I grew up as a Mormon (AKA The LDS Church, AKA The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, AKA too many other names to type), so I had a basic understanding of the Bible, and I thought I had a relationship with Jesus. As I grew up, I was always trying to be the perfect, prissy, “Molly Mormon,” which probably cost me a lot of friends while growing up in a mostly non-Mormon community. I tried to do everything that was expected of me, getting baptized when I was eight, attending Seminary and Institute classes in high school and college (which, by the way, has nothing to do with becoming a priest or pastor), and looking for either the perfect man to marry in the temple or preparing to go on an eighteen-month mission for the church.
The first time I really remember actively attending a Born-again Christian church was after I had joined the United States Navy and was attending my final training school in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The daughter of one of the local chaplains was running a Single Sailor Ministry for the training command, and she was often seen around the barracks inviting people to a dinner and bible study at base chapel, followed by a ride out to a local church called Wave Church for their Wednesday night meeting, called Soul Central.
My first time at Wave Church was one of these Soul Central meetings, which was for any older teens and young adults in the community. Pastor Carl Lentz, the Young Adult pastor, was preaching and it was a whole new experience for me! I’d never felt so many people getting so pumped about being in church! I don’t remember what the message was about, but I did have a lot of fun, and something told me I was started down a whole new road in my spiritual life. Pastor Steve Kelly, the Senior Pastor, was a big influence in my life, and I love listening to him preach as often as possible through the internet.
I have a real love of Christian music, and I was introduced to an awesome Christian band called Hillsong while I was attending Wave Church, as most of the songs the Wave Church Band sang during the services were Hillsong music. Songs like “Take It All” and “From The Inside Out” have taken their places in my heart, and I often find them popping into my head in some of the most difficult times in my life.
After arriving in Japan a few months later, it took me some time to find a church that I was comfortable in, and I tried to continue attending the Mormon Church, but I just didn’t feel as though I fit in, and that hindered my spiritual growth. Because there were so few active Mormons on the ship while we were at sea onboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, and even fewer on the U.S.S. George Washington, it was difficult to know who I could turn to if I wanted to talk about religion without getting asked a million questions and looking like a fool if I didn’t know the answer.
During the ship’s summer cruise 2007, I got to go to Sydney, Australia for one of the port visits, and I was able to attend a Saturday night service at Hillsong Church. It was a huge crowd, and even though I didn’t know anyone there, I felt so at home!
Finally, half-way through my second year in Japan, I decided to search online for a Christian church that was of a similar style to Wave Church and Hillsong. I had been sent back to Japan from Hawaii while the ship was out, and I got the feeling that I really needed to change something in my life, and I got the surprise of my life when I found the Jesus Lifehouse International Church website and found that it was a bilingual church that was led by someone who was a good friend of Ps. Steve!
When I attended their Wednesday night service in Ochanomizu Christian Center in Tokyo for the first time, I once again felt very good and at home. Pastor Rod Plummer and Pastor Ryuta Kimura were very welcoming, and I had a feeling that this might just become my church. I knew within the first few times of attending that church, both on Sundays and Wednesdays that I was experiencing something different.
On August 30th, 2008, I was changed forever. The first two services were good, and I like listening to Pastor Ryuta's teachings. But it was the third service that really got to me. Pastor Rod gave a sermon about Touching Jesus, and the three main points were:
1) Touch Him and be healed
2) Touch Him and be free from fear, and
3) Touch Him and live.
At the end of the message, he called for people who needed prayer to come up to the front. When he put his hand on me and started praying, I just felt healing to my soul and body. He brought up my painful past and something that happened to me when I was a child, and it was though he really knew what had happened like I'd talked to him about it myself. He asked God to help me open my heart and receive healing from Him, and I felt like I was a whole new person.
My lifegroup leader, Toni, said later that through that experience, and pouring out my heart to God, in that moment I was saved. Even though I had always considered myself Christian, I hadn’t really had a real relationship with Him. It was sort of surreal to think about it at first, but now I can’t imagine ever going back to my old life.
I got baptized again at the end of November, and even though there are hard times in my life, as there are with everyone, my life has taken off into heights of spiritual growth that I can’t even begin to describe! I hope that if anyone who is reading this who doesn't yet know Jesus will seek out their friends who are Christians and go to church with them, and make that wonderful decision to become Christian yourself.