Kotaro, left, with Wellington staff workers Max and Mei Rideout.

I am Kotaro Sugimoto. This is the story of how I became a Christian.

My first contact with Christians was 6 years ago. I was living alone at the time. I really felt lonely because it was the first time I lived alone. One day, while I was working at a hotel in Japan, one of the cleaning staff invited me to go to her church. Eventually I was baptized, even though I really didn’t know God and hardly even believed in him. I stopped going to church soon after; I had my own problems and doubts about the church’s pastor and people.

After this I moved back to my hometown, Tokyo. I developed a passion to learn English and work overseas. I found a free English conversation class near my house and joined it. I was surprised to find that almost everyone was a Christian. This was God caring about me, I believed.

I came to NZ to learn English, but I couldn’t find a church that suited me. When I was back in Japan for my sister’s wedding, I met a lot of old friends and had a chance to go to church. They looked for a church near to my home in NZ, and after coming back to NZ I went to the church that they recommended, Lifepoint.

The members were like a family—I quickly felt at home. One day John Dennison, from my church, suggested I come to NewsWatch, an English conversation class that he directs. (It’s a joint ministry of the Anglican Chaplaincy, TSCF and ISM.) There I met Max.

Max met with me for Bible study every week starting last October. I couldn’t understand a lot of the English words. However, when I did understand the meaning of some difficult words, I felt very accomplished and thankful to God. Prayer and sometimes reading the Bible became part of my daily routine and I felt my faith growing stronger.

When I lived in Japan, I had never heard that Jesus Christ is the bridge to the Father. It concerned me that I never had the privilege to cross the bridge to God. I wanted peace and calmness in my heart. I wanted to be a calm person. At this time, my work was very busy and one colleague was away for a month. I kept asking God, “Please help me, I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be complaining even though no one is here to help.”

After that, I really felt calm. I really felt something change in my heart. I realised even more that God was real and that he cared for me. And this gave me confidence to believe in Jesus.

This is the reason why I decided to cross the bridge. It is very simple but it was very important to me. I really appreciated God. I felt the Holy Spirit coming into my heart after I prayed. I believe Jesus Christ has died for our sin.

Recently, I started crying during worship. Before this, I didn’t understand why, when I went to church in Japan, one of my friends cried during the worship. Now I know how my friends were close to God!

When I do bad things I ask for his forgiveness. I pray for guidance. When I do small things wrong at work, I ask God if I should apologize. He shows me what to do.

When I look back at my past, I realise how God had helped me. In Japan I had a passion to learn English and work overseas. God had answered my prayers and guided me.