Sometimes, in the midst of an ordinary day, you meet an extraordinary person. This was my experience a few months ago while working as intern with Open the Bible (formally Unlocking the Bible). I had the opportunity to interview (via Zoom) a Christian woman who lives in western Japan. Meet Kayoko Katayama! I pray that you, too, will be encouraged by the various ways that opening the Bible has changed her life
“Open the Bible Changed Me!”
An Interview with Kayoko Katayama
Due to the time difference between the United States and Japan, Kayoko and I greeted each other with both “Good morning” (for me) and “Good evening” (for Kayoko). Then, I jumped right to asking questions and hearing Kayoko’s story of faith in Christ.
When did you first hear the truth about Jesus, Kayoko?
[smiling, as she reminisced] When I was a university student, I majored in English and wanted to read the Bible. During that time, I met a missionary from Sweden. We would often talk about Christianity, and I began attending his church. When I opened the Bible, what I read started to affect me.
What is one scripture that has particularly strengthened your faith?
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:34-40).
Jesus says, “What is the most important commandment? Love your God and love your neighbor.” I really like this verse. It is really difficult for me to do, but I always want to try.
Obeying this commandment is very difficult for me to do, too. Can you describe a time in your life that challenged your faith or caused you to doubt?
It has been difficult for me to find a church family. There are only about three churches in the area where I live, and each of those has a small congregation of only 15-30 people.
I’ve moved a lot because of my husband’s work. Sometimes I couldn’t find a good church or any Christian community at all. I doubted God and wondered, “Why did He give me such an experience?”
In 2011, there was a big earthquake in Japan, and I had met many victims. At that time, I wondered, “Why did God allow this”, but I think God wants to use these kinds of experiences to help us know more about the true meaning of life.
What was the 2011 earthquake like for your family?
At that time, we lived in the northern part of Japan. We were quite close to the earthquake, but safe. We met many people who were evacuated from the area, and we heard many stories about their experiences. I just wanted to know how to help them. From these events, we can learn to help each other and think more about how other people feel.
I like what you said about helping others. How has the Word of God helped you get through a tough situation?
I have two sons. When they were high school students, they were bullied, and we had a really hard time. A very nice pastor encouraged us, and I also told my sons what we know from Scripture: God always thinks that you are important (even if you are bullied).
How have you grown in your understanding of Scripture?
In the past, I didn’t think the Old Testament was very important. I somewhat ignored it. But the Open the Bible Story resource helped me understand that even the Old Testament talks about Jesus.
When I was a university student and heard pastors teach, I felt I needed a Savior. Using Open [the Bible Story] has helped me to understand so much more about how sinful we are—and that we really need a Savior. I feel that necessity more than ever before.
When did you discover Open the Bible Story?
I used to listen to a preacher from Sweden who preached the gospel in English. About four years ago, they stopped airing that program. That’s when I found the Open the Bible website. As soon as I began using Open the Bible Story, I wanted to translate it into Japanese. I have already translated all 50 sessions of the “Hike” path.
What compelled you to translate the Open the Bible resource?
In Japan, many of the pastors don’t preach from the Old Testament. So, it’s really difficult for Christians in Japan to understand the Bible from the beginning to the end, in context. I think Open is a really helpful tool for Japanese Christians to learn more about the Bible and more about Jesus.
Another reason I wanted to do the translation was so that I could give the teaching to my sons. So, whenever I finish translating a session, I send it to my sons. Both my husband and sons read what I translate. My husband is quite interested in Open, and he’s quite happy about it.
How has the ministry of Open the Bible impacted you?
When I read the Bible, sometimes I have questions. It’s difficult to ask my pastor in Japan because he doesn’t welcome the questions. He may not know how to answer the questions. But when I listen to Open the Bible [radio programs], many of my questions can be answered by Pastor Colin Smith’s preaching. He doesn’t avoid the most difficult parts of the Bible.
What is the role of Scripture in your life?
The Bible is really important because people tend to get discouraged. If we only look at our problems, we are very easily discouraged. But if we know the God of Scripture, then we can have hope—both now and in the future. The Bible makes me wonder, “Since I have the hope of my Savior, what is my mission in this world right now?”
I really appreciate how you pointed out that Scripture leads us to knowing our mission in this world. What would you say is your mission?
I want to tell people about the Bible. I want to tell people in Japan that there is a God. Many Japanese people think that Jesus is the God for Western people only. But Jesus is not just for Western people. He is for all people, even in Japan! Jesus cares for Japan. I want to tell everyone, “Jesus is the one, true God for all the people on earth!”
You can read more Stories of Impact like this one at Open the Bible.