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"Rest for the Weary"
The Testimony of Kiyonobu Hamazaki
I am thankful for the opportunity to stand before you today and to share my testimony.  I was born on November 6th, 1978.  29 years ago.  I was born in the Kamishinchi neighborhood of Shimonoseki where I have lived ever since.  Close to our house is Sakura (cherry blossom) Elementary School.  True to its name, when spring arrives, the mountain on which the school is located is in full bloom with cherry blossoms.
I used to despise the season in which the cherry blossoms bloomed.  It marked the beginning of kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, and high school.  I would have to meet new people.  Even though the cherry blossoms marked the season of new beginnings, I still hated it.  The reason is that I have been bullied all of my life.  Since kindergarten, I have struggled with being overweight.  The teacher ignored me and I was always mistreated.  I disliked school from the beginning, but in fourth grade that feeling intensified. 
My fourth grade teacher was a large person, whom I desperately did not want to become my home room teacher.  He would scare the disruptive students by hitting the desk with a stick while screaming abusive language.  When he came close to me I would feel as if my back bone would freeze.  One time I got in trouble for forgetting, for two days in a row, my head scarf which we wore when passing out the school lunches.  The teacher made me sit in the back of the room with my legs folded under me as punishment.  During that lunch hour, the teacher repeatedly hit me with his open palm as the other students laughed, looking on.  I will never forget the looks on their faces, how the city outside the window looked that day, or even what kind of weather it was on that day.  Sometimes when the same type of weather reoccurs, I get physically ill as the memory of that day returns.  When the teacher hit me for the final time that day, my world became black around me.
From that time forward I lost all interest in school.  I would occasionally complain to my mother that my stomach hurt and stay home from school.  Since I didn’t enjoy studying, of course, my grades were below average.
When I was in my second year of junior high, a rugby club was created in Shimonoseki.  I was able to become a member of the Prefecture team in which no one knew me.  Before the games began and also during the breaks in between I would continually stare up at the sky.  This came about because of a comic book I was reading at that time which was given to me by my younger brother.  It was a comic book about famous people throughout world history and the person who made the biggest impression on me in the book was Jesus Christ.  Even though He was a loving person, Jesus Christ had stones thrown at him and was even put upon the cross. I remember this scene illustrated in the book.  The book said that Jesus rose again.  I would look up to heaven and wonder if this Jesus Christ would care to look at someone like me.
I wanted to go to high school, but when I saw someone else being bullied there, I decided after two days that I could not continue.  I began having emotional problems and anxiety and as a result began to overeat.  About that time I also developed diabetes, which runs in my family.  I was recommended by my doctor to be admitted into Yamaguchi University Hospital.  As I stood in front of the window in my hospital room, I once again thought of Jesus Christ.
When I was diagnosed with emotional distress and anxiety disorder as well as diabetes, I blamed everything on the abuse I suffered from my fourth grade teacher.  Once I was diagnosed, I decided that I needed to get my high school diploma so that I would not become a reprobate.  I took an exam and entered an adult education program.  I was 21 at the time.  This school was located at the base of a mountain.  Here also, I looked up at the heavens
After graduation, I tried my hand at many things—I especially threw myself into volunteer work.  I would remain until the very last at the volunteer center and continued on with my studies as well.  Six months before I was to graduate, I became ill again.  I had received some anxiety medication at a clinic, but had a reaction to the medicine.  Although, I was not able to receive my diploma at the same time as the other students, I was able to graduate.
Around this time, a foreigner spoke to me out on the sidewalk.  I didn’t realize at the time that he was a Mormon, just that, since he mentioned Christ, I thought that he must be ok.  I decided to attend his church.  When I first attended, everyone was very kind to me, but as I continued to attend, I realized that they were highly critical of others.  They didn’t want to hear anything that I wanted to say, but just wanted me to make a decision to start baptismal preparation.  I watched as they forced the children to draw pictures and became disillusioned with all that I was seeing.  “Something is wrong here,” I thought.  “This is not what I am looking for.”  I decided to not attend this church any more.
I remembered once attending a Christian Center in the Yamato neighborhood, so, last January, I decided to go again.  I remember the time I set foot into the sanctuary for the first time.  “This church treats God’s Word as something very valuable!  This is where I belong,” I thought. 
Jesus Christ is merciful.  Jesus loves us all the same.  I was interested in Jesus Christ from the time I looked up at the sky at rugby practice, but it was the earnest sharing of the gospel from Pastor Tony and Takayuki and the bright, loving people at the church that made me want to continue coming to this church.
Jesus Christ died for my sins.  For me, sin was hating that fourth grade teacher who hit me and my classmates who laughed at me.  I had lived a life of hate up until this time.  However, when I started coming to this church and came in contact with God’s Word I began to realize that this was a huge sin in my life.  I repented.  Jesus died on the cross for my sin and was raised three days later.  Since I prayed to accept Christ as my Savior, my path has gotten a little bit brighter with each day.
I used to feel that there was nothing good that could come from my life, but as I read Genesis, I realized that God created the world and everything in it.  I realized that God created me also and that knowledge made me thankful to be alive.
The doctor who recommended me to be hospitalized at the University hospital told me before I left, “It will be impossible for you to ever get to the point in which you will be able to praise yourself or be confident.”  I now know that he was wrong.  The fact that I am now speaking to you with a bright, cheery, smile and the fact that I can value others as well as myself, is a testimony of Christ’s work in my life.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days and my heart has also risen from the dead.  I still have a ways to go but I plan on continuing my journey towards a new life. 
I have been studying the Bible and about Jesus Christ for the past year with Takayuki.  Since believing in Jesus Christ, my outlook has brightened.  I love singing praises, studying the Bible, and sharing with other Christians.  I especially enjoy spending time playing with children.  For me this is a time of relaxation.
I felt that I could not contribute anything to society, but now I realize that I have the gift of making children smile. In the future I would love to be able to teach them—not just studies or sports, but to create memories that remain in the hearts of the children.  With God’s help I want to help children to smile and to share their thoughts freely.  I am thankful for the desire that Jesus Christ has put into my heart for this ministry.
Something happened to me since my salvation which has helped me sense the power of God.  I have a 90 year old grandmother who last year was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney.  I prayed that the operation on her kidney would be successful.  She was hospitalized during the winter, but was finally released when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  I told you that I used to hate the cherry blossom season, but when my grandmother was released from the hospital, I began to like the season.  My grandmother has continued to get better since her release from the hospital.  I go daily to visit her.  Before her surgery, the doctor said that there would be a good chance that my grandmother would die from her cancer.  I told Takayuki about this.  I believe that if I had not gone to the Center each day to pray for her that something horrible would have happened to her.  I want to thank God for what he did for my grandmother.
Finally, I would like to share with you one of my favorite Bible verses.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28 
When I am tired or upset or suffering, I remember this verse.  I am still very young in the faith, but I believe in Jesus Christ and I desire to walk as a faithful Christian. Thank you for gathering here today to hear my testimony.  I will never forget this day for the rest of my life.

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