“When I thought about describing Faithwalking, the word that came to mind is ‘blueprint.’ It’s kind of like Faithwalking gives you…a plan for how to manage your life. The other image that came to mind is a jigsaw puzzle. It’s like I’ve got all these puzzle pieces of my life, and how do they all fit together? I feel like Faithwalking gives you a template – that things that maybe I’ve been thinking about or dealing with for a long time…how to bring it all together into one whole piece.“
Gerri Yoshida is a Faithwalker who lives in New York City. Check out the video above and interview text below in which Gerri reflects on her experience with Faithwalking and what it has meant in her life. You can also click here to listen to Gerri share some of her story and more of her Faithwalking journey.
Q: Describe something in your life that you were not aware of before Faithwalking. What was the impact of that lack of awareness in your life?
One thing that surprised me – something I was not aware of – was the idea that I am formed by God for adversity. I’m not sure if I am quoting that right, but I tend to see myself as a weak and fragile person. I go out of my way to avoid conflict and problems because I don’t think I can handle it. One thing I am learning through FW is that I am stronger and better than I give myself credit for. I don’t mean this in a boastful way, but since starting FW I catch myself doing and saying things that I didn’t know I had the ability or capacity to do. The FW question, “How do you want to show up?” puzzles me because my default setting is to go into a meeting looking first to see how other people think or act. Then I choose to be as inoffensive and cautious as possible and censure what I am thinking and feeling. Now I am realizing that others really do want to know the real me and that I can risk sharing my opinions because they are important and valuable to others. I am still afraid of risky situations but I have an inkling that things might turn out better than I have expected in the past and that I can take a step of faith and be bold.
Q: What has changed through Faithwalking? How are you different?
I am a very anxious person, so learning that anxiety makes us stupid was helpful and seeing how often I overfunction when I am anxious. Other times I underfunction/avoid/neglect/deny/run away from anxious situations and people. I am trying to learn how to be curious about what is going on or at least to step back a little from knee-jerk reactions. I am learning to be more confident, to take a step of faith, trusting other people more and trusting myself more, too. I am learning to have a dialogue with God, “This is what I’d like to do….God, is that you really answering my prayer?” and taking a step of faith to see if this is the right path for me. Trusting in the Spirit and learning to identify and listen to what my feelings are telling me about myself and learning to act appropriately in response. Learning I have a right to be heard.
Q: Describe the vision you have of your best self.
My best self would be relaxed, confident, and content. Compassionate with myself and others. Optimistic about the future because I have the tools to deal with difficult situations and difficult people. I would have clear goals that I am working towards to use the best of my abilities, experiences, and efforts to serve God and His church and at the same time to be fully present to my family and friends. I still want to do something significant and important for God and I don’t know what that is yet but I sense something coming into focus. My best self would clean up some of the messes and disappointments and frustrations of my past. I would want to have fun and joy in my life. Most of my life I have pushed myself hard because I thought no matter how hard I work/try it is never good enough. Now I am beginning to experience God’s extravagant love for me – and everybody else – and I realize I am enough and that I can enjoy life to the fullest and not feel guilty about it.
Q: Describe Faithwalking in your own words.
Faithwalking to me provides the blueprints so I can live a fully alive life. It gives me tools like positive declarations, cleaning up your messes, etc. so that I can build my life the way I want it to be, rather than feeling I am a victim of circumstances or letting my emotions block me. I like the format of FW that presents content, then homework assignments to practice what we are learning, and coaching to reinforce our insights and progress. Faithwalking is a supportive community that challenges us to be our best selves by providing a safe sanctuary where we can dare to be vulnerable and honest about spiritual and personal struggles. Faithwalking is impacting my whole life. It is not just a God thing where I become a better churchgoer, but it involves my relationships with my husband, family, the work I do and my church activities.
In the beginning my shame voice told me that the FW process was selfish, spending so much time working on myself when I should be doing other “more important stuff.” But as I have become more self-aware and reflective, more open and trusting with others, I find my dialogue with God has deepened and I am becoming more effective in all areas of my life. As I become more sensitive to God’s Spirit speaking to me, I am seeing new opportunities to serve Him and expand my ministry impact in ways I had not thought possible.
Q: What is the most helpful tool you have learned in Faithwalking?
The most helpful tool for me has been defining my positive declaration, “I am comfortable sharing my feelings with others.” Because of my very loud shame voice and the shaming experiences of racial bullying growing up, I learned to be very quiet and careful about what I said and how I behaved in groups, especially with people I did not know or trust very well. My coach helped me to see that I could give myself permission to talk and not wait to be invited. By becoming more self-aware of the negative vows I made in the past, I am able to speak up more freely and openly in denominational meetings. I look for appropriate opportunities to share my thoughts and feelings instead of hiding and being afraid that no one is really interested in my opinion.
Another breakthrough occurred during Module 2 when we were discussing our “secret selves.” I said that I have many shameful secrets that I work very hard to hide. But I also realized that I also keep secret my hopes, dreams, and visions for the future because I am afraid if I fail, people will laugh or think less of me. So I shared that when I watched the Brené Brown videos and her Ted Talk, it reminded me that years ago I dreamed that I wanted to do something like that. I want to be honest and vulnerable and brave like Brené Brown and share my story with others. A few days later, I saw a casting notice looking for storytellers to share stories on healing. I recorded an 18-minute story that included many things I’d been processing because of FW, but since this was for a secular audience I downplayed the God stuff. About 3-4 days after I submitted my tape, I got an email from JJ TenClay, who is the Refugee Ministries Coordinator for RCA Global Mission. Last year I had given her names of Asian Americans in the RCA who I thought would have stories to share with her. Since none of them responded, she asked if I would share my story. I said, yes, it just so happens that I have a video I recently recorded. I sent it over to her and it was posted on the RCA Faithward.org website the Monday after the six Korean women were murdered in Atlanta (you can view that video here). It was totally a God thing that the timing was so perfect for me to speak out on an issue that I have felt great shame about for my whole life at a time when people need to know about racism against the Asian American community. So I feel God calling me perhaps to speak out more or get more involved with dismantling racism as it impacts Asian Americans.
I am very excited that through FW I am seeing God’s new vision for this stage of my life. A few years ago, I was feeling discouraged, depressed, stuck, and disgruntled with my personal, spiritual and church life. Now I see new doors opening and new opportunities for me to use my gifts, talents, and experiences for God. I am excited and feel energetic. Yes, I can see more clearly that I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me. I am now taking Faithwalking Foundations Module 5 on integrity and alignment (with Christ and with my true self). I am seeing how important it is for me to clean up my messes and to deal with issues and relationships that I have been avoiding in order to sidestep conflicts. I am beginning to experience more wholeness and purpose in my relationships with my family and at church.
I feel commitment to the areas of disability advocacy and ministry. I took a workshop to train to be a facilitator for Tsuru for Solidarity Healing Circles for Change. Tsuru for Solidarity is “a nonviolent, direct action project of Japanese American social justice advocates and allies working to end detention sites and support directly impacted immigrant and refugee communities that are being targeted by racist, inhumane immigration policies” and they “stand on the moral authority of Japanese Americans who suffered the atrocities and legacy of U.S. concentration camps during WWII” (from their website). I try to be a little more honest and transparent in leading the English fellowship prayer group at my church. I am becoming a little closer to my sister who has a lot of personal and financial problems. I am working on relationship issues with my adult son and my husband. I see the importance of taking time for reflection and self-care so that I can be more open and ready to hear from God. I am getting a clearer vision of the fully alive life, and that makes me happy and hopeful.
One of the biggest values for me of FW is having a great group of people who are sincerely interested in seeing me grow and discover God’s plan for my life. I am encouraged that each of the coaches, presenters, facilitators are so committed to this process and they are working on growing spiritually, too, so that we are making this journey of faith together. I agree that “transformation has a half-life,” so this is a continuous process. That is why I am so grateful I found Ken’s Friday Keep Calm and Faithwalk On group during the summer when no courses were being offered by the Regional Synod of New York (for more on this, you can read Gerri’s post here). At that point I was still very new to FW, so I really needed the support, encouragement and affirmation I got from that group. I am thinking that at some point I’d like to become a FW coach, and most of all, I would love to go to a live, in-person retreat. The virtual format is quite effective and convenient, but I know that feeling the Spirit moving amongst a group of people is awesome, so I hope to experience that someday.
Q: Tell us about you. Who are you? How did you connect with Faithwalking?
I am sansei, third-generation Japanese American. I was born in Chicago. Both my parents were born and raised in CA. My grandparents came from Japan in the early 1900s. I have been living in NYC since 1979. I came here to pursue a career in acting. My father was an Episcopalian priest, and my grandfather was a Baptist minister who helped to establish First Japanese Baptist Church in Sacramento. After spending my college and young adult years as an angry and rebellious preacher’s kid, I came back to the church after my son Kentaro was born in 1985. I became active in the Japanese American United Church, then I became involved with the Reformed Church in America (RCA).
I heard about Faithwalking 5-6 years ago in connection with the Ridder Church Renewal process (now Churches Learning Change). I did not know anybody who had actually done FW, so I thought it was some kind of labyrinth meditation prayer walking. The Regional Synod of New York has a newsletter that regularly announced FW retreats. I was intrigued but I always thought that it was too expensive, too time-consuming, etc. and I’d have to go to a retreat center in upstate New York. Since I don’t drive, it just didn’t seem practical. Then COVID hit in March last year and I was extremely anxious because NYC was the epicenter. I was afraid to leave my apartment for March, April, May. I saw that FW was offering a special workshop on managing anxiety in times of crisis. I was so desperate – I saw it as God answering my prayers, so I signed up. I liked what I heard and found it helpful. At the end of the workshop the presenters said that the Regional Synods of New York and Albany were offering FW classes virtually for a discounted price. Since I could join by Zoom and the cost was so reasonable, I signed up.
It was a life-changing course for me. I really liked the format of presenting content, then breaking into small coaching groups to discuss. The coaching sessions every other week were a chance to digest the material presented, having put it into action as part of the homework. The coaching time helped to apply the principles to my life and situations and relationships. I learned so much by listening and observing how other people deal with their problems. I needed the accountability of reporting back to my coach and coaching partner what progress or pitfalls I was dealing with. I really appreciated having a safe space to try out new thoughts and behaviors. Seeing others be brave and honest gave me the courage to open up and share vulnerably.
Thank you, Gerri, for sharing your heart and your experience with us so openly and beautifully! You are a blessing to the Faithwalking community (and beyond)!
If you would like to share your Faithwalking story with us, please contact Angela Raley at email@example.com.
We believe that God’s intended design is for wholeness in individuals, communities, and the world. We believe that God’s hope is for shalom to be present, which includes peace, unity, completeness, wholeness, and well-being for everyone and in everyone. God’s hope is for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
We live in a world of brokenness: People are chronically anxious and reactive, internally conflicted, frequently unloving, and regularly unconcerned about the common good. Many Christians are inconsistent in following the way of Jesus.
To make wholeness possible for individuals, communities, and the world.
We do this through a process of spiritual formation where people are equipped with tools to gain freedom from wounds of their past, grow in emotional maturity, and live lives of purpose on mission with God, so that they increasingly follow the way of Jesus by serving the poor, the marginalized, and those in need, working for the common good, and restoring individuals, social systems, communities, and nations to God’s intended design.
Our vision is for Faithwalking to be accessible to every person in the world so that participants become agents of wholeness in their own context.