Yesterday morning I was more nervous than the day of my driving test. We heard that a lot of women coming to the Nozomi jewelry day to check it out; our Japanese co-worker (most bilingual) couldn’t be there; it was the last day that our friend Asher, the jewelry maker from New Zealand, would be with us.
Encouragement from Facebook friends and a time of desperate prayer beforehand got me through the first few minutes. I had asked Asher to share, and he talked about how God has been working in his life to move his self-identity from what he does to placing it in who God has made him. He shared about trusting God with the future. It was a really neat testimony for these ladies to hear.
We are focusing these two weeks on grinding and sanding the pieces of pottery so that they are ready to make into necklaces. As the first hour went by, the ladies started coming. We had twelve ladies show up, plus a friend from Samaritan’s Purse, my coworker Beth and a volunteer Manami. As you’ll see in the photos, the guest house we are using got a bit crammed. (Please pray with us for a building we can use for the project!) We only had five machines, but the ladies did great taking turns, consulting Asher on various things, and working together.
Here is a photo of most of us at the end of our time together. (Japanese wear masks a lot for illness and allergies, but we are also encouraging the ladies to wear masks since we are working with a lot of fine dust from the pottery).
The most amazing part of the day was a first-time visitor named Yuri. (She has given me permission to share her photos/story). Our dear friend Y. had asked if she could bring a friend. I said of course! Y. had met Yuri at the temple, where they would both go on the 11th of each month to pray for the souls of loved ones they had lost in the tsunami. In recent months, Y. has stopped attending- she said she was never changed there like she has been changed at Be One gatherings. But she stays in touch through texting with the other women. So she invited Yuri to come, but wasn’t sure if she would show up or not.
Yuri had lost her three year old son in the tsunami. Y. told me that Yuri probably would not be able to do any jewelry because she is so depressed still that she can’t use her hands much. She has a sixth-grade daughter and a little four month old baby. Yuri wasn’t sure she’d be able to come if she had to drive through the area where her son’s body was found, but thankfully we were on the closer side and she was okay to come.
Immediately, Yuri got into the grinding! She shared with me that she used to do a lot of beading. I could tell right away that she had a good eye for picking out pieces and deciding how to shape them.
At one point she took a break, and pulled out a notebook. She had brought one of her most precious possessions- a photo of her son. I was so touched by her wiliness to share it with me, and allow me to take a photo of it.
Also in the photo was a picture of her sixth grade daughter (I cut her out of this photo to protect her privacy). And suddenly I realized that I knew her daughter, Moeka! She had come to a number of Be One events we had had in the spring. I remember standing in the Be One kitchen and feeling nauseous when she shared with me that her little brother had died in the tsunami. I had loved this girl so much, and prayed that God would allow me to find a way to connect with her family. We had wanted to take some baby gifts over but never knew if that would be appropriate. Here God had used Y. to bring my little friend Moeka’s MOM to make jewelry with us! Yuri is a twin– and her sister, Mrs. E., has been a good friend of Be One staff since the days just after the tsunami. My coworker Beth couldn’t believe that Yuri is Mrs. E.’s sister! Beth shared that on the day that Yuri’s son’s body (Mrs. E’s nephew) had been discovered, Mrs. E had come running in her grief to tell Beth and Chad.
We all had goosebumps. Yuri kept hugging us – she couldn’t believe that we knew her daughter and her sister.
Near the end of the time together, Y. went over to Yuri and asked her what she thought of the day. Suddenly they both teared up and then starting laughing.
Yuri said, “Thank you so much for inviting me. This is so much better than what happens at the temple. I can’t believe how much joy I had in creating something.”
Yuri left with most of the other ladies, but she is coming to a dinner and simple worship that we are having tomorrow night with a team from Hawaii who has just arrived. She is bringing her family! She said she can’t wait for her husband to meet all of us.
As a few of us were eating lunch together afterwards, I said to Y., “do you realize that God was using you? He used you to bring hope to a friend, and to bring her to a place where she can create and find joy again.” Y. thought about it for a while. And then she shared with us that her father had chosen her name – it means “a helper of heaven.” I really believe that God uses the meaning in our names to bring about His redemptive purposes, and Y. is no exception. I have not seen Y. so happy as that day. To be used by God – to be a helper of heaven- is an amazing thing.