God’s Plans Are Bigger

(the story of Manami Braga da Silva)

By Maria Erokhina

Manami (Mana) was born and raised in the beautiful Japanese city of Toyama. Growing up in a pastor’s home, she faced the challenges of the environment where Christians (who constitute less than 1 percent of the population) are criticized and deal with strong spiritual opposition. These family and societal pressures often cause believers to refrain from consistent involvement in church and ministry. Mana, her parents and four sisters know what it’s like to be faithful to the Lord in a culture bound by traditions, consumed by materialism and lacking a moral compass.

Mana heard about Jesus from her parents, but she never experienced the true joy of having a relationship with Him. Her heart still carried the pain from the trials she had gone through. After high school, she worked for three years in order to save money to study at Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, becoming a CFNI student in 2012.

Talking about her CFNI experience, she says, “My time at the school was just incredible. The Lord touched me deeply there. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without CFNI. For me, it was the beginning of everything.”

Mana and her CFNI friends

At CFNI Mana met wonderful friends who supported and encouraged her, but most importantly, she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and her heart began to heal. Her family and the people around her noticed the changes God had made in her during her season at CFNI. She graduated from the Global Missions and Children and Family majors in 2014.

After CFNI, Mana joined the staff of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in Tokyo, Japan. She worked with American missionaries, held Bible studies at different university campuses, helped with translation, and organized parties and events for students to have fellowship together. Every summer, they would host several short-term missionary teams who served at different churches and shared the Gospel with Japanese youth. During her time in Tokyo, Mana also taught English, both in a language school and as a private tutor.

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, Tokyo, Japan

The transition from Dallas to Tokyo was not easy for Mana; it was difficult to come back to an atmosphere so shockingly different from the friendly Christian environment at CFNI. There were many obstacles that she had to face. She was struggling with loneliness and asking the Lord to bless her with a man that she would spend her life with. “To be honest, waiting was quite challenging for me,” she confesses, “Sometimes, I thought that I would never meet my husband. In Japan, where the percentage of Christians is very low, many Christian ladies end up getting married to unbelievers. I didn’t want to compromise; therefore, I was praying for a miracle.”

In August 2015, while visiting her family in Toyama, Mana asked her father: “I need God’s special blessing for marriage. Not a regular blessing, but a special one. Will you pray for me?” After his prayer, Mana’s heart started to race, and she knew in her spirit that she would meet her future husband soon. In response to Mana’s faith, God sent her the answer from the opposite side of the world.

Tiago Braga da Silva, a young man from Portugal, had always been fascinated by Japan and its culture and was looking for an opportunity to serve there. He arrived in Tokyo nine days after Mana’s father prayed for a special blessing on her. He was there to help build a community center in a city that had been severely affected by the tsunami of 2011. When Mana met him, she knew in her spirit that he would be her future husband. They became really good friends, started a serious relationship and then Tiago proposed to her in January of the next year. She said yes to the miracle that God had sent her. The couple was married on May 14, 2016 in Portugal, where Mana has moved and currently resides. Mana says, “I’m so happy that I patiently waited for the best man that God was preparing for me.”

Tiago and Mana’s wedding

Tiago and Mana are enjoying their marriage and serve in their local international church. “Portugal is a beautiful and peaceful country, with good weather and great food. I am still adjusting to the new environment, language and culture. With the support of my husband and our families, I am getting used to my new life. Every day, I want to count God’s blessings as I am reminded of this scripture: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” she says (Jeremiah 29:11).

Tiago and Mana trust God with their future and choose to be thankful for each day. Mana says, “I give thanks to our Lord, who is the loving Director of our lives. Sometimes make our plans, but God’s plans are beyond our expectations. Praying and waiting are some of the hardest things we can do, but it’s so worth it.”

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