In 1920, my father was a first generation born (Nisei) on the East Coast US and at a young age his family migrated over to southern New Jersey right outside of Atlantic City. When WWII broke out, my father was attending medical school following his own father’s footsteps, but he was forced to abandon his life as a student to help with the war effort. My father tried to enlist in the U.S. military, but was denied due to his widowed mother, and an older brother who had already joined the US Army under the 442nd (Japanese American US Army). He left college and came home to help the family farm down in Southern Jersey. After the Imperial Japanese army’s attack on Pearl Harbor, many internment camps were established to segregate Japanese Americans. It’s common to think that these internment camps were mostly along the West Coast, but there was also one in Seabrook, New Jersey. Despite being a Japanese-American, my father was spared from being sent to the internment camp when the war broke out because his church vouched for him for his Christianity.
After the war, my father never returned to medical school and remained living a life as a farmer to support his family, a life of never ending work 24/7. Despite the amount of work demanded as a farmer, my dad always made time for God and was wise in his ways to keep a Sabbath a Sabbath. After my siblings and I were born, my father remained committed to God and raised us successfully in a Christian home. As children of a farmer, my older brother, younger sister and I also helped with managing the farm and even viewed church and Sunday school as a “mini-vacation” to briefly get away from our daily chores. I remember attending church at a very young age and remember my mom playing a tape recording of a church Christmas show of us singing “Away in A Manger” totally off key! We continued with Summer VBS (Vacation Bible School) and youth group outings until we were well into high school, but things were to change after high school.
Life has its own challenges, but college life introduces in it own unique set of obstacles and for most the first big step on trying to live on your own. My problems occurred once I started to attend college, trying to balance a life as a student and also experiencing the challenges of becoming a young man. It was not unmanageable, but I was never really spiritual throughout the 5 years I studied engineering at Drexel University. I never attended church, and the only time I participated with something spiritual was a nondenominational get-together. Needless to say, I was not taking life seriously, only focusing on obtaining a degree to graduate and getting a job. After graduating, I had the opportunity to move to Japan for about a year for an internship, but returned to the U.S. to work with another company. Everything was about work, and I became distanced from God more and more; eventually I completely lost my spiritual faithfulness. I wasn’t in trouble, but I knew I was heading down the wrong path.
Is this all there is to life?
While improving my skills professionally, years would go by living a life of routine: getting up, working out, going to work, and coming home…repeat. I felt something was missing so I started to learn about self-improvement and started to invest in myself outside of work. While still working as an IT engineer, one thing led to another and ultimately I started learning about building a business in financial services. The professional relationships I made pursing this endeavor allowed me to meet some very successful business leaders. I stumbled upon common denominator with all these successful leaders; all were faithful to God, and all had God-based values.
I made one of the biggest decisions in my life and decided to go back to church. At this time, I was living in Hoboken and started to regularly attend church up in the Upper East Side in NYC. Despite the hour commute with all the transfers and walking, I enjoyed once again attending church and life started to have some meaning. I was making really good friends and life was good. However, after the World Trade Center Terrorist Attack in 2001, life changed for everyone and attending church in NYC was not as easy as it used to be. Kayo, my wife-to-be and I decided to move out of Hoboken and ultimately I stopped going to church.
A month after 911, my job as an IT engineer was eliminated and overnight I was unemployed with only a small severance package. My life of routine was forever changed. During this time, the IT world was in turmoil; returning to IT was very risky, so I decided to go “all-in” and try and build a full time income stream with financial services. This was not easy at all and training a team was rather difficult. After many months, my savings began to dwindle and the stress of trying to build a business caused a lot of strain. My debt began to rise as I tried to convince myself that I was only a few months away from becoming successful.
Despite the ever-growing financial stress, my wife-to-be and I started cutting out non-essentials. We lived a very simple life, while still trying to build a business. I remember one night that stress got so bad that I actually got down on my knees and began to cry and prayed for God ‘s help! Perhaps my prayers were answered. I was attending a business event in the city and in the audience was a special guest, the closing speaker, Frank Bolella, who was a success coach and pastor. I listened to his message and was very impressed. Listening to his message must have been God’s plan all along, because within two weeks, I met him once again at another business event. I became very interested in going to his church and one of my co-workers invited me to go there. After his sermon, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
While I was finally getting spiritual grounding, we were still having financial challenges as I was still without a job. During this time, I spoke to one of the other pastors at this church who explained to me the blessings of spiritual gifts. He told me to pray about it and I kept that in the back of mind. By this time, Kayo and I decided to get married as we had already stuck by each other through some very bad times. I knew that we would make it if we stuck together. Conversations of moving to Japan crossed our minds, but we were not ready yet to make that drastic decision.
Changing of the Guard
Hearing of our situation, my mother and father-in-law invited us to visit Japan, and then surprised us with a ticket to Thailand. The vacation was supposed to clear my mind and help to organize things out. When we arrived in Thailand, all the stress must have gotten to me as I fell very ill and unable to backpack as planned; instead we were stuck in Bangkok. My wife suggested that rather than sightseeing tourist hot spots, it would be better to go around locally with nothing stressful.
We happened to be near Wat-Po, and in one of their temples we decided to try Thai massage to help me relax. The massage made me feel better. As we were leaving, I saw a sign that read “how to learn Thai massage in just seven days”. We didn’t have a lot of money, but my wife insisted for me to stay and at least learn Thai massage.
As part of the curriculum there was a field trip to one of the universities in Thailand, where an exhibition of the human anatomy was on display. My mind was blown away, and I felt inspired, an emotion that I’ve lacked for so long. I completed my training in a week and was now certified in Thai massage, but I was still too ill to travel so instead I took another course in foot reflexology. After taking the course, I finally was strong enough to travel and we completed a short 3-day exertion and then headed home to the States with newfound inspiration.
We were both exited, but I was challenged trying to figure out what to do next. There was a local hospital not too far away from where we lived, so I tried to volunteer there to learn more about working in the healthcare field. I tried looking into nursing, but I quickly realized that nursing was not the kind of work I wanted to do. The volunteer director offered a special suggestion that ultimately would change my entire life. She recommended for me to go check out the physical therapy department; I had no idea what it was back then. I was impressed by the treatment the therapists provided for the patients and the immediate positive impact expressed by many satisfied clients.
A Step in the Right Direction
I was without a job during this time, so as a volunteer I was allowed to “earn” a free meal for every four hours of time. I decided to volunteer as much as I could and sometimes it was the only “real” food we had for the week. Timing couldn’t have been more perfect, when miraculously the primary receptionist was going away for vacation, and the director asked me to fill the role to cover phones and scheduling. I worked hard for the next 2 weeks and was so proud to actually have “earned” income. The director decided to hire me part-time and created a special position for me just to stay on staff with her department. Months would go by and life was starting to turn around.
Ultimately, the director convinced me to go back to graduate school. I was at first resistant to her suggestion, but I prayed about it and submitted my application anyway. After getting accepted to graduate school, I had to first complete pre-requisites that delayed my start for about 9 months; having to go back to school to fulfill basic health sciences courses.
The road to graduate school was not easy. About 6 months before graduate school, my cousin discovered he had colon cancer and my mother in law fell ill with stomach cancer. My wife had to return to Japan to take care of her and I checked in on my cousin as best as I could. I kept plugging away alone while she was away, but then my own father passed away one month before the start of classes. I was a wreck, but I had to stay focused and prayed for God’s strength to get through some tough times. The next 3 years of graduate school had it’s own challenges, but every day God answered my prayers to get through another day! Ultimately, I graduated and as they say the rest is history. All the sacrifices and support made this career change the best decision of my life.
This journey is full of many lessons learned. Whenever I tried to accomplish things on my own, it always failed. Whenever I trusted God and prayed, he guided me and provided the wisdom that helped me to make better decisions. Of course, conflicts still routinely occur daily, but through the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God, I am working towards trying to live a life rejecting the sinful nature of man.
Life is not perfect, and I am continuously praying for my wife’s salvation to be saved and receive the grace of God. The only thing I can do right now is live a life with God the best as I can.
It’s not a perfect life. He doesn’t provide me the answers I need every time, but I am learning to be patient. I am learning every day of his abundant love and his full grace for a man like me. I’m lucky that I was able to give my testimony, to be able to speak of my life as a Christian without any shame. I am not bothered to pray for someone where I work, as some companies today shy against that. I believe we are called to serve God and complete the great commission and help others seek their salvation. I believe that’s the ultimate goal for each and every one of us, and to enter heaven hearing the words , “Well done”.