In Japan, one of the most gospel-poor areas in the world, Kellie Nicholas is supporting the faith of university students through the Christian student movement Kirisutosha Gakusei Kai (KGK). Kellie tells how the word of God has impacted on the faith of one young believer.
I first met Mariya just over three years ago. She had grown up going to a good, gospel-centred church with a Christian mother (who is also a KGK graduate). Mariya had been involved in Christian youth camps and was a regular member of the high school Christian ministry HIBA (‘High School Born-Againers’).
However, when Mariya started at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, there were no Christian students meeting for Bible study and fellowship. The previous year a small group of students were running a Bible study on that campus, but they had all graduated.
Mariya was keen to get a Bible study group started, so she invited a non-Christian friend, Sari, to meet with her for Bible study. They met together most weeks, and I tried to get along every fortnight. Together we read a part of Mark’s Gospel and then discussed what it meant. Sari had never read the Bible before, so she had a load of great questions. Mariya and I worked as a team to try as best we could to answer them. I was always encouraged by Mariya’s desire to help her friend come to know Jesus, and also to grow in her own understanding.Earlier this year, at our International Bible Café (ministry to international students), the opening question for Bible study was, “What is your favourite Bible passage?” Mariya shared that she really liked Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When I asked her why, she said it was because I had shared it with her.
After getting over my initial shock, I asked her to elaborate. She went on to tell me that two years ago, at our National Leaders Training Conference, she had been having some doubts about her faith. She shared with me that she was struggling to know if she really believed. I then shared this verse to remind her that even though our feelings and thinking changes, God doesn’t. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
“That verse has become the centre of my faith,” Mariya said. “At times when I forget God’s word or am having trouble believing, this verse reminds me of the security of my salvation because God doesn’t change.”
It has been encouraging to see how Mariya’s faith has grown. She has continued to meet for Bible study with other students as they have arrived on campus over the years, and she currently still meets regularly with two other students. Mariya also recently met with three girls at a nearby university, Kobe Design University, to encourage them to start meeting together regularly for Bible study.
At a student camp based on the theme of work and decision making, I had lengthy discussions with Mariya about her future after she graduates in March next year. Above all, Mariya said she wants to make godly decisions and to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Please pray for Mariya (and for other Japanese students), that her faith would remain firm and rooted in God’s word. Please also pray for CMS missionaries, like Kellie, as they train, encourage and equip students to be faithful followers of Jesus.