Pastors Chris Thomas and Hiroya Abe
Message from Pastor Chris
Hello and thank you for looking at our website. I want to share with you who I am, the work God has done in my life, and why we planted Cross Church Yokosuka.
I was not raised in a Christian household; rather, I was raised to be a Jehovah’s Witness. When I was twenty years old, I enlisted in the military and broke ties with that organization.
I deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. After Iraq, I was accepted into the Army’s Green to Gold program and started college in Columbus, Ohio. Another student invited me to their church where I heard the gospel for the first time. The burden of sin laid on me but struggled to accept the truth because of the things that I was taught as a child.
About two years, after I commissioned, I was “recycled” during Ranger school. During my time as a recycle, I attended service at a small church and read John’s Gospel. One evening, after reading John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit removed the final stone in my heart and I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. After I graduated, I went to Fort Bragg, but I was unable to find a church to attend.
Sometime after, I was assigned to a unit in Sinai, Egypt during the Arab Spring. A military chaplain took me under his wing and discipled me while I was there.
After Egypt, I was assigned to Japan and began to attend Yokohama International Baptist Church (YIBC) where I became a youth leader. Shortly after, a young woman named Sai began to help me with youth. Sai and I started dating and were married in 2016. The same year I resigned my commission and started working for the US Government at a GS civilian. I continued ministry and began to attend seminary online.
In 2018, Pastor Abe and I began to feel called to plant a church in Yokosuka. This calling was confirmed by the congregation at YIBC, and they sent us to plant a church in Yokosuka. In December 2019, God allowed us to open Cross Church Yokosuka. We would love for you to come and see what God is doing here.
2002年にアフガニスタンに、2003年にイラクに派遣されました。イラクの後、私は陸軍のGreen to Goldプログラムに参加し、オハイオ州コロンバスで大学に入りました。ある学生が私を彼らの教会に誘い、そこで初めて福音を聞きました。罪の重荷がのしかかりましたが、子供の頃に教えられたことのために、真理を受け入れるのに苦労しました。
Message from Pastor Hiroya
I was born in Osaka and raised in a Buddhist family. My mother’s side of the family was pretty religious and would chant for about 30 minutes at the Buddhist altar twice a day. I remember chanting many times with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
As I chanted in front of the altar as a child, I knew something big controlled our world. I also recognized that I was a sinful person. Whenever I did something bad, I felt so much guilt that I could not handle myself. My conscience bothered me all the time. I would wake up suddenly at midnight recalling all the people I hurt by my words and acts. In such a moment, I felt helpless and knew I deserved nothing.
My first encounter with Christianity came when I was a college exchange student in the US in 1979 in rural Pennsylvania. I felt lonely and my English was so bad it was hard for me to communicate. Most of the students were disinterested in this strange boring oriental boy who couldn’t speak English. At this time, I met some Campus Crusade for Christ people and they introduced me to the gospel and invited me to church. I was amazed by their unconditional kindness and wondered where their warm hearts came from.
After I came back to Japan I started working in Tokyo and was introduced to an American lady named Susan from Tennessee who was helping in the initial stages of a church plant in Mabori Kaigan in Yokosuka and teaching in a Girl’s school in Yokohama. She also led an English Bible Class at the Yokohama Yamate Presbyterian Church. God was giving me another chance to hear about Jesus and study the Bible.
But through studying the Bible, the mystery of something big that controls everything and my big problem of my unsolved guilt were resolved at the same time. This unknown something was the Creator God of the Bible who made the earth and everything in it. He loved me so much that he sent his sons Jesus to die for me so may sins could be forgiven and I could be reconciled to Him.
But it was not an easy decision for me to make to follow Jesus because of my Buddhist family and the pressures of work, and I was literally indecisive for a long time. However, God gave me a big push at the end of 1986. Susan found a large tumor in her body and the Japanese doctor indicated it seemed to be cancerous. If it was she would return to the US immediately for treatment. For the first time, I prayed and prayed and God was good, it was benign.
It was finally time after 6 years for me to surrender and confess Jesus as Lord of my life. I was baptized Easter morning in 1987 and Susan and I were married 7 months later. God blessed us with a daughter in 1989 and a son in 1994.
In 1997 we approached a TEAM missionary who had just planted a church in Oppama which was near our home in Yokosuka. We asked him to consider having a bilingual service and he did! The church family there was wonderful, but in 2006 the pastor of the church returned to the United States. Our bilingual service could not find a pastor and eventually closed. Susan and I became members at YIBC in 2009. We have loved being a part of YIBC, but we never lost our heart for Yokosuka. We prayed for many years for God to send someone to pastor a bilingual church there. We are so grateful that God used us to help answer that pray.