Naoto Kakiki of the Sakado Ward, Japan Tokyo Stake, was a short-distance runner on the track team in middle school.
In middle school he was “a little embarrassed” to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and made up a variety of excuses to miss Sunday practices.
Resolving that he “couldn’t lie any longer,” Kakiki told his friend he could no longer practice on Sunday. But the problem did not go away. “If I wanted to continue to be a relay runner, I had to participate in practices on Sundays.”
That same year during parent-teacher conference, however, Kakiki took courage.
“At the end of the meeting, the teacher asked if anyone had any suggestions. I immediately raised my hand and suggested that we stop practicing on Sundays. The teacher seemed to be caught a little off guard and asked why. I told him that we needed to rest our bodies. I also told him that I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ, and that I go to church on Sundays as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The discussion that followed concluded with a decision to discontinue Sunday practices for the middle school track team.
Kakiki shared his story with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the Apostle’s recent ministering visit to Korea and Japan. In addition to area business and other meetings, Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, participated in two devotionals for young single adults, May 22 and May 27. Marking the first time an Apostle had visited the Church’s Asia North Area since before the COVID-19 pandemic, Elder and Sister Andersen were accompanied by Elder Takashi Wada and Elder James R. Rasband of the Asia North Area presidency and their wives, Sister Naomi Wada, and Sister Mary Rasband.
“We need you, we need your strength, we need your goodness, we need your hearts,” Elder Andersen said.
“The Lord wants the gospel to be in every community to be a light to others, so that those who truly seek the restored gospel can find it.” He encouraged everyone to be firm and true disciples to their friends and family.
Almost 300 young single adults gathered in the chapel of the temple annex building in Tokyo, Japan, on May 22, with an additional 500 Latter-day Saints joining remotely from other locations.
Elder Andersen encouraged the young adults to be firm and true disciples and share their belief in Jesus Christ. He stressed the importance of full-time missionary service and said, “We need you for this special time.”
Sister Andersen spoke about the deep impression this visit to Japan had made on her and Elder Andersen, and how they would remember this gathering the rest of their lives. She testified of the importance of building strong foundations based on the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
Elder and Sister Andersen participated in a similar meeting in Korea on May 27, with 230 young single adults in the Sindang Ward, Seoul Korea Stake, chapel.
Elder Andersen’s message to the Korean Latter-day Saints was similar to what he shared in Japan. “We need you,” he said.
He talked of how Church membership is growing and the gospel would be taken to every part of the world. “The Lord wants the gospel to be in every community to be a light to others so that those who truly seek the restored gospel can find it,” he said. He taught how missionary work can be done along with their daily lives in a normal and natural way and asked the young adults to serve full-time missions.
“No one will ever be sorry when they honestly serve the Lord,” he said. “They will learn about spiritual things they never knew. They will receive answers to prayers and learn how to communicate with the Lord.”
Elder Andersen concluded with encouraging young single adults to be more open about their faith by the way they live so others can see how happy they are. “When others ask why you are so happy,” he said, “you can tell them it is because you believe in Jesus Christ.”
Elder Andersen closed by sharing his own testimony. “Jesus is the Christ. He lives and is a resurrected being. I am His disciple, He is my Savior, you are His disciple, and He loves you.”
Kakiki could testify from his own personal experience of the blessings that come when members courageously proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ.
He received blessings after the parent-teacher conference when he asked for track practices to not be held on Sunday. “My teammates thanked me because they no longer had to practice on Sundays. But I knew that it was the Lord. I learned that He provides help and guidance in times of need.
“Since then, I’ve had opportunities to share the gospel by telling others that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as when I was in high school, when I decided to go on a mission while in college, and when I was looking for a job, and still today as I work with others,” Kakiki said.
“I testify with all my heart that when we share with our neighbors, in our lives, that we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and followers of Jesus Christ, we not only gain their understanding for us but also create an opportunity to share the gospel with others.”