SAVED Stories: Romans 10:17 by Odi Odtohan

SAVED Stories: Romans 10:17 by Odi Odtohan

Sep 15 , 2020

Ed Navarro

A GIDEON’S BIBLE: When I was 11, I received a Gideon’s bible from someone who was handing them out just outside my elementary school gate. I took it home and read it one afternoon. I flipped over to the back page. I learned that I was a sinner and that I deserved to go to hell. I remember praying a prayer at my bedside. I was saved from the penalty of sin: eternal death. 

INTERNALLY STRUGGLING: However, placing personal trust in God did not make me immune from suffering. My parents suddenly divorced. I got involved in church life in my early teen years and projected a “good boy” image to mask the internal turmoil in my heart. In the middle of my college years, around age 21, even as I was getting more involved in church life, I felt intense spiritual dryness in increasing measure. While I was vocal on campus about my faith, I struggled internally because religion felt so constricting and hollow. I thought I had faith, but what did I really believe in?  

COLLEGE FRIENDS AND THE INTERNET:
In God’s providence, I came in contact with Christian friends in college. I was invited to Bible studies that had a strong emphasis on inductive bible study (chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse). My eyes were opened to what I was missing!  I was saved from ignorance and hollow faith.

Around 2007, I got a wake-up call from Paul Washer’s ‘Shocking Youth Message’ on YouTube. It left such a strong impact on me that I wondered if I was guilty of manufacturing ‘false [spiritual] fire.’ Soon afterward, I got introduced to John Piper and resources on the Gospel Coalition. I began to understand Christ-centeredness. My eyes were opened to a world of deep theology and reasonable faith, especially when I encountered the lectures of R.C. Sproul. After receiving a free book copy of Sproul’s ‘Chosen by God’ through Ligonier Ministries, I was thoroughly convinced of the doctrines of grace and of God’s absolute sovereignty in regenerating the hearts of his lost sheep.

COMING TO JAPAN: 

In 2008, I came to Japan for the first time as a one-year exchange student. By God’s grace, I met a Japanese Christian woman in a Christian student event on campus who would later become my wife a few years later. 

In March 2010, I returned to Japan with the easy access granted by my U.S. passport (citizen by birth) to work as an English teacher in Chiba (east of Tokyo). I began looking for a church where I know the Gospel would be preached and lived out. I saw a blog post by Japan missionary Michael Oh on John Piper’s ‘Desiring God’ blog. I sent Mr. Oh an inquiry about a church he could recommend me to in my area. That church was where my wife and I met a pastor who performed our wedding in August 2011. 

STILL STRUGGLING WITH SIN AND DOUBT:

Oyumino Christ Church (in Chiba, Japan) has been an instrumental, grace-based community for my ongoing growth. I know I am eternally forgiven, yet I am aware of the daily struggle in confronting my own doubts and my own sinful heart. Sin extends even to my best efforts because even my best deeds are like filthy rags, tainted with self-centered motives that demand benefits from God, not responding out of love. My words may be filled with God-talk but, in my heart, there is a lot of insecurity. There is anger for simply not getting what I thought I was entitled to. There is envy when I see others prosper. To this day, it is still a struggle, but there is hope. In the parable of the TWO Prodigal Sons (in Luke 15), we learn that God extends grace to two kinds of prodigals: the law-breakers AND the obedient, self-righteous people who feel entitled to receive blessings.  Like the father in Mark 9:24 who said “I believe; help my unbelief!”I continue to struggle in my weakness but I place my confidence in simply resting on Jesus himself and on his finished work BOTH in his life of perfect obedience and substitutionary death on behalf of undeserving people. 

NOW DOING MISSIONS WORK:

From 2016-2019, our pastor (who also happens to be the mission team leader) invited me to join the team as an intern. Since April 2019, we have been serving with Mission to the World (MTW) as “National Partners” in Japan.

Where I am and who I am today is entirely the result of the providence of God and his daily (undeserved) mercies. We can look back in our lives and look forward with hope because the Bible reminds us of God’s “most holy, wise, and powerful persevering and governing all his creatures and their actions”