Here I sit, in Okinawa, Japan, and the truth is I should hate being here. Years ago my mom was imprisoned by the Japanese. From 6 to 10 years old, she was held captive on the island of Indonesia. She suffered deeply through those horrific years and then into adulthood as she relived the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares.

PTSD. Depression. Pain.

My mom could have gone bitter. I could have easily grown up in a home where the Japanese were demeaned and dishonored. I could have been hardened as my mom fought through difficult days and sleepless nights. So much so that the mere thought of going to Japan would only bring harsh feelings and deep resentment.

But it didn’t happen like that.

As a young mom, my mother fought for her healing. She pursued her God. She sought out counsel. She did the hard work of forgiving… and she didn’t give up when she faced a setback or two.

As a result I am here in Okinawa with great joy in my heart. I’ve had the chance to serve at the military base, but also to go out into the community and visit shops and restaurants. The Japanese are polite, gracious and honoring. I ache for their deep losses in the recent tragedies and this weekend joined others to petition God for their needs. I am drawn to these lovely people and only wish I could do more in this painful season.

I wouldn’t feel any of these things if my mom hadn’t paved the way to the cross – refusing to give in to her past wounds and the potential bitterness that lived there.

I’m so proud of her.

Me and Mom. She’s lovely, isn’t she?

Way to go, Mom. In your darkest moments, you probably didn’t realize the long-range impact of your choice to heal through forgiveness and grace – thanks for holding tight to our God and never, ever giving up.

I love you.

13 Responses

  1. I love this story and I’m so glad you shared it with us all over the weekend. You two are so beautiful together – praising God for His provision and forgiveness and for your mom being so brave to pave the way!!!!! I am a recipient of her obedience to our God and I am grateful for her and you as well!!!!

  2. I thank God for your mother! She has given you and others like myself a gift that keeps on giving. It’s also an important reminder for us parents. Our decisions, good and bad, are being observed by our little people. Thank you Elsa for sharing your heart with all of us in Okinawa. Thank you Elsa’s mom for being obedient and going through years of running to God!!

  3. Wonderful. I immediately thought of a woman in our church… and forwarded this to her. As always, thank you and God’s blessings, Elsa.

  4. What a beautiful thing…how God brings beauty from ashes! Thank you for sharing the neat way God brings things full circle. Your ministry to the Kadena PWOC in Japan will leave an eternal impact! Give your mom a huge hug from us and thank her for the legacy of love she leaves through you. We are so glad she was able to give her blessing for you to come to Japan. Especially during a difficult time in this country. Tell her there are many women here whose lives are richer because her beautiful daughter risked coming when many would have stayed home and stayed safe! You rock! Terri

  5. Thank you mom. You have given many us hope and determination to push through our healing process so that we may pave the way for our next generation.

    Elsa, is an amazing woman of God because of you. And she is building His kingdom one woman at a time because if you.

  6. Amen to two beautiful women, inside and out! Thank you for coming to Okinawa and sharing your stories. We love you.

  7. Wow, Elsa, what an amazing thing to read first thing in the morning. Thank you Kitty for raising such wonderful children, especially Piet and Elsa who have touched my heart deeply in my lowest moments.

  8. Elsa, this is so sweet-your mother must be very proud of you too. I see that she passed on her willingness to get better not bitter to you, and I am sure Sam could write the same words about how you handled the storms in your life. You inspire me!

  9. What a beautiful story of God’s grace and forgiveness. As mentioned above, what a great portrayal of the truth that He brings beauty from ashes. Thank you so much for sharing that, Elsa and thank you to both of you for living that and touching our lives with God’s amazing grace. Thanks too for the picture of the two of you, lovely indeed! both of you!
    Papa, You are so amazing!

  10. What an amzing story of how God can restore our souls and how this reflects in the lives of our childrens lives and future generations. The strength and courage that God gave Kitty as she continued to go after her loving God. Thank you Elsa for sharing this story with us.

  11. The few times I’ve been privileged to hear your mother speak, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit so present in her. My mother was a missionary in Okinawa right after WWII, so I have a bit of a connection there, as well. Someday I hope to complete the circle and visit there as well.
    So glad your trip went well. I’m looking forward to hearing lots more about it. Post away!

  12. What a wonderful post – I plan to talk about it tonight at my DC session since we talked about forgiveness last week and how to pursue it. Love your blog – keep up the good work since I too have a mind that jumps all around and it is good to see how you think too!

  13. I love the ‘beauty from ashes’ that God always brings! He can always taken our broken ‘stuff’ and make every bit beautiful again. I love how God had you all lined up to go to Japan long before the earthquake ever hit. He also knew the mother you would have needed…the AMAZING mother YOU would have to have to guide you and lead you along your journey to do His work! Just so amazing. It just makes me love Him more and more. Way to go MOM and ELSA!!

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