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  • Shawn Ammons

Japanese Miracle




To read more about Mayu's proposal to start an Art Studio in Japan, and how you can support her, click here.


She was stronger and faster than the boys. It did not matter that she was a great athlete. Her eyes were too small and the frame of her body was not petite enough. She could not fit in! Acceptance was not an option for her culture. Hope and purpose in life started slipping away. The Japanese culture would not allow this young girl to have a bright future. Mayuko was feeling rejected personally, rejected by her family, and rejected by her country. She was hopeless and was sinking into a sea of shame. A few times in her life she experienced calm waters but most of the time she experienced waves of confusion, doubt, and guilt. These waves would crash over her and make her feel like she was drowning. While grasping for hope Mayuko made a choice to study abroad. 

Mayuko’s foreign exchange program required her to move several times during her high school years. Her host family experiences in the USA were very different. She was able to experience family and religious function and disfunction. One family stood out to her because she felt loved and accepted in a different way. The environment of unconditional love the family created started to expose lies she had believed from her past. The lies of guilt and shame were starting to surface. As Mayu embraced truth hope was rising on the horizon. Mayuko could feel hope and see it but it was still a new feeling and she was not sure she could trust it. Mayuko moved forward with a guarded heart because a person can only take so much hurt and pain. She didn't want to be hurt again. 

Up to this point, Mayuko had experienced many different beliefs while in the USA  But something stood out to her about Jesus, something different.  Mayuko had started to see the difference between religion and Jesus.  Religion was encompassed by the idea of earning your salvation, but Jesus was the free gift of God to all who believe.  As a senior in high school, Mayuko found the freedom that only comes through Jesus Christ, and accepted Him as her Savior.

The thoughts and phrases that once brought hurt and pain were starting to be the talk of the high school volleyball team. She is stronger and faster than all of the others. She is a great athlete and can see the whole court. Mayuko could not understand it all but she started to believe that she was sent to the USA for a reason. There was more to this foreign exchange trip than learning English and getting away from the rejection experienced back home.

Mayuko was given the opportunity to play college volleyball in a small Kansas town. As she moved once again she continued to grow in her ability to speak and read English. The past hurts were healing scars by now and she had lots and lots of questions. Where did we come from? Why am I here? Where will I go after I die? She had heard the answers to these questions, but she desired a more intimate relationship with Jesus and wanted to settle her questions once and for all. Could Jesus really be trusted with reckless abandonment?  This became a reality throughout the volleyball season. Mayuko had a healthy fear of God and grew in wisdom like never before in her life. 

In the process of getting answers and forming this new relationship, Mayuko started to desire working at a summer camp.  As a child, Mayuko had a traumatic experience at a summer camp. It was at that time that her parents told her they were getting a divorce. This was the experience that kept Mayuko from going back to a camp for 15 years.  However, in the process of getting answers and forming a relationship with Jesus, God placed a desire in Mayuko’s heart to work at a Christian Camp.

She had experienced success in sports and her love for art was taking off now that she was in college. She dreamed about using her love for art and sports at a camp. In the second semester of 2016 she applied to be on staff at a few camps but did not get accepted. She wondered how she could have such a strong leading toward camp with no openings. Mayuko was tempted with the same rejection she had faced when she was a little girl back home. That sick feeling welled up inside and she started to blame herself and hear old accusation lies from the past. When Mayuko was in a low point in her college life she received a phone call that would change everything.  Here is how she recalls this moment:
“During third year at college, I had another difficult season in my life. However, I had Jesus this time so it was a completely different battle. Although it was super painful, I was still hopeful. At the time when I was choosing to battle against the enemy with the armor of God, I was asked to come to the camp from this little girl, Grace Crandall. “Mayu! You should come to the camp with me next week!” This one short sentence was about to change the rest of my life story. Grace also told her family about it, and 10 minutes later, I received a call from someone. It was Kendra Ammons from Extreme Kansas Camp and she said “Please come as soon as possible, we were just praying that God would provide another lady staff member.” Therefore, I packed my stuff that night and drove to the camp next morning.”

We were so blessed to have Mayu serve at Camp both 2016 and 2017. God used her gifts with art and sports to reach many with His love. It has been an honor to play a small part in Mayu’s development. Extreme Encounters is excited to not only spend time with her here in the USA but to equally excited to commission her back to Japan to use art and sports to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. If you would like to receive Mayo’s prayer letters let her know at mayuko.shono@gmail.com.
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