Matt, a recent appointee with Encompass, had been working throughout the school year alongside the Japanese Returnee Ministry, led by Cecil and Debbie O’Dell in Long Beach, CA. After faithfully reaching out with the gospel to Japanese students studying in the United States, Matt saw three of them turn their hearts to Jesus just before returning to their home country.
The presence of the Church in Japan is small, so Matt and his teammates worked diligently to stay connected with them. The challenge of finding community with other Christians can be discouraging, especially for new believers. Matt called a prayer meeting with two of his friends at a nearby park, specifically to pray that God would bring these new Japanese Christians mentors who could help grow their faith.
Before the prayer meeting, Matt had texted the three new believers asking if they had any prayer requests. He was surprised to get a quick response from one of them saying she was suffering from unimaginable despair. With the time difference, Matt knew it would be the middle of the night for her in Japan, but as he drove, he called anyway. She answered the phone in tears.
Unable to understand her English through her sobs, Matt handed the phone to a friend who had arrived to pray and was fluent in Japanese. Watching his friend’s face, Matt could tell that something was very wrong. When the girl had stopped weeping enough to speak to Matt in English, she told him that her struggles with shame had grown unbearable as she returned to Japan. In the middle of the night she climbed to the top floor of a building and opened up a window. Feeling hopeless and defeated she was prepared to end her life.
Matt's call interrupted her.
Matt began to pray with her over the phone. He read scripture with her and told her not to listen to the lies but to hold to the truth. After hanging up, Matt and his friends prayed eagerly for her to be sustained. They encouraged her to call if she ever felt that way again.
The distance made it difficult to stay connected. The girl really needed someone close by to encourage her. It seemed like an impossible request. Japan has very few believers and even fewer mature Christian women. Still, Matt and his team prayed that God would send her someone who would help her in the battles she was facing.
Against all odds, there was a woman on the girl's campus who was discipling a small group of believers. Thankfully, she was available to meet once a week.
A year later, Matt visited Japan and was encouraged to see that she was thriving. Her budding faith had blossomed beautifully despite her pain. Since then, she has changed her major to Church Reformation History for the express purpose of preaching the gospel to her classmates. She told Matt how much she loved sharing Jesus with her friends and family.
Matt remains amazed at the way God is bringing all tongues, tribes, and nations to His Son, and by the grace of God, the Japanese Returnee Ministry continues to be a platform for stories like these. A timely phone call and a miraculously-placed Christian mentor are a testament to a God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
"We ought to contemplate God's providence not as curious and fickle persons, but as a grounds for confidence and excitement to prayer." -John Calvin
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More from the October 2016 issue of Within Reach