Joy Group on Valentine's Day

by Nozomi

juri-nozomi-feb2011We have been trying for months to invite another guest speaker to Joy Group #1. The first person who was scheduled to come had to cancel, because one of her kids got sick right before the scheuled meeting. A few weeks later, I asked a missionary friend to come and speak. The night before, she called to say that she has malaria!! (She's a Wycliffe Bible Translator in Papua New Guinea--she was on home assignment at the time.) Several weeks later, I asked yet another Japanese believer to come and share her testimony. The night before Joy Group, I got a phone call saying that her son, who rarely gets sick, came down with the flu.

I'm usually not the type of person to give any sort of "credit" or unnecessary attention to the enemy of this world. But I'm telling you, I did call upon many of my friends to specifically pray for spiritual protection over this group, as well as over the scheduled guest. I still claim TOTAL VICTORY in the Name of Jesus Christ, because He ultimately has already won:) Even those 3 times when my friends couldn't come, the "unplanned" group discussions that happened during those meetings were AMAZING.

Anyway, on Valentine's Day, we were finally able to have Okano Juri come and share Jesus with my friends. Juri-san has a long time connection with us. Jeff met her way back in 1987 when he lived in Tokyo for a year as an English teacher with LIFE Ministries (former name of Asian Access). Also, when my friend from college went to Japan for the summer, Juri was there at the church where the English classes were held. On top of that, I was able to meet her when we first moved here to Japan... we took a parenting class together. I liked Juri from the moment we met!

During Joy Group, I was SO VERY encouraged by her testimony! It is always a beautiful thing to hear how ANYONE meets the Lord, but for me, it's extra-special to hear how a Japanese person makes the decision to follow Him. We giggled when he shared that her initial decision to "become a Christian" was simply to raise her hand just because her friend did it, and that she wanted to belong to and stay connected with the group of Christian friends that she had made. But even with a tiny seed of faith the size of a mustard seed, God took that faith and showed her that He was indeed real. From that point on, the Bible lessons that had gone in one ear and out the other before, all of the sudden started to penetrate into her heart. The Holy Spirit was giving her the desire to want to know and understand!

As she was speaking, some things that I had already known before were re-affirmed. God does not expect us to understand everything first before we believe in Him. God does not tell us to become a better person first, or to clean up our act, or to understand the Bible before we believe. God does not tell a Japanese person to "stop being Japanese" in order to believe. Jesus simply says, "FOLLOW ME". And daily, as He reveals more Truth through His Word, we take another step of faith and believe THAT. Then the next day, He will shed light on something else, and we believe THAT, and so on. I became a believer when I was 8 years old. I'm still learning new things about Jesus, and I hope to never stop learning until I see Him face to face in heaven. Then I'll be done:)

Juri might be reading this, and I don't mean to embarrass her, but I could not help but to think, "If there were MORE Christians like her in Japan, this country would change!" We keep talking about having a spiritual revival among the non-believers in Japan, but I would like to boldly state that we must first have a revival among the believers in Japan!! Thanks, Juri, for living out your JOY to your friends. Thanks for showing that knowing Jesus makes a difference in our parenting, and in our marriage. Thanks for sharing Jesus VERBALLY with us and with your friends...how can we keep such GOOD NEWS a secret here in Japan? Pretty soon the rocks will begin to cry out if the believers don't start shouting out the Name of Jesus!!!!!

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