For Rinko Jogo, wife of Kenji Goto
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The first time I saw the two Japanese prisoners being displayed in orange suits, I immediately connected with Kenji Goto. I recall a deep sense of knowing him, or that he was a close part of my family. That thought was followed by denial: I did not personally know anyone who lived in Japan, so I attempted to resume my daily routine.
Kenji just would not go away. I could neither empty my mind of him nor free my burdened heart of his face and his plight.
This perplexed me. I told my husband that I felt as if one of my closest family members had been captured, and I could do nothing to help. His dilemma held me captive, night and day.
He had gone back to help a friend Haruna Yukawa, after he vanished from public view and in doing so, had been captured himself. Later, both men were paraded for camera, taunts and video: humiliated for the world to see.
The only thing I could do was pray. I prayed for his release; to be free to return to his wife, Rinko Jogo and his family and friends in Japan.
But time dragged on. No agreement was reached for his release. His friend Haruna Yukawa, was beheaded. Now there was even more urgency for resolve. I felt I was suffering from anxiety, and there was no other reason I could think of than Kenji. It could have been nothing compared to what he was subjected to. Night and day, I prayed for him. Prayed for his well-being: his freedom: his safety.
Then he joined the growing list of persons beheaded. My anxiety stopped. I resigned myself to accepting that I just got carried away with the media hype. Nothing truly explained my emotional reaction to Kenji’s imprisonment and then death.
I began to research Kenji Goto. Read about him and his compassionate nature. His love of people and especially children. He was highly respected in his journalistic profession, and deeply loved and missed, by all who knew him.
Shortly after, I read that he was a Christian. Then I understood. I believe that Kenji had implored believers to pray for him. When all else fails, prayer covers all. God’s people felt his pain and knew that prayers were the best that we could do.
Towards his end, I had prayed that as his freedom seemed unlikely, that God would give him the strength needed to die with speed and dignity. I believe that is why he was so familiar to me. He was a part of my family. The family of God’s believers. I am convinced that thousands of Christians were praying for Kenji Goto, and even though our prayers were not answered in the manner we would have preferred; I truly believe that Kenji Goto was helped – emotionally – and died a hero. A man of great courage. A man of God.
Now we are left with only a memory, but Kenji is forever etched upon the hearts of those who loved him and those who, from afar, felt a kinship with him, and respect for him, despite never having met him. I now pray that Rinko Tojo can, and will, lean upon the same source of strength and comfort that upheld Kenji. I pray that you will pray that for her too.
Four years ago, in the Telegraph newspaper, words spoken by Kenji Goto have now taken on a new poignancy.
“Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”
That tweet from Sept. 7, 2010, has been embraced by social media users as a fitting memorial to the 47-year-old freelance journalist.
I believe that is how Kenji ended his life on earth. He closed his eyes and remained calm, resigned to the fate before him. He showed immense courage and trusted in the peace and deliverance of the God he chose to have faith in. Now he is at peace. A perfect peace in the presence of the one true God. God, the giver of hope, mercy and love.
Love suffers long and is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not parade itself.
Love is not filled with self-importance.
Love does not seek its own way.
Love thinks no evil.