I first moved to NZ when I was 16 years old. As soon as I arrived in Palmerston North, Akira & Kikuko Doi helped me with everything – school, homestay, church, and any kind of troubles that I came up with. When I needed to talk things out in Japanese, or just needed a rest, Kikuko often sat down with me, spent hours on me, and prayed with me. Later she’d cook Japanese meal and let me stay for dinner. Akira would take us students out on countless “field trips” to various places – beaches, farms, camps, 4WD buggy rides – and we had so much fun together.
Towards my second year in NZ, we started a group called J2 (Jesus Japan). It started at first to offer a place for Japanese students to ask questions from the English services at church and study the Bible in Japanese language. The group grew fast, so did our relationship with God and each other. We played hard, and studied the Bible hard. We always did crazy activities and games (since Akira never says no) that were always followed by serious Bible discussions. I was one of the Christian leaders in J2, but having non-believers as majority, I often received difficult questions from their perspectives. Growing up in a Christian home and taking Bible stories for granted, it was challenging and made me examine my own faith in Jesus.
Being a “Christian leader” in such a group exposed my lack in trust in Jesus. I tried to pretend that I was doing fine as a Christian, but I was insecure about the forgiveness of my own sins. My high school life ended there, so I left NZ after graduation and stayed in Japan for a year.
As I went back to Palmerston North to study at Massey, God brought Janeen Mills to my life. She came as an ISM staff from the US and started living with one of the Japanese students I was close with. I visited her often and we talked about many things, and she soon saw the problems I was having with my faith. She offered to have bible study with me. She taught me what God’s sovereignty truly means and what we really are before the holy God. She presented the truth in such a straightforward and bold way, with so much love and care.
For the first time I gained unshakable confidence in salvation and I just could not stop praising God for that.
She has become my mentor since then – even now, I go to her for any kind of prayer requests.
My 5-year student life in NZ has become so rich because of them. Even after returning to Japan, the blessings received through ISMNZ continue to bear fruit in our children and Japanese churches (we just had J2 reunion in Jan. 2023, with 8 families, 21 kids!).
Nozomi Kusunoki ISMNZ Graduate