By Devorah Umpig-Julian

But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (the just, the upright).
– John 14:13-14 (The Amplified Bible)

Over the past year, I’ve been praying for some new directions in my personal walk with God. For months, as I engaged in my regular routines, I felt a vague restlessness, coupled with the disturbing question, “Why is life so monotonous?” No matter what I tried, I always felt like something was missing, and eventually it felt like I had nothing more to give. Loudly and often I voiced this to the Lord.

God, with a divine sense of humor, responded by shaking things up and helping me engage in a new way. At times, I look up, smile and say: “I know that was you, God! Thank you!”

When I asked God to open new directions for me, God literally changed my location, and our family had to move. I had no idea God would be so wonderfully radical or so kindly ruthless.

A Christmas gathering at the Umpig-Julian household. Devorah is the first person on the left and Ronald Julian is standing.

Weeks after we moved, hunger for God’s word became my classroom as God began changing more of the inner world of my heart. I shared these experiences with friends and others for encouragement.

God puts new people in my life because I have a role to play in theirs. Take, for example Jai*, a 36-year-old single lady and rookie graduate student from Vietnam. She has no relatives in Japan and she felt isolated. Student life was tough on her. In fact, she contemplated suicide. She planned to overdose with medicines, but God had other plans for Jai. When she went to the pharmacy to buy drugs, the pharmacy was closed!

A friend invited her to come to our house for Christmas fellowship. That night, she heard the biblical story of Christmas for the first time. She listened to our songs, prayers and sharing and enjoyed the food. She met new friends. Little did she know that God was speaking to her already.

Nearly two weeks after that gathering, she called and invited herself to come over to cook Vietnamese spring rolls, which I most welcomed. She said a peace formed within her from the first time she heard the true Christmas story.

People in various situations from many countries, who have no community to explore and enjoy life with, come to us on different occasions. They confess that they need community, which we provide for them. One said, “We only gathered one afternoon, but it fed me as if I’d eaten a whole, fat cow.” Another said, “Hope we meet often.”

Like Jai, these friends, who came closed, left opened. Friends who came lonely, left loved. Friends who came hungry, left full. They leave us changed, and, as always, the pleasure is ours.

Dear God, we pray for Christians in Japan to live harmoniously in doing the work for the glory of God. We pray for those we serve to be rescued from the power of darkness and brought into your glorious light.

*Name changed.

Devorah (“Debbie”) Umpig-Julian, from the Philippines, has served as a missionary in Japan since 2001. She works as a social worker for the Christian Coalition for Refugees and Migrant Workers in Tokyo, Japan. Her husband, Ronald Julian, serves as a missionary with the International Seafarers Ministry in Yokohama.

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