Ogaki, the Miracle Area, by Elder Axel Kerksiek
What is a miracle? To me a miracle is a personal recognition of God’s power which results in greater testimony, faith, and learning. Well, let me tell you about a story of a missionary who had such a miracle:
I had only been in Gokiso for two transfers; my companion had been there longer than me. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to transfer. We were seeing great success in Gokiso and I was growing old as a missionary. Transferring was not what I thought I wanted. Well, as you can guess, transfer calls came and I was being transferred to an area that I knew was having little to no success and was basically broken. It was hard to leave. I was sad, angry and lost all motivation. However, I pressed forward hoping something good would happen.
I got to Ogaki and tons of great things did happen! I want to tell you about one unforgettable miracle that didn’t end with people in white clothes getting ready to go into baptismal font water, but remember that a miracle is meant to teach and inspire you.
During my first Eikaiwa class in Ogaki a new student came to our class. He called before and asked to join. Of course, we said yes! During his first time in our class, we did an Eikaiwa interview with him. We found out a little bit about him. His name is Sato, Toshiki. He is 18 years old and has a dream to be a fire fighter in Washington D.C.! We asked if he wanted to know more about the Church and he said yes. He told us that he just got back from visiting his friend and her family who live in Washington, D.C. He told us that his friend is a member of our church, and while he was in D.C. for one week, he went to church, prayed, read scriptures, and had FHE with his friend and her family. WAY TO GO, MEMBER FRIEND! He told us that he felt good and wanted to feel those same feelings again.
We set up meeting with him two times a week every week. Teaching him was as easy as pie. We taught him and committed him to be baptized within the first two weeks of meeting. He said yes to everything.
We set up a time to meet with his whole family (6 people). Our first visit with them went so well! Toshiki’s member friend’s non-member mom was there and she was backing us up on everything. The whole family became investigators after that night.
I remember on the drive home that night I felt so much joy and happiness. I could see the potential for them as a family and I could see God working His miracles.
Well, as I said before, this isn’t the perfect story. We hit some obstacles trying to get permission for Toshiki to be baptized. We met with the family again. We did an FHE and had a great time. Even Toshiki’s member friend’s non-member mom was there and again she was backing us up on everything. However, Toshiki’s parents still wanted him to wait.
Instead of giving up or weakening in commitment, Toshiki told us that he wanted to continue learning until he gets permission. He wasn’t giving up.
So for about four months we kept meeting him and reviewing with him all the lessons. We helped him start reading the book of Mormon on his own. (He is at the end of Mosiah right now). Of course, he had some challenges, but he got over them and his desire to be baptized increases every time we meet. One of our members said this about his situation, “When you tell someone they can’t do something, they resolve to do it even more.”
From December to February we were trying so hard to meet with Toshiki’s parents again and make a goal together when he could be baptized. However, for two months they eluded us with all sorts of excuses from their bag of excuses for missionaries. But I had a powerful card. So I used it. I used the “I-am-going-home-to-America-and-I-really-want-to-meet” card. It worked.
We were able to meet with Toshiki’s mom last week (last week of my mission.) My hope was to see Toshiki be baptized before I went home. He is so ready. He can be baptized any day if he just gets permission. However, my hope was not realized. I don’t know why, but I trust God and His timing.
We met with Toshiki’s mom, but after dinner and before we could talk to her she ran away to go to another appointment. It was sad. I wasn’t going to be able to see one of my best friends in Japan be baptized.
However, I learned a lot. I learned that it is not about me, it’s about him. I am confident that some day he will be baptized, and I will be just as happy. I am so grateful to have met him and have been able to teach him and share my testimony with him. My appreciation for this two-year opportunity increased and my love for others has increased also.
Right now Toshiki is doing great. He is doing what he can to be worthy to be baptized. He has made some hard choices, especially for an 18 year old, but it has resulted in his strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not the only miracle that I have seen in Ogaki. There are tons more. Every day here has been joyful, every day an adventure. I am grateful that God knows me and prepared all of these blessings for me, hidden in my last area, Ogaki. It is my miracle area. I have made lifelong friendships here, I have overcome challenges, I have seen people grow so strong as a result of Jesus Christ and his teachings.
Maybe my miracle stories are not miracles to others, but God knows us individually and give us individual teachings and experiences so that we can develop our individual talents and overcome our individual weaknesses.
I can never forget Ogaki and I hope I never will. I came here with all odds against me for any success, but God had planned and is still doing a mighty work here. He is working miracles.