Submitted by Sally W.
I was trained in mental health, working with folks who heard God in the toaster. So it was a big deal for me to learn to train my heart to even believe I could hear God speak. When my kids were small, I heard Jesus speak to my heart in ongoing conversations. But when my youngest was 8, we moved to Tokyo, and I stopped hearing. God still spoke loudly through things like scripture and circumstances, but directly hearing His gentle voice abruptly stopped.
When our family left Japan after the 3/11 earthquakes/tsunami, we were all very broken. We’d taken a risk to leave everything to follow what we believed God was asking of us, to move to Japan. But it had been a very intense 5 years with lots of hardship, topped by an unthinkable disaster. God was alive in our lives throughout those hard years and through the quakes, but I still had disappointment, grief and anger to work through when we got home.
Since getting back to the States, we found healing and deep reconnection to God, through Journey. I’ve grown and experienced God speaking constantly through vivid dreams and visions and pictures. My sense of being “in love” with Jesus and hungry for his presence keeps increasing. I watch God do amazing things that take my breath away. But when Leap of Faith began, I still hadn’t heard His sweet, gentle voice the way I used to. That’s been my Leap of Faith request.
When I made this request in February, I started getting a sharp increase in pictures for others. It was great to get more messages of love for others. But a part of me wondered why God wasn’t answering my own request. Why wasn’t He speaking to my heart the way He used to?
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading up on healing prayer ministry. Three weeks ago I saw a vivid series of pictures for someone else that spoke to them about God’s deep interest in them and boosted my faith. I told God I’d stop questioning each picture that comes, asking “Is this really You?” each time. As I prayed deeper about being childlike enough in faith to believe it’s God and not just me and to get out of the way, it clicked on a deeper level that when I pray for someone, it’s never about my limitations or abilities. My confidence is all about Him. That same day, my husband and I got separate strong prompts for me to get on a plane and go pray with a friend in Tokyo. This friend, Y, has been seriously depressed, ill, and openly talking about suicide. She’d been coaching me in Japanese and I’d been coaching her on prayer when we were interrupted by the 9.0 earthquake. We were alone in the terrifying quake together, but then my family was suddenly blasted out of Japan a week later.
Y (who has no immediate family in Japan) was left alone to deal with the 5,000 plus more quakes and tremors, radiation, tsunami aftermath and other disaster. Her faith and emotional health had both spiraled down when we (and other friends) left so suddenly.
They say our image of God the Father is shaped by our relationship with our earthly father. There’s an inner healing idea that our image of Jesus is shaped by our relations with siblings and friends. Whether true or not, Y stopped believing in Jesus after a wave of friends left Japan. I felt I needed to go pray in person with her and ask her for forgiveness –as irrational as it might be to both of us– for abandoning her. I felt a deepened conviction that while I personally had nothing new to give her, God in me did. My Journey friend and ministry partner, Kimberly, also felt strangely prompted by God to go. With less than 3 days to plan, we took off.
When we got to Japan, God took care of every tiny detail. Beyond plane tickets, I spent maybe $100 on travel costs. I got a week of quality prayer time with Y where the seeds of healing and reconnecting to Jesus were sown. Our old community united to come up with stronger plans for supporting her. Kimberly prayed for and with Y and walked her neighborhood, praying. Despite not knowing Japanese, she had amazing encounters with people all over.
God did something totally unexpected beyond the chance to pray in Japan and see Y face to face. He orchestrated my meeting up with 45 old friends, neighbors and students. I couldn’t have made that work if I’d planned for months. But Kimberly and I took wrong turns down unknown lanes and bumped into friends. We met and spent time with people I loved and thought I’d never see again, all over, in unexpected places. Busy friends with three days to plan arranged gatherings. Closure from the quake and sudden move that I didn’t even know I needed happened. God confirmed that the church and community I thought I’d lost forever is still there, and that important relationships are eternal, even if I never see them in person again.
At the end of the week, I clearly heard God in a few situations where I needed specific direction: “Give them more money. You don’t need it”….”Don’t go there, now. You’ll be back.” Trains we should have missed were made because God directed where to go. Throughout the week, the running dialogue with God increased and morphed back into something more flowing and gentle, specific and relational. I feel reconnected to the Voice of Love.
I don’t claim to understand why I had to go back to the place where I stopped hearing to increase hearing again. I don’t claim to know much about the infinitely different ways God chooses to speak to us. But I’m more certain than ever that what we believe is true. We are loved by an amazingly beautiful and creatively personal God. He’s unfolding a uniquely beautiful journey for each of us, and he’s very near in every step.