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The Joyous Life

Before coming to the U.S. and meeting the Japanese Returnee Ministry Team, Mai attended Tenri University in Nara, Japan. The school is based on the humanistic teachings of the Tenrikyo religion, which emphasizes humanity’s need for the Joyous Life, a lifestyle of charity and abstinence from greed, selfishness, hatred, anger and arrogance.

Tenrikyo teaches that the Joyous Life is the only means of salvation for the whole world. Even while studying at Tenri, Mai was not really interested in Tenrikyo, but every night since she was 13, she prayed to God, though she did not know who God was.

Then, Mai was granted an opportunity to study at California State University in Los Angeles for a year. Cecil O’Dell, leader of Encompass’ Japanese Returnee Ministry, receives notice of incoming students through his connections with Cal State, and he and his team were excited to welcome Mai. The Encompass team was able to connect with Mai through social media and help her discover all of the different opportunities available to her in California.

The Japanese Returnee Ministry in Long Beach, CA works faithfully to develop authentic relationships with their Japanese friends through relational bridges such as campouts, surfing, or other group activities. Mai was particularly drawn to the Japanese Black Gospel Choir. She loved singing, and it was a unique extracurricular activity for her to try while in the United States.

During her time with the choir, Mai was exposed to the gospel message through the Bible. She began regularly attending a Spiritual Family time each week led by the Japanese Returnee team, and her interest in Jesus began to grow. After reading the Gospel of John for the third time, Mai realized that the God she had been praying to all this time was Jesus. She told the team she was interested in becoming a Christian, and they encouraged her to pray for God to reveal himself more through His word. The Holy Spirit began pouring the love of God into Mai’s heart, and before long she shared with the team that she had now had faith in Jesus.

Mai was excited and not at all ashamed of her new faith. She immediately contacted her mother and father explaining her new passion. Mai’s mother and aunt were already planning to visit her in Long Beach, and Mai saw it as the perfect opportunity for them to hear her testimony in person and to see her get baptized. They came, but the visit proved to be a difficult time. Mai’s family did not understand why she had made this commitment. They felt that she was abandoning her Japanese beliefs. Both Mai’s mother and aunt did attend her baptism, however, and stood on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, watching Mai declare her new faith to the world.

By the grace of God, Mai’s family gave her their blessing in that moment.

Mai returned to Japan after she completed her year at California State. The Japanese Returnee Ministry Team always tries their best to connect all of their Returnees to Christians in Japan, so that they might continue the good work. Mai was able to meet and begin a friendship with new Encompass Global Workers Matt and Jen Daniels, who are ministering in Osaka. She continues to grow stronger in her faith. Now, she knows the joyous life that is found in Christ alone!