Seminar to raise awareness, give hope to families facing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
When Laura Seton and her husband started encountering behavioral issues with their adopted boys they sought out specialist after specialist in Israel to find a proper diagnosis and support for their specific needs.
Until this summer when they got a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, they had only a series of wrong determinations and no answers on how to help their sons, who are biological brothers. With little treatment available here, the Setons traveled to Chicago in the fall to learn about treatment options there. At that time they became aware of Dr. Ira Chasnoff, a Chicago-based world-renowned researcher in the field of FASD.
The diagnosis and subsequent treatment has changed life for the Setons who were spinning their wheels by only considering developmental and behavioral approaches to dealing with their sons’ challenges.
“My reaction used to be, he’s just being nasty, but that is not the case: It is literally an inability for two parts of his brain to communicate with each other,” Seton explained. “The part that says, ‘you may not hurt someone’ doesn’t speak with the part that is acting out.”
And now thanks to their discovery and this new connection, Chasnoff will be leading a seminar in Israel next week to educate and bring awareness of the issue of FASD— an under-diagnosed and misunderstood challenge that can be common in adopted or fostered children. Israelis from both Messianic and non-Messianic backgrounds have seamlessly worked together to put this seminar together in a short time.
HaTikva Families, which is financially sponsoring the seminar, is working with Sharona Duchne who runs a wide-reaching online portal, Adoptive Wisdom, for any Israeli parents grappling with the challenges of adoption.
Rebecca Rikhi, manager of HaTikva Families, of the Messianic organization HaTikva Project, said the goals of the seminar match the department’s own mission of recruiting, equipping, and then supporting families who adopt or foster children in Israel.
“I did months of research before we launched HaTikva Families and what I saw is that post-adoption support just does not exist,” Rikhi said. “And these children have experienced immense trauma. FASD is something you don’t know before and then all of a sudden your child has behavioral issues and you don’t know how to deal with it. You go to the professionals and they say, oh its ADHD. But you have to approach FASD differently. It is so important that people are aware of that.”
“We have to give them strategies to deal with this challenging behavior,” she said.
Attendees will run the gamut of Israeli society from pediatric medical professionals and social workers to parents. Chasnoff will be teaching on what happens to a fetus whose mother drinks alcohol and how it affects brain development and the child’s behavior and cognitive abilities. He will advise on how to diagnose and treat FASD.
FASD is the package of conditions that can arise in a child if a mother had been drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The effects can range from physical and neurological problems to serious birth defects. Symptoms may look similar to traits of ADHD or autism, but are not treated the same. Chasnoff emphasizes that FASD cannot be considered in isolation as many children likely suffered other traumas and neglect before adoption.
Duchne, a self made expert in the issue of adoption and its unforeseen challenges, is herself an adoptive parent. She found that the country’s professionals lack expertise regarding children who suffered trauma and neglect.
“The FASD children have this too, but more extreme; their brain is underdeveloped,” she noted. “But if you don’t know this and you assume this child can do this and that, you will be frustrated. Only when you understand that his brain functions a different way, you can cope. When you understand the issue, you will receive the right toolbox to deal with it.”
And this is why the seminar is so important, she emphasized.
“No one can tell you the number of FASD children in Israel because most of the children haven’t been diagnosed,” Duchne said. “The general assumption is, maybe 300 were diagnosed with FASD from the adoptive community.”
“The problem now is raising awareness that there are many children with FASD that haven’t been diagnosed with it, but instead maybe with autism or ADHD,” she said.
Duchne just celebrated her 12-year “family holiday” as she calls it. Duchne adopted Osher when he was 6 years old.
“The first two weeks were sweet like honey, then it got sweet and sour, then it got sour,” she recalled.
While her son doesn’t have FASD she found he had other issues such as post-trauma and an inability to regulate his emotions. Duchne did her own research and found resources, most of which were in English, and started translating into Hebrew. She started blogging and eventually expanded into an online portal for adoptive and foster parents in Israel, providing training and tons of information. Her site is appropriately called Adoptive Wisdom.
Some 16,000 Israelis have been adopted since the founding of the state. Adopted children ages 18 and under number 3,300. Some 360,000 children are considered at risk in Israel and many are living in government institutions.
“The research shows it is better to have children in a family, for their development and livelihood,” Rikhi said. “Israel will say we don’t have a crisis because the kids are not on the streets. We say it is a crisis because they are not in families — it is an orphan and vulnerable children crisis.”
So coming alongside this FASD initiative is a way of supporting the families who have taken children into their homes already and HaTikva Families approaches the issue proactively.
“More and more we are learning you can rewire the brain and you can bring healing even though there was trauma in the past,” Rikhi said. “If you really connect to the heart of the child and understand their loss then you can bring healing.”
The diagnosis has changed life for the Setons.
“I would say that one of the main things that has helped us and continues to help us is when you look at your child’s behavior, you’re always interpreting it. And if you understand that he can’t help it, that his brain is damaged, you will react differently than if he’s just acting out,” Seton said. “And when your reaction changes, then his reaction changes.”
Though there is currently no cure, only treatment, Seton sees this as a tool God has given her to lean on Him more.
“No one has come up with a cure, but certainly love and nurture are a big help,” she said. “And God is our great healer and He’s the one we need to be attached to.”
For more information and to register, see this webpage in Hebrew.
FASD: There is Something we can do!
Sunday, Jan. 6, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
The Anglican School in Jerusalem, 82 Prophets Street
The seminar will be given in English with Hebrew translation
Dr. Ira Chasnoff is a professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago and a leading researcher in the field of child development and the effects of maternal alcohol and drug use on newborns and children. He has written “The Mystery of Risk: Drugs, Alcohol, Pregnancy, and the Vulnerable Child” and produced the documentary, Moment to Moment: Teens Growing Up With FASDs.
N.J. Schiavi has lived in Israel for over 15 years and is a freelance writer for Kehila News Israel.
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Lifted up, Eddie and Jackie Santoro press on
Once again in need of a miracle
After years of supernatural victory over cancer and the powers of darkness, Eddie and Jackie Santoro, longtime pastors and senior leaders at Jerusalem’s Kehilat Ahavat Yeshua, find themselves in need of yet another miracle. The Santoros now faithfully proclaim the advent of not a second, or third, demonstration of God’s power and healing grace in sustaining their lives, but a fourth.
Just days before the publication of this testimonial to their examples, endurance and strength in seeking healing from the Lord, the Santoros learned from their doctors that after overcoming the onset of two virulent brain tumors and another, unrelated attack, in earthly terms, of an equally menacing throat cancer, “The tumor has reappeared in my brain, third time,” Eddie told Kehila News Israel (KNI), “and so we need a miracle.
“The doctors told me that they had given me all they had to give. That they would go a few more weeks on the drug I’m now taking and, if the tumor is still there, if it’s still growing, they don’t have anything else to give me.”
“But we have God, amen?” Eddie added. “And meanwhile, I feel great. I really do. I feel wonderful. And by His stripes we are healed.”
“One of the things I’ve begun to appreciate as we have gone through this is the magnitude of the spiritual battle we find ourselves in, an ongoing battle we normally don’t recognize,” Jackie told KNI. “We make judgments and suppositions, we draw conclusions from things we see in the natural, but we often see them imperfectly. We see just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much we still don’t understand especially in the area of sickness and disease and healing.
“I believe God is doing something on the earth today to train our hands for battle, but it’s like any other war. Soldiers go into battle and some die, but the Body of Messiah will win in the end. Through these difficult tests and increasingly more severe challenges, God is pushing us to levels of greater faith to prepare for the end times and the intense spiritual warfare we will be confronting.
“And though people will sometimes die in these battles, that’s not the end of the story. The end of this story is victory. We want to keep our eyes focused upon the Lord and stand victorious with Him at the end, so we say No to the enemy and Yes to God and continue to press on.”
Demonstrating their credentials
My wife, Marcia, and I met Eddie and Jackie, our first contacts in Israel, via Skype from the U.S. before making aliyah in 2011. After we arrived, they continually reached out to us and made welcome suggestions and introductions to help plant us in the land. Lifting and sustaining others is what the Santoros have done, and still do, whether on behalf of strangers, as we were eight years ago, close friends or members of their congregation.
In his book, Covenant Relationships: A Handbook for Integrity and Loyalty, Jerusalem Pastor Asher Intrater writes, “A good shepherd must also allow his congregants to get to know him… It takes courage to open oneself up to intimacy… A good elder can say that he is known personally by the people he is serving. Our friends, Eddie and Jackie Santoro…were great examples of ‘knowing their flock.’ They would spend hours every day meeting with people personally and being involved in their lives.”
But lives of service are not necessarily bound to worldly bliss. In a recent sermon entitled, How God Uses Suffering, John MacArthur, widely-revered pastor-teacher at Grace Community Church in California and author of the MacArthur Study Bible, cited the suffering of the Apostle Paul, “through which Paul was literally shaped.”
“God uses suffering to reveal our spiritual condition…” MacArthur said. “…if somebody wants to see what you’re really like and the truth must be known, then let them see you in your deepest sorrow, in your greatest pain and suffering. And therein will come out the character that is really there.
“So, it was time for Paul to demonstrate his credentials. The Lord wanted the world to see what this man was made of, every reason then to cause him to suffer because it was in suffering that the truth was made manifest.”
“I’ve been in the Lord for 42 years,” Eddie said. “I’ll turn 70 in three or four weeks. I’m always impressed with how much one gains and matures spending faithful years in Him… I’m not who I was 40 years ago when I came to faith and I’m not who I was 22 years ago when we moved to Israel. We just keep growing. I can’t imagine what will happen when we go to be with the Lord in heaven. I think it will take eternity for us to grow into what he wants us to be.”
A serious headache
The Santoros’ battle against cancer began while they were on a weekend retreat in northern Israel.
“Everyone had risen early that Saturday morning to enjoy a delicious breakfast…” Eddie begins his account of their inspiring journey in the opening chapter of Lifted Up: Overcoming through the Power of Love, the book he wrote about his and Jackie’s battles with cancer. “When we returned to the guest house, much to my surprise, I had developed a serious headache.”
The headaches only became more frequent. During the month that followed, Eddie experienced random and progressively worse memory loss until, in August of 2015, almost three-and-one-half years ago, his “incredible, challenging and miraculous journey began.”
After 12 hours of medical tests, Santoro was admitted to the hospital and told by a neurosurgeon of the presence of a suspected cancerous tumor growing on the left side of his brain, one that needed to be removed surgically, and soon.
Surgery was scheduled for five days afterward. Eddie’s recovery was challenging, but ultimately successful. About a year ago, he wrote, and Jackie edited, Lifted Up, which they published to share their experience. True to His word, God had worked every situation for good and had been their strong tower.
The Santoros’ see the publication of Lifted Up as an extension of their ministry and testimony, their prayer being for those who read it to know the victory that God worked in their lives.
It is Eddie’s personal account of the onset of cancer, “facing the unfathomable” meaning of their burden, their physical and spiritual battles, God’s victory in healing and the call to “live His life.”
Each chapter includes details of their experience, anecdotes of sharing faith with both friends and strangers as well as scripture and personal insights into the purpose and meaning of every challenge the Santoros had been called upon to endure.
Their path to their high calling began in 1977. Eddie was “saved out of a hippie lifestyle” through a personal encounter with God.
“I received the Holy Spirit, met Jackie two years later and we were married in 1979,” Eddie wrote. “We spent the next ten years as leaders in a small Christian fellowship in Woodstock, NY. In 1989 we started a Messianic congregation and made Aliyah to Israel in 1997. Our only son joined us the following year, married several years later and has blessed us with three beautiful grandchildren…
“Our lives are a forty-year-plus testimony of God’s wonder and power. We know there is still much that lies before us.”
‘He walks with us to help us fight’
The dedication of Lifted Up exhorts, “May the glory of God wash hope, joy and power over you as we share the things He ministered to us during our great trial.” Now, one year after publication, the Santoros’ great trial, no less important, precious or true as the result of recent events, has apparently not ended.
“When we got the report, four days ago, that the cancer had returned, we took a hit,” Jackie said. “But we’ve been able to keep our eyes continually on the Lord. I had made a commitment when this first happened; I would not blame God or ask, ‘Why me?’ Eddie and I both had committed to never do that. God is not the author of sickness and disease. He walks with us to help us fight.”
God is not the author of sickness and disease. He walks with us to help us fight.
“And that attitude has provided us with such grace,” Jackie said. “Even upon receiving this latest negative news, it was hard to hear, of course. I ask myself, ‘Is Eddie going to die?’ [As Jackie spoke, Eddie shouted No! in the background.] But God’s word is God’s word.His word says, By His stripes we are healed. So we both feel, No, we’re hanging in there.
“We’re not giving up. We’ll continue to keep our eyes focused on the Lord.”
“It’s a challenge, of course. I won’t say it’s been easy or that Eddie and I walk in perfect faith. We certainly do not, but I can honestly say that we have not been depressed. We’re pressing on, both eager and determined to walk through this latest trial the best way possible.”
Cliff Keller lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife, Marcia after making Aliyah in the spring of 2011 from the United States. His most recent novel is a work of historical biblical fiction entitled The Lion or The Lamb: Samson Ruth and Salvation. Cliff also blogs at Standing by the Gate and has a writing website, goodStories.
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Pro-life org lobbies Israeli govt over staggering abortion costs
An Israeli pro-life organization is urging the government to stop funding millions of dollars worth of abortions ahead of next year’s budget allocations — and is calling on believers to pray for a positive response to its campaign.
Be’ad Chaim (which means pro-life in Hebrew) sent a letter earlier this month to ministers and officials involved in allocating the Ministry of Health’s budget, probably coming to a final decision today or tomorrow.
“Since hearing the report about a 40 million shekel reduction in the Ministry of Health budget, I found it a good opportunity to call your attention to a subject that has been breaking (dear to) my heart for the last several years,” Be’ad Chaim Director Sandy Shoshani wrote in an official letter sent to government officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Approximately 20,000 legal abortions were performed in Israel this year at a cost of between 1,800 to 3,100 shekels each depending on the method of abortion. On average we are talking about a sum of 49 million shekels a year which is 11 percent of the Ministry of Health’s budget.”
And all of these are funded by taxpayers. The estimated cost is approximately 3,000 shekels for a surgical abortion and between 1,400-1,800 shekels for a pill that terminates the pregnancy. That come to almost $13 million on state-funded abortions every year.
“We know we cannot stop abortion in Israel, but what we are asking is that the government wouldn’t pay for every single one,” Karin Miller, Be’ad Chaim project manager, told KNI. “We are urging them to require women who want an abortion to, under certain circumstances, pay for it themselves so it doesn’t come from the Ministry of Health budget.”
If that were the case, Miller said, the number of abortions in Israel would likely go down.
By law, female soldiers serving in the IDF get up to two free abortions, and women under 18, over 40 and single women are also eligible. But more than half of the women who were approved for an abortion last year didn’t fall into those categories. In fact 56 percent were married.
“It’s not clear to us why the state would fund such a high percentage of married women,” Shoshani wrote. “We are not talking about minors or single mothers, but married women who simply find it inconvenient to have another child.”
In Israel, any woman who wants to get an abortion must present her case to a committee under the auspices of the Ministry of Health. Last year the committee approved 99 percent of those requesting to terminate their pregnancy, all of these then subsidized by the government.
In response, a social worker who sits on the committee, defended its decisions and told Be’ad Chaim they are not taken lightly.
Nevertheless, Be’ad Chaim is encouraging the government, if it won’t ban abortion outright, at least make it harder to get one.
“Look, if you want to buy a new smartphone, for example, let’s say it will cost you 2,000 shekels or more. You would do the maximum you need to in order to buy the one you want,” Miller said. “Likewise, If you really don’t want this child, let them do the maximum to get the money for an abortion and not rely on the government to pay for it.”
While Israel spends millions on abortions, Be’ad Chaim points out that the nation’s hospitals are overcrowded and people with complicated diseases don’t get approval from their insurance for their medical prescriptions.
Freeing up some money in the Ministry of Health’s budget could alleviate these other needs.
While Be’ad Chaim lobbies the government to consider making changes on this issue, the organization works hard to support women who decide to keep their babies. They provide mothers with financial assistance for a full year after the baby is born, baby equipment, formula, diapers and clothes.
The organization also offers free parenting and childcare courses and partners with shelters for pregnant women whose lives are in danger because they became pregnant.
The Israeli government gives the official number of abortions as one in every 10 births.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Changing attitudes in Israel: A new era
With a good generation now under its belt, Israel is settled enough to feel like exploring. The history of modern Israel has been fraught with attack and defense, sheltering from storms, and providing a safe place for Jewish people in a world that just can’t seem to stop with the anti-Semitism. But now with the most formidable army in the Middle East, and a majority who have known no other home, many Jewish Israelis feel safe enough in their identity to venture where the diaspora might fear to tread.
Here’s the shocking development:
“Jewish Israelis have fallen in love with Christmas, and nowhere is this more evident than the northern Arab city where more than two millennia ago, according to Christian belief, a woman named Mary received news that she was bearing the Son of God.”1
Nazareth, Yeshua’s hometown, was awash this Christmas with Jewish Israelis who had come out of curiosity to see, listen and learn. Hebrew-speaking tour guides ushered their Jewish groups around the sites, explaining the meaning and history behind them. Many had never been to Nazareth before, and had little to no knowledge of the Biblical story of Jesus.
One lady called Neta explained, “We grew up ultra-Orthodox… It’s really nice to see how people from other religions celebrate their holidays. But the real reason I wanted to do this was for my nieces – they need to open their minds a bit.”
Maoz Inon has his finger on the pulse in terms of tourism in Nazareth, having gone into business with a local Arab family to restore their magnificent family home into a guest house. He has noted a sharp uptick in Jewish interest: “In terms of the number of Israeli Jews coming for the Christmas festivities, it’s definitely a record,” he told Haaretz. “Israelis travel abroad more and more, so they’ve become exposed to Christmas.”
The numbers are booming, and whether it’s casual visits to see the decorations or organized tours, Israelis love a party. One Jerusalem-based company saw numbers of tour groups double, and then even ran out of guides. Further north, 30,000 people came from all around the country to see the spectacular decorations in Haifa. Meanwhile, on the border of Lebanon, the village of Fassuta boasts the largest Christmas tree in Israel, and is well-known for its beautiful decorations, drawing 60,000 visitors last year.2
Times are a-changing
This new fascination is a far cry from the revulsion of all things Christmassy that we have seen in the past. Several years ago, the Chief Rabbinate Council formulated an official policy to revoke kosher certificates for any businesses that displayed Christian symbols – such as Christmas trees – during the Christmas season, and the Jerusalem Post reported with some consternation on the controversial placing of a Christmas tree at Jaffa Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City in Jerusalem.3
Previously, Christmas has been a matter of shock and horror – even among Jewish believers – but as the Jewish state settles and gains a greater sense of identity and security, the panic is subsiding.
The increasingly strong connections between Jewish and Arab believers has led to a somewhat cautious embracing of the celebration, which is very important to the Christian Arab community. Moreover, it seems more and more likely that Yeshua was born mid September, during the fall feasts, which would put his conception pretty much – well – at Christmas.
Appreciating the Arab Community
This morning at Israel College of the Bible, our Jewish and Arab students gathered for worship which included carols and a talk from Shmuel Aweida, an Arab pastor, who shared his perspective.
His family never knew the true date of birth of his mother, so they just picked a date to celebrate. The important thing, he said, was that she was his mother. Not knowing the exact date of her birth made her no less important or loving, nor did it change their relationship in any way. It’s the same, he said, with Jesus. The main thing is that he came. It’s a fact worth noting – the long-awaited Messiah has finally come!
Moti Vaknin, a Jewish believer, said that his family didn’t know the date of their Moroccan Jewish grandmother’s birthday either. Israel is a funny place, with meandering and fascinating history – both of the land and the people. There’s plenty of room for both Jewish and Arab communities, along with their traditions and peculiarities. We share a great deal in common – past, present and future. And maybe, just maybe, the Jewish community has a thing or two to learn from the Arab Christians who live among them, in celebrating the arrival of the Jewish Messiah.
- Haaretz: For Israeli Jews, a Newfound Love Affair With Christmas, Judy Maltz, 24 December 2018
- Jerusalem Post, Israel’s very Own Christmas Village, Yvette J. Deane, 15 December 2018
- Haaretz, 24 December 2012, Jerusalem Post, 23 December 2012
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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From Buddhist Priest to Believer in Yeshua
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John14:6 (NASB)
I grew up near Horyuji Temple in Nara Prefecture whose buildings have had a huge influence on religious architecture and whose pagoda is the oldest wooden building in the world. This historic environment influenced me. I would walk around the ancient tombs and remains from the Asuka era and visit old temples with my classmates.
After high school I entered a Buddhist university in Osaka. When the entrance ceremony began with Buddhist sutras I thought I was at a funeral service. What kind of university had I entered! However, as all of us incoming students recited sutras I began to think that Buddhism is good. And over the course of 4 years of study this feeling got stronger.
My university degree got me a job at a major travel agency. I liked my job and was praised for my good sales results. Unfortunately, my lifestyle was a mess. Almost every night I went out drinking with colleagues. Then, I made the tragic mistake of driving after a night of drinking and caused a major accident. I knew I needed to reform myself and decided to change my job and immerse myself in Buddhism. In 2000 I entered the Buddhist priesthood and received a Buddhist name. I thought I could achieve salvation through this.
I was taught that while the world has many religions and many gods all of them are incarnated in Buddha and while there is only one pinnacle that is the truth there are many ways to get to it. I thought that the exclusionism of monotheistic religions is wrong and that Japanese-style Buddhism should take the lead and promote religious reconciliation and world peace. This motivated me to participate in a Religions for Peace conference, take part in a medical team for AIDS treatment in Kenya and visit Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Ethiopia. Then, just when I thought all was going smoothly my company went under and I was out of a job. I was desperate and this led me to become what I am today, an independent business consultant.
My new career engaged me with various people and in February 2007 I found myself being pestered by a Christian business associate to attend a church service until I finally gave in and went with him. The pastor’s message was that the only way to salvation is by believing in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. He explained that almost all Japanese think that there is only one truth but more than one way to achieve it. He declared that this is absolutely wrong.
For me this was unacceptable! I wanted to shout out, “No! What a terrible message! You can’t say that!” After the service several people asked me what I thought about the message. I couldn’t help but argue with them. This brought out an elder of the church and we engaged in a full-fledged verbal battle that ended in a stalemate with me insisting insisted that:
- There is only one truth but there are many ways to get there.
- A religion is like a dialect and the one and only god (Buddha) appears differently to correspond with different countries, different cultures, and different ethnicities.
- Japan was established as a nation based on the laws and ordinance system during the 6th and 7th centuries when Prince Shotoku lived. Since then, Japanese people have been valuing Wa (harmony) and accordingly respect multiple religions, such as Shinto and Buddhist deities.
I was frustrated that those Christians didn’t understand that we are seeking the same truth. But, to get them to understand I needed to know what is in their Bible. For this purpose, I read the 8 volume Nihonjin ni Okuru Seisho Monogatari (The Bible Story Written for Japanese) by Pastor Kenichi Nakagawa of Harvest Time Ministries. I had previously read a number of books related to Christianity by Shusaku Endo, Ayako Sono, and Ayako Miura. However, I needed more than piecemeal knowledge to argue successfully with those Christians. Pastor Nakagawa’s books presented the Bible story like a history textbook. After reading his books I concluded that 1) Jesus Christ had been an actual person, 2) Jesus’ crucifixion was historically true, and 3) I needed to meet Pastor Nakagawa.
In April 2007 I met Pastor Nakagawa for the first time and from September I started going to Harvest Time Ministries’ weekly service in Tokyo in order to find the legitimacy of Buddhism in the Bible. At the same time, I decided to review what Buddha actually taught and what the original fundamental principle of Buddhism really was. It bothered me that Buddhism taught two opposite things: justification by faith and justification by one’s own effort.
The Buddha’s last words to his disciples were, “Everything is fleeting. Complete your training diligently.” The Buddha wanted his disciples to always pursue the truth, without falling into something like idol-worship. As my understanding grew, I began to think that Buddhism is not really a religion but a philosophy. However, his disciples did not follow their master’s faith but let his ashes be divided and shared with numerous followers. These ashes are said to now be in more than 80,000 temples around the world.
I assume that when Buddhism first came to Japan in AD 538 from China via the Korean Peninsula, it had already been influenced by Christianity, Hinduism and some other religions. However, no matter how much I tried to correlate the roots of Japanese Buddhism with the Christianity of ancient times, it didn’t lead me to have a personal relationship with God in terms of salvation. This was because I did not yet understand the true significance of the crucifixion.
There came a point where I stopped seeking for salvation in Buddhism. In contrast, I was continually studying the Bible from a logical and scientific point of view. Then, one experience was life-changing. In April 2008, I attended a Harvest Time Ministries seminar where Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum taught on “God’s Program for the Salvation of Mankind – Dispensationalism and the Eight Covenants of the Bible.” He introduced how to study the Bible from the Jewish perspective. This was a breakthrough that enabled me to comprehend the essence of the Bible. When I then read the entire Bible from this perspective I was completely convinced that it was God’s revelation and historical record in the salvation of mankind. I was like a dry sponge soaking up water as I felt myself changing and being changed from within. I was amazed at the feeling that God’s salvation program was for Futoru Nagayama, too.
The first time I visited a church I stubbornly rejected the message of John 14:6 where Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Today, when I hear that message I shout “Amen!”
It is impossible to see the true Father in a philosophical way. That approach results in people going the wrong direction and creating an idol. The Father of the Trinity, whom we believe in, was not made by us, but is the Father who made mankind and even Buddha. For much of my life I was going in the wrong direction. “Father, I have now come back to be with you. I am sorry for having gone astray.” I recall these words of my testimony on the day I was baptized as if it were yesterday. To God be the glory.
Translator: Daniel Eichhorst has lived in Japan for 35 years. He is currently teaching English at Tohoku University in Sendai. In 2015 he and his wife were baptized by Pastor Nakagawa and they are active in Harvest Time Ministries. They traveled to Israel with Pastor Nakagawa on the Harvest Time Ministries Holy Land Tour in 2016.
Futoru Nagayama is a business consultant and chaplain in Harvest Time Ministries. His consulting focuses on communication training and management know-how and methods. As a chaplain he is active with the Bible forum movement in Harvest Time Ministries and has expertise in teaching about death and dying. With his passion for studying the Bible from the Jewish perspective he has participated in leading 16 groups of Japanese to tour Israel.