When you’re 20 and idealistic there is this natural urge to find your tribe. Especially as a Christian, you can feel it so palpably it’s like you can taste it. Fellowship. Not just people to hop around bars with on a Harley, but really deep friends who share the same ideals as you. Don’t get me wrong, we all love the stories of the Lone Ranger and Wandering Swordsman(るろうに剣心）
I know all the churches warn against doing this but whenever I go to church I always feel that same old religious spirit that I’m trying to get away with and it just doesn’t jive with me, same today as since I first met the Lord. So after going through practically every possible denomination I could find and nearly getting sucked into the whole Catholic thing just to have some roots to the past and all the old church history and stuff, there I was in Japan after a year of wandering and praying and battling in the Spirit, absolutely enamoured with a Japanese girl who spoke absolutely fluent English and had the same spirit as someone from my crazy homeschooling family. What. The. Heck. I started to spend every possible moment with Ai. I’ll save you the unnecessary nostalgic details but it was all nature and God’s gift from there, there was just something really uncanny and magic going on and the whole time I knew it was far beyond just a boyfriend girlfriend thing. I’d already done that and decided my life belonged to the Lord and I wanted what He had for me above all, so to have it introduced in such a manner was really really special. All I can say is I’m so thankful for God’s love and the way He can introduce new chapters in His plan.
The way I learned Ai’s “dark secret” was like this. We had dated a few weeks when, one day I told her “hey let’s go to this little church outside Ikebukuro I really like, called “Ekoda Chapel,” part of Nerima Church fellowship. The little churches full of desperate people in desperate situations always seemed to be the ones with the most spirit for some reason. Anyway that morning I had a little idea riding the Yama no Te line (Tokyo’s main circle line that leads to one of the outer trendy areas, Ikebukuro) and tried boarding the train at Shinjuku Station since she was heading there from Shibuya Station. These are some of the most over-crowded train stations in the world and the odds of finding someone randomly in them is nearly impossible. Still, it seemed that there was a shot in the dark that if I got on one specific train and started from one end at the furthermost car that I may just spot her and surprise her. This is what I did and lo and behold, there was Ai, sitting quietly and engrossed in some kind of reading. I slowly edged towards her pretending to be a creepy old Japanese man, with my jacket practically brushing across the paper she was reading. She didn’t notice. I creepily bent over staring down at the title of the article, she still did not notice. Everyone else I’m sure did, as Japanese people are incredibly curious of anything unusual but usually they will not do anything but watch out of the corner of the eye. So at last I decided to say something and I read the title of the publication: “Ohhh, so you’re reading the Fast from Worldly Input, eh???” (this was a secret push by the Holy Spirit in those days for Ai’s mission group that was about to initiate a special period called The Renewal, where everyone was encouraged to stop watching so many worldly movies for about 6 months) and Ai shouted out in surprise, also rapidly tucking away the strange paper. Then it was business as usual, sensing God around all that was happening and we had a nice morning at Church. I noticed Ai was unusually excited and loud, saying “hallelujah” and “praise the Lord” after every other sentence the preacher made. She seemed to fit right in, almost too much. Then we went to a tea shop and with all that had happened since we’d started dating, my perspective of church had completely changed. She hadn’t even told me her deep dark secret yet, but that secret was invading my whole mindset and shattering a lot of the false paradigms I had developed.
What was spoken at the tea shop completely escapes me now, but at one point Ai was going on about how distant she felt from her father’s mission work and her friends since she’d become a student at the Jesuit Sophia University. These details in retrospect are all important because honestly, when you tell God to take and use your life he literally does just that. Even to the Tiniest Mostest Minutest Detail. Back in those days I had so much time I could read large portions of the bible, take thoughtful walks at night, and go on wild spiritual escapades at a moment’s notice and it was far easier to notice God’s hand in the smallest things. I was also attending this university and surrounded by cosmopolitan people with high goals for their lives and so it was a continual battle to escape from the world. John has a bit about “the work of the Kingdom to believe in Him that was sent” and to me that set me free from constantly working for mammon and this life. To believe in God requires to have the Word of God running through us, as Faith comes by hearing and Hearing by the Word of God. So to make a long story short I was really really ripe for what was about to happen. God doesn’t just go out of His way to engineer these kinds of circumstances and the events that followed were so wild and impossible that I just knew it had to be Him from the very beginning.
There Ai was describing her sense of deserting her friends and church, and when she said that I just said “Hey don’t worry, you’ll always be a part of The Family.” at this Ai literally spit out her tea and blinked a bunch of times and with eyes of unbelief replied,
“what did you say?”
“The Family, you know, God’s Family, you’ll always be part of it.” I said.
Then Ai started having an argument with God in front of me.
“I won’t tell him, I don’t want to tell him. Should I tell him? . . . Oh, ok fine I’ll tell him.”
“. . . tell me what?” I said dumbly.
“OK you have to promise me you’re not going to run away if I tell you this.” she said with seriousness.
I promised and proceeded to have a conversation with Ai that would take the next two months until I was to return to the States. The Big Evil Terrible Dark Secret of Doom was. . . The Children of God more commonly called “The Family” which was why she was so surprised I had said this without knowing any of it. To go into the details of that movement would take books upon books and volumes upon volumes on top of what they had already produced so I will not do so. What I will do is outline the miraculous encounters with them that occurred in the months following and even until today. The fact that God would use such a personalized way to introduce me to His idea of My work for Him is key, here, as I know He will do this for anyone who sincerely is seeking Him and offering Him their life.
So anyway, Ai told me all the worst stories she could think of as an “insider” to the group and this went on for quite some time, but I will share more details on this later when and if necessary.