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What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?

Updated: Jul 5

#2 Written by Judith Ricken, Staff for Tokai Region

I was born and raised in Germany in a Christian home and went to church all my life. Our family life was far from peaceful though. My parents fought often, my brother and me as well. In school I had a strong desire to be superior to others. I struggled with envy and anger. In short, I understood and knew from a very young age that I was a sinner. Would God accept me? Verses like “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Math 5,20 frightened me. Exceeding the experts? That was impossible. But I tried. Very hard. It didn’t work. I tried to be a “good Christian”. I did my quiet time daily. I read the entire Bible by the age of 16. I learned Bible verses by heart. But my heart didn’t change. I was still afraid, whether God would accept me or not. When I read Romans, I had a little explanatory book which said, “What an amazing letter this is!” I wondered what so amazing was. I had no answer, so I kept trying. I got baptized, just in case you do need to be baptized to go to heaven. But my heart didn’t change. I was still afraid God wouldn’t accept me. 

In our youth group we did the Alpha Course. The day came where we read Romans 3,23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – I had known that for a long time. “And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” 

By the grace of God in that moment the scales fell from my eyes, I remember it as if it were yesterday. I suddenly understood: That’s why Jesus died on the cross, because I’m not perfect and he died for me so that I could receive his righteousness! That was the greatest relief of my life. In German we say, “a stone fell from my heart”. I understood GRACE! That has changed my entire life. I didn’t need to strive to “be good” but was accepted as I was. I was found “holy and blameless before him.” (Eph. 1,4) The second verse of the hymn Amazing Grace describes my experience very well: “Twas grace that taught my hear to fear and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” 

Quite unrelated to my journey to faith, I was interested in mission from a young age as well. I found it exciting to hear stories from missionaries, but also the most meaningful way to spend my life I could imagine. When I was about 11 years old a missionary who worked in Japan came to my Sunday School class. I hang on her lips. Next to teaching us simple Japanese greetings she also said: “I won’t be able to do this kind of work forever. The question is, who will continue, when I will retire?” And in my heart, I thought “Maybe me!?” 

When I was 13, I read the biography of Evelyn Brand, a missionary to India. Next to the Bible there is probably no other book that has impacted me more. I was fascinated by the meaningfulness of her life and wanted to spend my life like that as well. I began to pray to God “Please let me become a missionary”. 

After high school I went to England for two years and worked in an Anglican Church as a youth-and children’s worker. Because there were not many young people in the church, the vicar suggested I’d join the Christian Union (The English KGK) to have contact with people my own age. It was a fascinating time. I loved hanging out with these students and all the excitement of university life. During this time, I met a staff worker of the Christian Union once. When she told me what kind of work she did I thought “this sounds like the perfect job for me, I’d love to work with students one day.” 

2013 I came to Japan in same year that that missionary who had come to my Sunday School class retired and returned to Germany. After two years of internship in a church plant I began to pray for God’s guidance for my future in the beginning of 2015. When I was asked by KGK whether I wanted to become a full-time staff member of the Japanese student ministry, it sounded too good to be true. Withing five days, I had the agreement of all parties involved, which felt like a letter from heaven. I started working with KGK after language class in April 2018. 

This story might sound too smooth. It wasn’t. There were many ups and downs, frustrations, losses, loneliness, pain and heartbreak. And yet even writing this down and remembering my own story, the only thought that remains is: “What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?” Ps 116,12 (NLT) 

To God be the glory great things he has done. 

*If not indicated differently the Bible quotations are from ESV


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