Kaho came from Japan to the United States in 2022 at the age of 21 to study at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. She felt more fear than excitement due to the unknown, especially concerning mass shootings in our country. She found herself in a completely new environment with many challenges. However, she was grateful for the opportunity and the support of her parents to pursue this new adventure. Kaho came to the U.S. with no real understanding about Jesus or Christianity.
Early during her time at UAFS she met Tony and Amy Boyd from Grand Avenue Baptist Church (Fort Smith). They lead a ministry called iReach which exists to serve international students. They spend lots of time helping people learn English, taking students to Walmart, and meeting needs in general. In addition, for anyone interested, they help them understand more about the Bible and Christianity. Kaho said, “They gave us a warm-hearted welcome.” She also said there was something about the way they interacted with all the different cultures of the students that made her want to come back. They accepted everyone and were understanding of the differences.
Kaho met Autumn Wolff, an assistant at the Fort Smith BCM, at an iReach event they have in the BCM building on campus. They began to hang out more, and she played a big part in helping Kaho make more friends around the BCM (Kaho named Abby, Anna, Gracie, Sidney, Charis, Camilla, Rhance, Sara, and Jake specifically). At first, she felt a little overwhelmed at the BCM because she knew we worshipped together, and she did not worship God yet. In Kaho’s words, “There were sometimes I did not want to make a commitment to go to the BCM, because I thought I was not a Christian and felt I was so different from where my friends were at. However, being included through my friends’ invitations pushed me more forward to be open about what they were actually doing. I know my friends are all good friends, they care about me, and love me. Emotionally, I felt something warm every time I attended the BCM even if I felt terrible before coming.”
In December, she went on a mission trip to New York City with the BCM. We called ahead to make sure that would not be a problem. She primarily wanted to go for the cultural experience, but the BCM wanted to spend more time with her and answer any questions she might have about Jesus. Furthermore, she attended Lead/Defend (an ABSC event for teen and collegians). Most importantly, she continued hanging out with BCM students like Autumn and Abby. She asked incredible questions about her doubts about the Bible. A question stuck with me, “If there is One True God, why does he allow other religions? Doesn’t that just confuse people?” She was especially concerned for her friends and family in Japan. I told Kaho, “What if God wants to save you to help make the truth more clear to them?”
The Thursday before Easter (2023), Kaho attended a joint outdoor worship service with all the campus ministries at UAFS. She had been working through a flurry of questions in my office over the past few weeks and had come to a point of open-mindedness regarding Jesus and the Bible. Discussing the outdoor service, Kaho stated, “On that date, I felt something different, I really wanted to have that life with God. My heart was fully looking forward to jumping into his arms while I was singing.” After the service she talked to her friend, Abby Carter, and began following Jesus. A couple of minutes later I heard shouting from across campus. I looked up and saw Kaho and several of my students running toward me and shouting, “Kaho got saved!” A few weeks later, I baptized her at my church (Cornerstone – Fort Smith) with many of her friends from the campus, iReach, and BCM in the congregation.
Kaho returned to Japan after the semester. She is excited to be back home with her family. We love her, miss her, and will never forget her. She has attended church, but she is concerned about her relationship with God weakening without her Christian brothers and sisters from college. Please pray for Kaho as we celebrate the change God made and is making in her life. Pray that she will intimately connect with a local church. Also pray for her to be full of grace and truth as she shares with those around her about her relationship with Jesus.