That isn’t really the woman’s name, but it’s the name I call her. To be honest, I tried and tried to learn and remember her given Chinese name, but it wouldn’t stick in my brain. All I could remember was that it started with a “J” sound and the last name began with a “Y”. JOY was something I could remember.
Joy was also what I got to witness God bring in abundance to this woman’s life.
I wasn’t supposed to even be at that church the day I met Joy. As our mission team divided up the night before I had been scheduled to go with another team. A few minutes after assignments were decided I felt unsettled. I spoke up and asked to be switched. At first I thought it was because I wanted to be with the other two people who were on the trip from my church. By Sunday afternoon, I realized it was God calling me to a different place… a place where I would meet Joy.
We had finished the worship and teaching part of the meeting and had moved into a time of prayer. Prayer in China is a beautiful, loud, chaotic, amazing time of a worship service. Everyone, hands raised, begins pouring out their praise and requests out loud all at the same time. While this is going on, we would often snake our way through each row praying blessings on each person present. We had no clue what they were praying or what they needed prayer for, but we depending on God’s Spirit to intercede as we stood with them praying… them in Chinese, us in English.
I had made it back as far as I could before the center aisle was completely blocked by people completely absorbed in their conversations with God. I could tell the prayer time would wrap up soon and decided to just head back toward the front. Once again, God had other plans. An older woman pushed me toward a younger woman… Joy. She had tears streaming down her face and obviously was struggling with something. As I had done for many others that day I put an arm around her shoulders and held her as I prayed for God’s comfort and peace to fill her. There was no way to know what was on this woman’s heart and mind as we didn’t speak the same language, but as a fellow human being, I could sense (with the help of God’s Spirit) that this woman needed to know simply that she was not alone.
So, instead of moving on after a few moments as we typically did. I stayed. I didn’t have much more to pray but I continued to embrace her as she turned and wept into my shoulder. I held on longer as the Pastor brought the prayer time to a close. I prayed the Lord’s prayer hand-in-hand with her in English as the congregation recited it in Chinese. As her tears began to stop she slipped her phone out of her pocket and took a picture of the two of us. I remained a little longer. The music began and I felt her relax a little bit. It seemed she might even dance a bit in praise. At one point I did slip away only to go grab my camera so I too could take a picture with my new friend. Only I never made it back to her pew. Halfway back up the aisle, Joy grabbed my hand again and pulled me toward the front of the sanctuary, right to the middle of the people up there and we began to dance. Round and round we went, other believers dancing all around us, yet at least from my point of view, it was just the two of us and Jesus.
I now as almost in tears as I had literally watched Psalm 30:11-12 become this woman’s testimony right before my eyes:
“You turned my weeping into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.”
We hadn’t exchanged a single word, yet I felt like I knew this woman’s heart. After about 15 minutes of dancing, I pulled her out of the circle and went to find our translator. Through him I was able to tell her the things God had put on my heart for her:
“I want you to know that you are never alone.” She nodded.
“God is always with you.” She smiled.
“I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I can tell that God did something in you today. Don’t ever forget the joy he brought you today!” Her smile broadened.
I felt God prompting…”give her your ring”. As I took it off my finger and put it in her hand, I said, “I pray this will be a constant reminder of what God did for you today.”
In the metal were these three letters…. J … O… Y.