Misato Higashi née Numata came to Singapore to attend the School of Theology in the hope of growing closer to God—marriage was not on her mind. What He did for her exceeded everything she asked for or imagined.
Coming to Singapore by herself to study at City Harvest Church’s School of Theology in 2019 took a great leap of faith for Misato Numata, now Misato Higashi. She spoke virtually no English, and that year, unlike previous years, she was the only Japanese student in the cohort. She also had health issues to battle. But Misato had determined in her heart to come—she had ended her job at a children’s home, and left her parents behind to pursue God.
“My purpose of studying at SOT 2019 was to build a closer and more intimate personal relationship with God, so I had put aside my desire to find a spouse,” she shares. “However, interestingly, there were few times during SOT, I felt God’s prompting that I should pray for marriage. I sensed that He was speaking to me through Psalms 37:4-5, like, ‘Delight yourself in Me, tell me your heart’s desire.’”
Misato, who was 39 at the time, did not have a boyfriend, but it was something she had on her heart. “I was always praying to God that I wanted to marry someone is warm-hearted and merciful, someone who loves God and loves people,” she explains.
The idea of marriage was seeded in 2016, when Pastor Gary Heyes of Speak Life Global visited her church, Kumamoto Harvest Church. “Pastor Gary, who is known as a prophet, prophesied over my marriage!” she shares. “He said that God will do something to surprise me and he said wonderful things about my marriage and it would be beyond my imagination. But honestly, I had no idea about marriage in those days.”
When Misato came to SOT, God did a deep work in her heart. “During SOT, He spoke to me again and again that I am His beloved,” she recalls. “This very fundamental truth hit my heart so many times until my identity in Christ was re-established firmly. My love for God was just simply renewed.”
The SOT staff remembers how much Misato struggled. Being the only Japanese student that year, she had no other compatriot to fellowship with in the hostel. Her English was not strong so she struggled with lectures and assignments. She was constantly emotional because she was away from her family, and there were many times she wanted to quit. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, and the pain was severe throughout her whole stay in Singapore, often robbing her of sleep. But despite all that, she never missed a single class and even actively participated in the Japanese Fellowship. “Breakthrough came, and from negative and emotional she became positive, and she persevered,” says SOT manager Cindy Ng. Japanese translator Keiko Fujimoto adds, “She also had a courageous attitude of faith, actively evangelising Singaporeans in spite of the language barrier!” For all bravery and the transformation she experienced, Misato was nominated for the SOT Courage Award in 2019.
HOW SHE MET HER HUSBAND
“Before coming to SOT, I was working at a children’s home. Since returning to Kumamoto after SOT, I have been working as a social welfare counsellor that supports mothers and children in all kind of family matters,” Misato describes. She is also a cell group leader and a greeter in her church, Kumamoto Harvest Church, which is part of The Harvest Network.
Misato had never met her future spouse, Kazuya Higashi before the end of 2020. Kazuya’s parents had moved from Fukuoka to Kumamoto in 2016, and were members of Kumamoto Harvest Church too. “I met them in church every Sunday, but I had never met their son before,” muses Misato. “Kazuya was living in Fukuoka, but he became concerned about his aging parents, so he decided to move to Kumamoto.”
Misato’s senior pastors, Pastor Yoji and Pastor Kyoko, were having fellowship with Kazuya’s parents one day in 2020, when they asked Kazuya’s mother what kind of woman she would like her son to marry. The mother immediately replied, “Someone like Misato-san in our church!”
That started the ball rolling. Pastor Yoji and Pastor Kyoko had actually known Kazuya since the time he was a young boy in Fukuoka. Although they were aware that Kazuya had stopped attending church for many years, they continued to reach out to him. And now, knowing that this young man was a good person, the pastors felt peace in their hearts introducing him to Misato.
“In December 2020, I met Kazuya at first time at a restaurant near my work place,” Misato relates. “My first impression of him was that he looked scary! If he doesn’t smile, he looks really stern. So during first meeting, I took off my glasses so that I wouldn’t be scared!”
Their first date did not go altogether smoothly. “During our conversation, I talked about God and the Bible, but he told me that he would never go to church!” Misato remembers. “But I maintained my position that I would like the person I go out with to attend church. So, in my heart, I thought this man was not for me. But at the same time, if I could do something for him to lead him back to God, that would be great. At least I could be his friend and evangelise him.”
Her first impression of this fierce, non-church-going man was not too positive, but Kazuya’s first impression of her was “that I’m a beautiful lady,” she says with a pleased laugh.
Following their first date, Kazuya messaged Misato to say that he was thinking of attending the church service on Christmas Eve. “He works as a Japanese chef,” explains Misato. “He is usually busy, but he was off that Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, due to COVID, our church did not have Christmas Eve service last year. So I invited him for the New Year service in January this year instead. Surprisingly, he said yes, and he finally came to church after 20 years of backsliding.”
GOD USED A BEAUTIFUL LADY TO BRING HIM BACK
Kazuya grew up in a devoted Christian family. Since young, he would go to Fukuoka Harvest Church every Sunday with his parents and siblings. But when he became a teenager, he began to doubt his relationship with God. While he was serving and teaching little children about God, he felt contradiction in his heart. Eventually, he stopped going to church when he was 15.
During that time, Kazuya rebelled not only against God but his earthly father, who was a strict person. He fell into bad company and became involved in many kinds of vices. One day he was in a car that was driven by a friend who didn’t have a licence, and they got into a major car accident. Kazuya was seriously injured and almost lost one of his legs. He ended up with a permanent limp.
All this had pulled him far away from the God he once knew. But this New Year’s day, he sat with his parents once again in church.
“I was simply amazed by God that someone said that never wanted to go to church again eventually came to church with his parents,” says Misato. “Sitting behind them, I was very touched to see Kazuya and his parents worshipping God together as a family in church.”
As time went by, Kazuya opened up to Misato about his past, “and slowly my impression of his scary face changed,” she says. “One of the things that moved me was that he did not try to cover his ugly past and failures, but honestly shared with me.”
Coming back to church was Kazuya’s first step in coming back to the Father. “That was turning point in his life to cut off all bad relationships,” Misato explains. He did not return yet, but the seed was sown.
Misato was God’s method to bring Kazuya back to Him. “All I did was invite him to church service,” she says honestly. “God was the one working powerfully in his heart. After he met me, he started to think about marriage seriously. But he knew that he had to return to God first, so he asked Pastor Yoji what to do. Pastor Yoji started to give him personal Bible study.”
Kazuya wasted no time in marrying the girl God had prepared for him. “One day in March 2020, suddenly he asked me to go to church,” recalls Misato. “It was daytime on a weekday, so no one was there. Inside the church he knelt down and proposed to me with an engagement ring!”
Misato said yes, of course. “I knew it was right, because of the peace in my heart. By the time we decided we would date, I had come to know that he is very caring and honest person. And since we started to plan marriage seriously, I found that he always thought of me first. He had been working at Japanese restaurant as a chef for many years. He enjoyed his job but he told me that the working hours were irregular and that he had been thinking of changing jobs as he wanted to spend more time with me. Finally he found a new job recently! He is going to work as a cook in an old folks’ home!”
EQUALLY YOKED: FROM WEDDING TO MARRIED LIFE
Misato and Kazuya got married at Kumamoto Harvest Church in June this year. It was not quite the wedding she had envisioned, but God did an even more special thing.
“As COVID cases were increasing in Kumamoto in June this year, we had to change our wedding plans many times, and in the end we gave up inviting many friends,” says Misato. “Originally, I wanted to invite children from the homes where I used to work. We wanted our wedding to be an opportunity for those who have never heard the Gospel before to experience it. Although our wedding changed to a smaller one, God works all things for good. Because my wedding was online, I could ‘invite’ many people. I thank God, especially that people overseas could attend our online wedding! Actually Pastor Yoji and our church members set up a support team that helps couples—including non-Christians of course—who want to hold their wedding ceremony with online streaming. We were the first couple that had an online wedding ceremony at the church!”
Now that she and Kazuya are married, it becomes evident that theirs was a match made by the Lord. “I thank God for His grace and mercy,” says Misato. “I am 41 years old, not so young and I have rheumatism. This world may see me too old, or too sick to marry. To be honest, I struggled with such thoughts many times in the past. But Kazuya told me that he does not matter, he loves me. Not only him but his family also accepts me as I am.”
She adds, “The Bible says ‘A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory’. I experienced God’s love and mercy though my marriage. One of my rheumatism treatments is injection. Kazuya went to hospital to learn from a nurse how to do the injection. He prays with me for my healing with me every day. The way Kazuya loves me reminds me of the love relationship between Christ and His Church.”
The couple is growing together, equally yoked, in their faith and their knowledge of God. “We are so grateful to God that many friends gave us love offerings for our wedding,” shares Misato. “One day before the wedding, Kazuya and I were counting and putting aside of 10 per cent of our love offering. When I suggested to him that we tithe the 10 per cent, he did not hesitate at all.”
The next day, the couple received a love offering from Team 6 2019, Misato’s teammates from SOT. “We bought a guitar with that love offering as Kazuya decided to start to practice guitar again,” she adds. “When he was young he used to play the guitar and saxophone. One day in the near future we want to sing to the Lord together with his guitar.”
They have started their marriage with a habit of giving. “Kazuya and I started a plain meal day once a week since we married,” she explains. “On plain meal day, we only eat rice and miso soup. Kazuya was the one who initiated this—it is so that we can save money for giving to church. He told me that when he was young, his parents practiced plain meal days so that they could give to God. I was really convicted that the seeds that Christian parents sow into their children’s lives will not be vain but surely will reap a harvest someday.”
Finding a spouse is one of the most complex and sensitive issues in the church. But Misato says single women in the church should not lose heart.
“I want to encourage all the ladies who are praying for future husband with Psalms 37:4-5—’Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him’,” says Misato.
“First of all, all of us are God’s precious daughters. So please delight yourself in Him. And put God first in your life, because everything comes from Him including your husband. The waiting time seems to be long but once things start to happen, they move very fast! And my prayer is that you pray through the desires that God gives you so that you can be united with His heart.”
Finally, Misato wants to encourage parents whose children may have gone astray. “To parents who are praying for their children’s salvation or for their children to return to God, when I see my husband, I realise that what his parents sowed into his life when he was young has remained. The persistent prayer they have been making for their children is so powerful. I thank God that his parents never gave up praying. I believe that your prayer as parents will be heard by God, and He will answer in His perfect timing.”