I came home this afternoon from a women’s conference in Ikoma. Called “Advance,” it was a Pentecostal-style gathering to encourage women in ministry in Japan. There were over sixty participants; probably about 3/4s Japanese and 1/4 internationals. Several friends of mine have been a part of this for the last few years. It was a special time of worship, fellowship, and prayer.
I rode with some friends from Nishinomiya, and because of traffic we arrived after things started on Friday morning. There were several worship leaders up front. It was an amazing joy to discover that one of the worship leaders was Nobuko – a friend from twenty years ago! When she saw me we hugged and hugged- neither of us had any idea that the other would be there. Nobuko lives in Tokyo now, but travels quite a bit.
Nobuko shared with some of the ladies at lunch how we got to know each other. When she was a shy high school student in the Tokyo area, she was walking to the train station one morning and our friend Wendi gave her a flyer to come to the Christian english school she worked at. Nobuko ended up signing up, and Peter was her first teacher. Peter and Wendi then returned to the U.S., (I think at that time it was to prepare to get married!), and I became her teacher.
Nobuko said what she liked about us was that we didn’t seem like Christians (hmm…)… we didn’t seem religious. I remember that she had the biggest hair at an all-night big hair slumber party at my small apartment. We had a lot of fun that year! And it was in the midst of building friendships that she started asking questions about having a relationship with God. I suggested that she read a chapter a day of the book of Luke. She was taken with Jesus, and gave her life to Him.
Over that year, there were a number of new believers at our little church. I started a discipleship time for these seven or eight high school and college girls — we called ourselves the Morning Glories. Here is a photo of some of us two years later (Nobuko is not in this picture).
Nobuko was on-fire from the beginning. Within two years, she went to a YWAM training camp. And then did a short-term mission with YWAM. And then she joined staff. She’s been with YWAM for the past eighteen years or so. The last we saw each other was at a friend’s wedding about thirteen years ago…And then we both ended up at this small women’s conference in the middle of nowhere Japan! She did a beautiful job leading worship, translating, and sharing words of encouragement.
Nobuko ended this story by saying, “Sue – you never realized that high school girl twenty years ago would end up going to eighteen nations and having countless spiritual children! Thank you for telling me about Jesus. You’re a grandmother to many.”
Wow. Wendi’s flyer; Peter’s fun english class; my crazy big hair parties. You really never know what God will do.
This afternoon before I left, Nobuko and I had a chance to pray for each other – it was so sweet. We had taken one pretty normal picture (that’s on Facebook) – but then we needed a more fun picture. …while trying to do a crazy pose, we fell on the floor, and the photo was snapped.
No big hair, but I am convinced again that serving God in Japan can be a lot of fun.