On November 7th,2017.
What happened that day was too sacred for it to ever be forgotten.
I never imagined that such things could happen to me, and some people might find this unbelievable.
But what I am going to share about here are just the facts of what happened to me without any exaggeration nor dramatization.
I woke up at 5 o'clock in the morning to the buzzing sound of a mosquito.
I was a bit concerned because I did not want to be bitten by a mosquito there.
A few members from our group including Mr. Anma, our videographer, were supposed to participate in the morning prayer at the Lalibela Rock-Hewn Church.
Rock-Hewn Church ... This is one of our destinations during our tour.
It is a group of churches built in the era of King Lalibela in the 12th century. These churches were hewn into the solid rock; they are monoliths in the ground and are all connected underground.
Since they were cut out of the solid rock, neither nails nor other things were used.
They have no parallel in the history of rock-cut architecture.
Furthermore, what’s special about this place is that it is a world heritage site, and it is still used as a place for people to pray daily.
These ancient buildings are still in the same form and used for the same purpose as originally intended, a place to pray. In this place, 1000 years of prayers have been offered. In this regard, it is the same as Ise Shrine.
The underlying concept of rebuilding Ise Shrine every 20 years renders sanctuaries eternal.
But this place has remained intact just as it was when it was originally hewn out. I has never been rebuilt, never has been abandoned and continues to serve its purpose to this day.
"You should definitely experience this prayer meeting, because it is holy."
The local people said that to me over and over again.
I wondered what prayer by Ethiopian Orthodox that had been kept up since ancient times would be like.
For over 1000 years, the form of this sacred place has been preserved, I was very curious what kind of prayer gathering would be held there?
I heard that it lasts three hours, and people stand inside the dark, rock-hewn church from 5 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock. Once you are in it, you can’t leave in the midst of it.
“I was already late.”
I thought, still in bed.
“Will they let me in?”
I wanted to check it out since I had come all that way, but I was bloated, and I felt nauseous.
"No way! It might be the food. Give me a break.” I thought.
The day before I ate both lunch and dinner served at the hotel we were staying at in Lalibela.
Did I get sick from eating those meals?
While I was staying in Addis Ababa, I ate what was prepared from the food we had brought from Japan since I had been warned that I could get food poisoning there. Following that advice, I planned ahead and brought things with me from Japan.
However, our hotel in Lalibela was not equipped with a kitchen, and a refrigerator could not be used, so we had no alternative but to eat at the hotel.
I heard from one of our group who had been there before us that it should be ok.
While I was trying to cover up my sick feelings by falling back asleep, somebody knocked on my door.
Apparently, they were waiting for me.
I said with a small voice, "I can’t make it in time".
I also tried to fall back asleep, but I woke up again and again.
My bloating and nauseousness got worse.
It was the day we had planned for a photo shoot at the World Heritage site, unexpectedly I got sick. I spent an hour wrestling with myself.
The sun was out, and the room was getting brighter. Around 7 o'clock, I thought “I should listen to that song!”
I opened my laptop by my bedside.
The Internet connection in Ethiopia was terrible, especially on this mountain, I could not get on Wi-Fi easily. But that morning, I was able to get on Youtube and listened to a song that was special for Kumiko and me.
As for Kumiko, she has been suffering from a chronic illness, fibromyalgia and has been encouraged by this special song with its beautiful melodies and lyrics.
Although I was very familiar with this song, a song can become very powerful when the lyrics speak to you in a very special way at the moment you need them; they match a situation you are in or when needed words are spoken. It is that type of song.
It is a song praising Jesus who is a healer and is based on Isaiah chapter 53 of the Old Testament.
Within the Old Testament, Isaiah 53 is a particularly special section.
This chapter depicts Jesus’ execution on a cross in a very realistic manner.
Moreover, the book of Isaiah was written 600 years before Jesus was born.
It is such an accurate depiction of Jesus that this book had been criticized by the skeptics over many centuries. They said that the disciples of Christ must have added the book of Isaiah in the Old testament in order to make as if it had been prophesied before.
However, in 1947, one of the greatest discoveries of the century was found in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea of Israel. It is the, now well known, "Dead Sea Scrolls".
Many manuscripts of the Old Testament and other books were discovered there. There the scroll of Isaiah was kept in perfect form.
Due to various archaeological evidence such as the font of the manuscript and coins found with it, it was found that this manuscript dates back to the 3rd century BC.
In other words, Chapter 53 from the book of Isaiah was proved to be a pre-Christ prophecy.
Isaiah wrote his manuscript when he received revelation form heaven, without knowing anything about the time or the content that he was writing about. He recorded scenes that were being displayed in front of him.
This is how it goes.
Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
This prophecy starts with negative tone that people won’t believe the news they proclaim.
It must be a scene that is so unbelievable and “surprising” to people.
Isaiah 53: 2
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
Isaiah 53: 3
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Here appears the person called Him.
This man was born like a branch before God and grew up mightily.
But people's evaluation of Him suddenly changed, people disdained Him, eliminated Him, pushed Him down to the bottom of sorrow.
It says that he became a person of sorrows and knows the reality of sadness and disease as well.
That “we did not esteem him”, that is, the "Israelites" did not honor Him.
Concerning this man, Isaiah got to the heart of the matter.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Getting to this point, Isaiah describes the scene that “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” yet people (Israelites) misunderstood this as him receiving God's punishment.
And Isaiah tells why he was punished.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
The book depicts the man called Him who was beaten severely and lacerated to the point he was torn to pieces “for our transgressions…for our iniquities". It appeared to people that this was a natural consequence of what He deserved, but in reality, that miserable punishment was the means to give peace to people, and those wounds are for healing! All this Isaiah prophesied.
Historically, the man that Isaiah prophesied matches Jesus of Nazareth, who was executed on a cross. Due to this fact, it had been suspected that it must be a false letter written by Jesus' disciples, because this man in the Book of Isaiah is about Jesus of Nazareth.
But since the Book of Isaiah was proven to be without a shadow of doubt pre-Jesus, the specificity of the Bible has made global headlines, and the overwhelming weight of the validity of its words astonished the world.
If these words are true, the cross of Jesus is also true.
Jesus said on the cross, “It’s finished".
People can not add anything because it is finished.
And Jesus bore sickness on the cross. By His wounds we were healed. Isaiah speaks to us from far back in time, over 2,600 years ago.
While I was lying in bed suffering, I listened to this song based on Isaiah 53.
The same song I had listened to many times before that.
At the moment the intro of the song began to play, a surreal thing, totally different from anything else I had ever experienced, happened.
Each sound, as if they were 3D images in the form of water droplets, flew slowly towards me and danced over me where I was lying, seeping into my body.
The first sound, the second sound, and the third sound, all had have independent life respectively.
Each one went on a different path coursing through my body, as if seeping into each capillary.
From real experience rather than reasoning, I realized that “God’s life" was poured into the sound that praises God.
Being moved by hearing music is not a sufficient expression to describe what I had experienced.
It was not just an emotional impression, but rather a spiritual impact, which is more appropriate to say.
Physically speaking, I was still in pain from the bloating and nausea, yet surpassing all my physical discomfort, spiritual satisfaction wrapped my whole body. Tears began to flow naturally.
To the left of my bed was a big window, and from it I could see a vast field spreading out in all directions.
In the matter of moment, I had the sensation that my prone body was being transferred to a different dimension. The spirit which takes residence in music revealed to me one thing.
I realized that it was on God’s mountain where I was suffering from nausea and bloating.
It was the sacred place, where people’s prayers for over 1,000 years had been offered.
Kumiko was aware of my poor physical conditions and had been praying that I would get better.
At that time, different from the spirit in the music, a vision appeared before me of Jesus was coming down to touch me.
At that moment, all my pain was gone instantly.
"Kumiko, thank you. I am OK now, I am healed.” I said.
The music continued to play.
I was not emotionally affected by it, but tears continued to roll down my cheek.
After a while, our director Mr. Kobayashi came into my room.
Kumiko told him about my condition on the phone, so he was worried and came to check on me.
And he said.
“We are going to take Yuta(shakuhachi player) and Tomoko (koto player) down the mountain for the time being.”
“What? What do you mean?”
They both had collapsed with severe vomiting and diarrhea due the food and low oxygen level. Their conditions were critical, so they had to take them down to a lower elevation. The airport was at 1,800 meters above sea level.
Where we were staying was at 2,600 meters.
And from that point, a real miracle began.