dedicated his life to the Gospel of Christ, following a denomination-free denomination, something he referred to as "Non-Churchism". His proclamation is that a man can belong only to Christ alone and be saved without belonging to any established churches and without receiving baptism and any other church rites. He taught the Bible to many young students who eventually became leading figures of Japan. Many people responded to his proclamation and, today, they form a group that rivals in size a powerful section of Protestantism in Japan.
I graduated from the under-graduate law department and began my post graduate course. Simultaneously, my faith lead me to further study the Bible and the history of Christianity under Prof. Tetsutaro Arigafs tutelage. During that period I also completed elementary courses in Greek and Hebrew, which proved to be important tools for the study of the New Testament, all the while supporting myself through evangelical activities. My life work became the unification of the Pentecostal Confession we received from the Finnish mission and the New Testament Theology of Protestantism that I studied in university and during my fellowship with Non-Churchism leaders.
During the course of my evangelical work I began reading the New Testament in its original Greek format to achieve as pure a depth of spiritual understanding as possible with two of my Finnish mission fellows, Sinryou Hisano and Motohiro Kisaichi, who were working as professors in nearby universities. After a while Wataru Mizugaki who was a professor in christianity at Kyoto University joined our group and this newly formed study group continued its activity for nearly forty years until today. This study group was a great help and stimulation for my New Testament study and the publication of my 22 volumes on New Testament in 2015 (and three more since then). All my works can be read in my "Tenryo" home page on the internet.
The Mission Board of the Pentecostal Churches in Finland has sent many missionaries to Japan, a fruitful endeavour that led to the creation of many Pentecostal churches in Japan. We inherited the faith of the Finnish Mission and proceeded to promulgate those teachings throughout Japan. One example would be Prof. Kisaichi who has introduced many Japanese Christians to the Pentecostal Holy Spirit experience while, simultaneously, reaching a high level of theological proficiency through his independent evangelical work (See his "Koininia" homepage). I have also compiled a written account of my efforts to bridge the gap between the Pentecostal Holy Spirit experiences and Protestant Biblical theology which, by the Grace of God, released in Japan in the form of gIchikawa's collected worksh, published in 2015. I think those are the fruits of the seeds sowed in Japan by Finnish Missionaries. I am glad to be able to write and send this small piece of testimony to express my full gratitude to the missionaries who have dedicated their life to the evangelisation of Japan, and to the brothers and sisters in Finland who sent them.