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My dear friend Ako went home to be with Jesus earlier this year. Yet her dreams, as with her love for Jesus, live on through those whose lives she has deeply impacted.

I first met Ako in the fall of 2013, when she came to my English class after receiving a flyer in her mailbox advertising my program. I remember that, after one particular class, my helper and I explained the Gospel to her for the first time. She was amazed. The whole time that we shared with her, Ako just kept exclaiming, “Wow!”  It was as if she was hearing something that her heart had always longed to know.

Before long, Ako began attending the Amagasaki church, and grew in her understanding of who God is.  She told me at one point, “I want to be a Christian, but I think it will take a long time.” Less than a year later, after studying the Bible with the pastor and with one of my English class helpers, Ako was baptized! It was on Easter Sunday, 2015. In her testimony she told us that since she was a child, she believed that God existed but had no idea who he was. “When I came to Amagasaki church, I learned that Jesus Christ is God,” she told us. “I thought that sin stays forever, but then I read in the Bible that Jesus bore our sins on the cross. At that moment, I thanked God from the bottom of my heart.” 

Ako eagerly joined the small group I was hosting in my home, and it was then that we discovered her cooking gifts. She was a blessing to us all at our potluck suppers! She was even dreaming of opening a small restaurant with her sister in Okinawa one day. But before she could see this dream fulfilled, Ako was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She and her family did move to Okinawa, but it was from a hospital bed that she witnessed her sister and brother-in-law opening the restaurant of her dreams. She died on February 15, 2020.

Ako’s faith in Jesus gave her peace and, although she fought hard to live, she was not afraid to die.  She passed away peacefully with her family by her side, having “fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7), and being brought safely into God’s presence, where her every moment is now, “Wow!”   

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