Kenji, a former international student in Canada, is an Operation Mobilization missionary in Reiho.
Born and raised in Japan in a devoted Buddhist and Shinto family, Kenji Kondo’s home town of Reiho is in a rural region with 2,000 years of history. The community never had a church or record of missionary activity.
I flew to Canada when I was 20—my first airplane ride. In Calgary, when I realized how little I understood English, I knew I was in big trouble. But God brought loving Christians into my life to help me find a job and a place to stay. Even though they invited me to their church, I was determined not to become a Christian.
I returned to Japan after a year and realized that life in Japan was not the same for me. I didn’t know back then about reverse culture shock and had no Christian friends. Out of emotional pain and grief, I went back to Canada. I stayed with ISMC missionaries Danny and Elma Kroeker and learned English at the Calgary FOCUS club for international students. My student time in Calgary was wonderful and fun—I enjoyed the FOCUS club so much, but was still determined not to become a Christian.
After completing the ESL class, I moved out of the Kroeker home to look for work. What a challenging time! I remember being on my bed because of a back injury and crying out to God in tears: “You are not a good God. Ever since I came to Canada and started hearing about You, my life has been going down hill. If You are the loving God that Christians told me about, You should heal me and help me!” In retrospect, I know it was not God’s fault, it was me who ignored His continuous invitations.
A few years later, I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord in a Japanese church in Calgary. I joined a mission organization and served in their Canadian head office. In 2005, I married Sandy, an ISMC staff member. Later, together with our son, we moved to the Philippines for two years of mission service with Operation Mobilization.
Ever since accepting Jesus, I’ve felt God’s gentle reminders about friends and family. Not one of them knew about Christianity, but it was easy to say, “I left Japan and will never return!”
But God gave me a burden for my home country. Six years ago, my father’s cancer situation led my family (my wife Sandy and two sons) to relocate to my hometown where we find ourselves ministering to my own people.
It is so exciting to see what God is doing here. Last year, many short term mission teams came from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, USA, and Canada! We had two groups from Alberta, and I was delighted to meet my Canadian friends again, including the one who helped me find a job when I first came to Canada. How interesting it is to see God bringing me full circle in life. I am grateful He changed me from a stubborn unbeliever to a passionate kingdom worker.
Thank You, Jesus, for using ISMC as part of my transformation journey!