Feature

Her Story, My Story

Placed to plant the seed of life

By

August 1996. Fairlawn, Ohio. Beautiful, clear, sunny, warm. Well, everywhere except in my heart. I was missing my home in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s amazing how loneliness can cloud even the brightest day.

We had lived in Bangkok as Alliance international workers for only four years, but during that time, intimate friendships were formed, ministry skills were honed, and my relationship with God became the core of my daily life. Added to those blessings were the delicious food and vibrant culture that I loved. But through clear direction, my husband, Tim, and I knew God’s will for us was to return to the United States. We didn’t understand why this was God’s will, yet we knew that it was God’s will. But, oh, it was hard.

But this story isn’t about me; it’s about Yukiko. Actually, it is our story.

Sisterhood of the Heart

I was sitting on a bench outside the kindergarten classroom waiting for my daughter, Rachel, and her classmates to burst out, ready to go home. Across from me sat an Asian woman. Silent, eyes down, shoulders drooping. Hmmm. She’s from north Asia, I surmised. Korea perhaps, but probably Japan. We made eye contact. I should talk to her. No one else is. No one else probably knows how in this monocultural community. But I do. I had just spent four years of my life speaking in simple English phrases in order to be understood.

“Hi. My. Name. Is. Di-ni-ta.”

“Hi! Yukiko!” as she pointed to her nose.

“Are. You. From. Japan?”

“Yes!” Her eyes were no longer downcast but alive with joy. From that awkward start, a sisterhood of the heart was born.

Yukiko had a little translator machine that became our lifeline as our friendship grew. By using it, sometimes for every other word, we discovered we had much in common. We had each just arrived from Asia. We each had a daughter in kindergarten. We each had a younger daughter who was two years old. We each needed a friend.

We also had many differences. I had moved here with my husband to pastor a church and thus had a ready-made group of potential friends. She had no one. My husband came home almost every day for lunch and dinner, even if he occasionally had to go back to church for evening meetings. Hers left before 8 a.m. and returned after 10 p.m. I knew the language and had no trouble finding things I needed to buy. She was clueless.

Learning God’s Plan

Our friendship started by meeting at a playground with the younger two girls for a morning. It continued by occasionally going to McDonald’s for lunch after picking up the older two girls from school. It developed into Yukiko and her daughters coming to my home to learn how to make macaroni and cheese. That was reciprocated by an invitation to come to their home for lessons on how to cook (and eat) soba noodles. I knew Yukiko was God’s answer to my prayer to alleviate my longing for Asia and its lovely people.

I invited Yukiko to bring her daughters, Miran and Naori, to Pioneer Club at church. Miran loved it, but Naori wouldn’t stay in the classroom without her mom. That was not an issue though because I was the teacher of the two- to three-year-olds. So Yukiko came to Pioneer Club for two full years, and during that time her English improved to the point that we barely needed her translator. Even more importantly, she repeatedly heard about God, His Word, and His plan at her language level—that of a preschooler.

Our families became close friends. Sharing holidays together gave us the opportunity to explain what Christmas is all about, why Easter is so important to Christians, and why it was necessary for the pilgrims to leave England for religious freedom. She demonstrated the Japanese tea ceremony and explained to me their family altar. Eventually I shared God’s plan of salvation with her. Always gracious in listening and sometimes even asking questions, she never accepted my invitation to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Bearing Fruit

After almost five years, Yukiko and her family were transferred back to Tokyo. I was disappointed that she never chose to follow Jesus before leaving, but I clung to God’s promise that His Word does not return void (Isa. 55:11).

Four years later I received a phone call. “Hi! It’s Yukiko. I want to tour your new church.” Yukiko and her husband, Masayuki, were on a business trip to Fairlawn. I showed her around our recently completed building. In one of the children’s rooms, she pointed to a wall hanging. “This hanging in room in old building where you teach me about Jesus.” Wow, I can’t believe she remembers that! “You know, I go Alpha course now.” Even more wow!

I took a deep breath and asked, “Yukiko, in Alpha, when Nicky Gumbel asks on the video if you want to follow Jesus, did you ever pray with him to say you want to become a Christian?”

“Yes, I do! I did! I do! I did!” she replied, struggling with the verb tense. Joy washed over me, and we cried and hugged. She continued, “I tell my Alpha teacher about you. She say you sow seed of Jesus in me. She say you do hard work of sowing seeds, and she does easy work of picking fruit.” I couldn’t stop the tears.

Save a Life

Yukiko and I kept in touch, and in 2013 she invited me to come to Tokyo at her cost. We spent a delightful two weeks touring, meeting her family and friends, and eating delicious Japanese food.

On my last day there, we had lunch with Hazel Schaeffer, an Alliance worker. I asked Hazel to tell Yukiko her story of walking with Jesus. Then I asked Yukiko to share with Hazel her faith journey. I told her to speak in Japanese, since I knew the story already.

I watched the interchange, and the story kept going and going and going. What are they talking about? I know Yukiko’s story—it’s not this long! They both began to cry, and Hazel reached across the table to take my hand.

“Wow, that is amazing,” Hazel said as Yukiko leaned in to give me a tight hug.

“What?” I asked.

“That you saved her life,” Hazel replied.

“What?” I repeated. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t?” Hazel was surprised. “In those early years in Fairlawn, Yukiko was ready to take her own life out of loneliness and despair. Your friendship kept her alive.”

In that tiny restaurant in the middle of massive Tokyo, God finally showed me why He had moved us from our beloved Bangkok 17 years earlier. “[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that [they] would seek him . . .” (Acts 17:26–27).

I was placed for a purpose in Fairlawn, almost against my will, as was Yukiko. That purpose was to save her life both physically and spiritually.

Where are you placed? Other people are placed there, too. They need to see Jesus in you. Will you let them?

7 responses to Her Story, My Story

  1. What a beautiful testimony of obedience to God’s leading, and bearing fruit in the fields He places us.

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