September 2, 2014


FUJI, Japan (BP) -- It's Sunday morning at Life Baptist Church in Fuji, Japan, and the sounds of lively praise music fill the small worship center.

Worshippers, most of them Brazilian immigrants of Japanese descent, sing a popular praise chorus, accompanied by an amplified acoustic guitar.

"I want to know You. I want to hear Your voice. I want to know You more," they sing in Portuguese, clapping enthusiastically to the beat.

Near the back of the room, 21-year-old Filipe Koji Kakumu sits with his eyes closed, a frown wrinkling his brow. As the music grows louder, he plugs his ears with his index fingers.

Filipe's parents, Japanese-Brazilian Luís Carlos Kakumu and Margarete Kakumu, are Brazilian Baptist missionaries in Japan. Luís Carlos pastors the congregation; Margarete leads the praise team.

During the song Luís Carlos strolls to the back of the worship center and stands behind his son Filipe, gently placing a hand on his shoulder.

Filipe keeps his ears plugged, looking like he's in pain. But when the music softens, Filipe suddenly stands and begins to jump. After the singing ends, Margarete slips into the seat next to Filipe. Luís Carlos moves to the front of the church. Filipe begins clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth. He appears to be trying to speak, but no words come.

Luís Carlos and Margarete remember when Filipe, their only child, wasn't like this. A family video shows Filipe as a rambunctious 2-year-old, strumming a toy guitar, talking and giggling. But not long after the video was filmed, Filipe stopped speaking. He lost interest in creative playtime and withdrew into a world of his own.

"The change was drastic," Margarete recalls. "We couldn't understand what was wrong with him."

Doctors in Japan diagnosed him with autism, a developmental brain disorder causing problems in communication, behavior and social interaction.

"It was a shock to us," Margarete says. Read More

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