God Plants a Garden
I became excited about evangelism when my then-boyfriend, Dwight Hunt, enlisted me in his discipleship group. Before that, only peer pressure motivated me, but I was fed up with my lifestyle. So I prayed. “God, I want to get to know You better and share my faith with others.” God answered my prayer through that small group where I received the training I needed.
Then I met Nobuko Odahara at Tyler Junior College in Texas where we were students.
“Would you like to get something to eat?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “And call me Noney.”
In the restaurant that day I attempted to tell Noney how she could have a relationship with Christ. Her eyes sent signals that she didn’t understand. I gave up and invited her to play tennis.
She retorted, “I’m not sure if you will really do this. Most Americans I know say they want to see me later but then they do not!” I assured her we would play.
After our tennis match, she came to my home many times and she loved spending time with my family, eating meals with us, and just relaxing. My parents showed an interest in Noney, and Mom cooked a special birthday dinner for her.
That fall Dwight and I became engaged and made plans to join the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. We invited Noney to a Christian conference at the Marriott in Dallas. Observing over a thousand faces, she sensed unity and peace. She didn’t understand the speakers so she asked the counselor in her small group, “What makes the difference between those young people and my life?”
“God can give you that kind of life if you believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and trust Him as your personal Savior,” the leader explained. A few nights later, Noney told God that she was not sure He existed, but she wanted the same thing she saw at the conference. Although she didn’t understand many things, she asked God to save her. When Noney told me about her decision, I was elated.
Eager to help her grow spiritually, I asked her if she would like to study the Bible together. When we looked up verses, she admitted she still had doubts—especially about the Bible. Was it true? The more we talked, the more confused she seemed. Why the barrier? I wondered.
By spring my wedding preparations consumed me. At the wedding I caught sight of her in the audience and felt a pang of sadness. When would I see her? How would she grow in her faith?
The following Christmas, I received an answer in her letter: “Since you left, I have learned a lot about God …. And God showed me and answered my prayers so many times that I no more can deny Him…. I am not a strong Christian yet. But I know Christianity is the most important thing I have in the United States. God may have brought me here for this purpose.” I treasured each word and kept her letters.
Noney transferred to the University of Texas. Then during a break she returned to Japan. Doubts assaulted her. She wrote, “Maybe pressure from others in the U.S. caused me to become a Christian.”
But God wouldn’t let go of Noney. When she returned to the States, He led her to Christians who counseled her. Her faith revived. In 1976 she graduated and returned to Japan, searching for the right career. Again she struggled with doubts.
She wrote, “I felt like I got 5 years older last year. Through this rough year I learned more about God. When I was down with many troubles without anyone to talk to, He led me to a small church. The pastor Mr. Takagi and Christian friends gave me the strength to walk on a new way.”
God thumbprinted His purpose on her life through the ministry of this Dallas Seminary-trained pastor. At his church Noney taught English classes and led a senior high Bible study.
Pastor Takagi and his wife visited Noney’s mother and brothers at home to explain the Bible. That spring her younger brother and three friends trusted Christ at church camp. Just a few weeks later her mother took the same step of faith.
“Last Sunday, three of us went to church together,” Noney wrote. “How happy I was! I realized that it is why God brought me back to Japan. I realized that everything turned out [for the] best after all. It really is amazing.”
I wish I had told Noney what Pastor Takagi—who is now with the Lord—knew to explain to her: that the Bible is the worldwide bestseller, and it is more reliable and credible than any other ancient book. I took these facts for granted.
Yet the testimony of Christ came through in our friendship. We still e-mail and call each other. She became a single missionary, served in Japan, and married Joe Mita. Joe pastors a church in the Tokyo area where they are missionaries. For more than twenty years Joe and Noney have introduced people to Christ, using English classes, meals, Christmas plays, videos, musical productions, Bible studies, and camps. It hasn’t been easy for them, but they multiply the seed of the gospel to people and places I could never reach. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6).