I met the online prayer group in July of 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. But before starting to talk about my experience in Alive in Christ Online Prayer Group, let me share a bit of my background.
I’m a cradle catholic and Brazilian who migrated to Japan at a very young age. I come from a catholic family who managed greatly to give me a faith education in catholicism while teaching the respect for other faiths which are infused deeply in the culture here.
I grew up with the certainty of being a Catholic but also having many doubts, questions about religion and a thirst to understand who/what God is. But as well, I had always been very skeptical of faith manifestations and to believe “blindly” in something unknown. So, for most of my life I have thought the right masurare to faith is to conceal it with a balanced portion of intellectuality and knowledge. And I carefully framed my faith and God with concepts, refusing to admit God is beyond any of them. To be frank, I blinded myself for my own benefit; escaping from the sense of guilt to exercise the right to choose my own path without God’s interference in it. And for every success in life I felt blessed because God had “well repaid” my efforts as the faithful God He is.
Then, last year, when my life seemed just to be around another corner of success, it collapsed with a scandalous series of senseless suffering. For the first time in life I deeply suffered and my well defined concepts of life, faith and God were proven to be useless.
Broken, lost, depressed and with rage, I turned myself to God; because I was out of options; because I thought “If He truly exists, He is the right one to vent my anger on”. It was very bizarre because my anger was the source to kneel and pray every night. I had never been so persistent in my prayers.
One night, kneeling and praying in anger as usual, I looked up at the crucifix and realized before whom I was: the crucified God – the true scandalous suffering. Tears came. He was there, all the time. It took me 30 years to realize it. My senseless suffering got a meaning. I felt loved.
It’s been a path since then. A couple months later I reached the online prayer group. Initially I thought “God is showing me where to serve Him” as I had asked for that opportunity in prayers. But today I see it differently. The online prayer group is more like a big package of gifts.
I remember being nervous on the first day and in contrast to that I received a warm welcome from everyone. But the group also let me take my time to feel engaged and this was very important for me who is still very skeptical.
The first change I noticed after joining in, was how praying together is powerful. Even with the inexplicable attraction for God, I used to feel very lonely and lost in the converting process for suddenly facing so many new aspects in myself. But, seeing all these young adults in joy to weekly gather and praise God gave (and still gives) me joy and will to go further in this path.
But to be honest, at first I doubted I would create any bond with group members! They seemed so different and moreover geographically distant. I thought it would be just praying together weekly. God proved me I was wrong! Around my 3rd time, a member sent me a DM saying “Hi”. I wondered what that was about but replied gently. That same week another one texted me, we chatted a bit and at the end she said she would pray for me. She merely knew me! I was touched by the gesture. In these months I’m gradually learning and experiencing what brotherhood/sisterhood in a community is about, how caring and praying for each other unites us in God.
In fact I’m learning so much: I’m learning how to properly praise God, how to relate with Him and others, how to be humble and count on help with the monthly personal accompaniment, to see the beauty of holiness and go for it, to be constant, to let my wounds be healed, to forgive, to live the grief, to find joy, to see myself as God sees me, and to love. I have never expected the result of a 2 hours online prayer group to be this much dense! And it just makes me laugh because God is always full of surprises.
How are you today? Are you letting Jesus show up in your life? Try a little “yes” to Him. You won’t regret the surprisingly marvelous results.
Paola Yamane, 30