Friday, May 23, 2014

"You're my only friend..."

Today God showed himself to me in such a real and amazing way; I'm still in shock and can't wait to share. :) Right now our ladies Bible study at church is studying Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God.  I first did this study when I was in high school, and it has been a wonderful experience to go through it again at a very different point in life.  One of the things I remembered most from the first time I went through it was the point that God is always working around us... we just need to see where He is working and how He is inviting us to join Him in His work.  It's such a simple concept and I so easily forget it... it's just too easy for me to rush ahead, race into things, and even invent my own ideas without ever looking for what God is already doing around me.  So as I continue to be reminded of this, God made it very clear to me again today... and I'm beyond thankful.

About 3 or 3 1/2 years ago I was buying some things in the drugstore I normally go to, and the girl at the cash register was friendly and started a conversation with me.  She was eager to practice English, and I was eager to practice Japanese... at the time one of the only things I knew how to say was that I wasn't military, I was here as a missionary. :)  That was very fascinating to her, and she shared that she had previously lived in England and attended church there.  She asked me lots of questions about our church and I invited her to a special Christmas service we have each year with our Japanese churches.  I didn't really think I would hear from her again, but a few weeks later, she was there with her boyfriend.  It was great to see her again, and over the last 3 years, she and her boyfriend (now husband) have randomly shown up at church about 2 or 3 more times.  They have a baby now, and it's always been a little funny when they show up... she's always happy to see me, but then I don't hear from her again for at least 6 months or a year, so we really don't have much of a relationship at all.

About 2 weeks ago she called me, but I was in a meeting and forgot to call her back.  Then last week she sent me an email.  She said she really needed to talk to me because something was going on with one of her friends, and I am the only friend she has who knows anything about religion.  This was very different than any of our interactions before, so we scheduled a time to meet and I saw her this afternoon.  As we caught up on life and families, she started to share some of her story with me.  She believes in God (which is not normal for most Japanese) but doesn't really know anything beyond that.  Unfortunately she has people in her life who claim to be Christians but are acting in very hurtful and destructive ways in their relationship with her.  She poured her heart out with fears and questions.  As we talked, it was so obvious that she is hungry to know more about God and who Jesus really is.  So I asked if she would like to meet weekly to study the Bible together.  She said, "Yes!  That's why I was so excited when I met you the first time.  I really want to study the Bible and know more about God."

Sometimes ministry is hard and discouraging... and it has been for me recently... it's not always something specific, but sometimes you just have more questions, doubts, and disappointments than reassurances and confidence that you're where you're supposed to be and moving in the right direction.  But God made some things obviously clear to me today.  He is working and moving... and I'm in awe that He invites me to join Him.  He loves and cares for the people of Japan more than we do, and we need to be persistent in our prayers for our neighbors, friends, and the country we're so privileged to live in. 

Recently a friend talked about how so many people in Japan have no Christian friends they can turn to or talk to when they are going through hard times (Less than 1 % of the total population is Japan are Christians).  I'll never forget when my friend (whom I randomly met in a drugstore 3 years ago and have seen only maybe 4 times) said that I'm the only friend she has who knows anything about religion, and she was desperate to talk to me.  But really, she's desperate to know Jesus.  Please pray for my friend.  Pray for our times together.  Pray that God will give me His words and wisdom when we meet.  And thank God today for the absolutely amazing ways He works. :)