A Shelf Full of Gods — and No Hope

Japanese Buddhist
She needed community. It was the doctor's orders, but for Machiko, all it took was a going a walk around the block to find what she so desperately needed. Read her story! Photo by TEAM

You need to join a club or social circle so you’ll have interaction with others on a regular basis, Machiko’s doctor said. You risk getting dementia if you don’t.

When Machiko* went for her annual check-up, she already knew she struggled with depression. She knew she was socially withdrawn and battled an anxiety disorder called hikikomori. But she never thought her lack of a social life could cause her to lose her mind.

She needed company — she needed friends. She needed help.

It was overwhelming. When she got home, she decided to take a walk down the street to clear her head.

And that’s when everything changed.

Staying at Home with Her Gods

Machiko was Buddhist the way most Japanese are Buddhist.

That is part Buddhist, part Shinto, part other. It all depended on the situation and what god seemed like a good option at the moment.

That’s why many Japanese have what they call a “god-shelf” at home. It serves as a place with enough room on it to offer flowers or food to all their gods. And in Machiko’s case, it gave her a way to worship in the seclusion of her own home — avoiding social interaction at shrines or temples.

But as the doctor pointed out to her on that day in 2014, her precious god-shelf was part of what was destroying her sanity. She needed interaction.

She Found Hope on a Neighborhood Stroll

After learning she could face dementia if she didn’t get out more, Machiko decided to go for a walk.

She didn’t have a clear path laid out in her mind. She just started walking. And after a while, she noticed a church by the side of the street.

A kind woman invited Machiko inside. And Machiko agreed.

It was All too Much, too Fast

Before long, Machiko was meeting once a week with a woman named Hiroko, a faithful member of TEAM missionary Georgia Landis’s church. Then, Machiko started going to the weekly Bible study Georgia led.

After a few months, Machiko began to wonder if this Christianity thing was for her. She even started meeting with the church pastor to find out.

It all seemed to be going great — until Machiko’s anxiety reared its ugly head. Suddenly, she felt overwhelmed. She didn’t know if she could commit herself to Christ.

Machiko decided to leave Georgia’s Bible study. As is customary in Japanese culture, she decided to leave the women at the Bible study a parting gift — a batch of cookies. When Georgia heard about the cookies, her heart filled with fear for Machiko.

“If you call my phone, only call in the morning,” Machiko had told her. “I will not answer in the afternoon.”

Regardless, Georgia called at 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. She wasn’t sure Machiko would even answer — but she did! She even told Georgia she could come to her home for a visit if it was earlier in the day.

Georgia refused to give up on Machiko. And so did the Lord.

Machiko Knew Something was Missing

Georgia eventually convinced Machiko to rejoin the Bible study. In June 2017, one of the women in Bible study gave her testimony, and Machiko was struck by how similar it sounded to her story.

She knew something was missing her life. Was it the Lord? If others could go through what she’d been through and still find God, why couldn’t she?

She bought her own Bible — one with big print so she could read everything.

“You know what I did all day yesterday?” Machiko asked Georgia one morning. “I spent time doing detailed work, cutting out tabs for each book of the Bible. I never do that. Where did this feeling come from? Why do I want to know so much about the Bible?

Machiko even started attending church on Sundays — a huge step for someone with a social anxiety disorder!

“Up until now, my place of safety has been my bed,” Machiko said. “But now, I realize it is here, at church!”

Thank You for Giving Machiko Peace!

By 2018, Machiko had confessed her faith in Jesus to Georgia and all the women in Bible study.

She told her adult sons that she no longer needed her god-shelf — that the Bible was enough. She even burned her old idols!

God saved Machiko’s mind from dementia, her heart from anxiety — and her soul for eternity. And it’s all thanks to your support! Thank you for not giving up on Machiko.

Please pray that Machiko will grow in her faith and withstand Satan’s many traps.

*Name changed.

You can pull someone from the pit of hikikomori today. Don’t let them suffer like Machiko did. Introduce them to the God of peace and protection with a compassionate gift to TEAM. Please give today!

Share the Gospel today. Give now!

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About the author

Brianna Langley

Brianna served as TEAM's Associate Editor and Staff Photographer. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University, where she double-majored in journalism and international affairs. She grew up on the mission field in Romania, but now resides in East Tennessee. Some of her favorite things to enjoy outside of the office include hiking, reading, writing and a good cup of coffee.


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  • This story made me tear up . I can relate to her story very much . I want to help others like this .

  • yes, that is right, follow shipping with other people could help us re leave from our stress or problem. even in the Bible Apostle Paul taught us to not forking the assembling of ourselves together. Hebrews 10:25. God bless

    Ps. Nolie Dellero

  • There is so much truth in this story, I wish to say that even in the church amongst believers we need to encourage social activities and interactions. The church should be much more than a Sunday meeting once a week. As a pastor in Kenya, I have seen several believers suffer serious anxiety like machiko and this post has confirmed to me what I always suspected of the victims being lone rangers in the church. They rarely inerract, they have no friends in the church and outside only to seek pastor’s help with a serious breakdown. Thank you so much doctor for this advice.

  • Iam a pastor in Kenya and Iam impressed by your website.I would like to be involved with friends interraction in this website.Pray for me and my ministry in Kenya and let me hear from you.God bless you.

  • Am an evangelist based here in Johannesburg, South Africa.. I love the Lord especially sharing the Good News.
    I would like to get and find friends that we can team up together for this Global cause.
    Currently and running a small ministry called Africa Christian Victory Missions..
    With God on our side, people are getting to know and confess their sin to Jesus in our community.
    Team thank you for the Word of encouragement.
    God bless you all.

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