Recently, I was reminded of a gift given by a close friend before my first trip to Japan. She had written little notes filled with encouraging words and scripture verses and put them in a small bag. Whenever I had a difficult moment or didn’t know what to do, I would pull out a note or two of encouragement and read them. Each time it was just what I needed.
In times of difficulty, stress, or busyness, it is so important to turn to God’s word. Because of my friend’s thoughtful gift, each evening I would turn to scripture verses like Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I was reminded of her gift these past months when I received other words of encouragement.
- I received a message from a member at my former church in WV about her young grandson. He and I would always sit together at church and talk about Jesus. He took my recent Christmas card to school as his show-and-tell item. He told his class all about how I am his “God friend” who is in Japan teaching people about Jesus. It is so encouraging to think of that little boy witnessing to his classmates using my Christmas card! I never could have imagined that when I sent them out.
- I was at a pastor’s meeting in Southern Indiana sharing about Japan. Our waitress came up to me after the meal and shared how much it meant to her to see a young woman in ministry—that she was encouraged and excited to see someone like me following God’s call. Her simple yet thoughtful words of affirmation were such an encouragement!
- I received an envelope full of letters from a youth Sunday School class at a church in Illinois. They have been learning about missions at church each week and wrote me letters filled with questions, encouragement, and prayers. It was so encouraging to hear that they have been following along with my journey and learning about missions in Japan!
Each of these moments arrived as an answer to prayer in moments of stress. As I prepare to depart for Japan in the next month or so, they were just the reminder I needed. No one can do life alone. It takes a community—to encourage and affirm one another.