Articles From the March 1995 Unification News
God is working, even beyond our own efforts ....
by Lynn Mathers-NYC
One of the peak experiences of the entire series of International Women's Friendship Conferences had to be the final conference in which entertainer Jennifer Holliday participated in a remarkable way. Indeed, it was hard for any of the entertainers to not be touched by the spirit of what the conferences were accomplishing. However, an unexpected opportunity was able to profoundly affect the lives of Ms. Holliday, a very special young Japanese woman, and the more than 1,000 participants, staff and even stage crew, who took part in and witnessed that final Sisterhood Ceremony.
Jennifer Holliday was scheduled to be the featured evening performer for several of the conferences. After her initial appearance, she happened to received a letter from a devoted fan of hers in Japan. Hiromi Okazaki had earlier won an essay contest in Japan, sponsored by a fast-food chain, in which contestants wrote essays about Jennifer Holliday. Hiromi had admired Ms. Holliday for several years, striving to emulate her powerful style in developing her own singing talent. The first prize in this contest was a trip to America, and one of the stipulations was that the trip had to be taken by March of 1995. Hiromi's letter begged Ms. Holliday to consider meeting with Hiromi while she was in America, if only for 10 minutes, and possibly let her attend a performance. Her ultimate dream would be fulfilled if she could have a voice lesson from her.
It occurred to Ms. Holliday that since Hiromi was from Japan, and she was going to come to America in March, maybe her trip could coincide with one of the IWFCs, and the two of them could cross the bridge as sisters. She proposed the idea to the staff, and it was approved.
The background to the story was announced to the audience early in the day of the Sisterhood Ceremony. But even though this meeting was eagerly anticipated, absolutely no one was prepared for the powerful emotion which swept through the ballroom that day. Ms. Holliday and Hiromi were the last sister-pair to cross the bridge. Helped to the stage because she is blind, Hiromi fell into the welcoming arms of her singing idol amid tears of incredible joy, which quickly spread through out the entire ballroom. The loving embrace lasted quite a long time, and no one seemed to want it to end! When the ceremony did continue, the audience was delighted to hear that Hiromi would sing with Ms. Holliday at the entertainment later that evening.
During her performance, Ms. Holliday shared some of her heart concerning this special meeting, and explained that more than the 10 minutes Hiromi had asked for, they were able to spend large parts of about four days together. As for the singing lesson, Ms. Holliday said that upon hearing Hiromi sing, she responded, "Girl, you don't need singing lessons from anyone! You've got it! You just sing your heart out!", and gave her the stage. Hiromi chose the song, "Climb Every Mountain," which perfectly epitomized her own struggle to overcome the many obstacles that could have prevented her from achieving her ultimate dream.
Hiromi's performance brought the enthusiastic audience to their feet in thunderous applause. Her singing voice every bit as powerful as Mrs. Holliday's, Hiromi clearly showed tremendous promise. I think everyone in the audience felt they might have just witnessed the debut performance of a rising international singer. Certainly the audience of over 1,000 people, half from her native Japan and half from America, could see she was on her way.
The crowning moment came, however, at the finale of Ms. Holliday's set. She invited Hiromi to come up and sing together with her the song made famous by the Judds, "Love Can Build a Bridge." It was quite amazing how this song seemed to embody the founding ideal behind this "Bridge Ceremony" event. The audience and singers were totally united in the spirit of love and joy, singing the refrain together, "Love can build a bridge--don't you think it's time? Don't you think it's time?"
It was an experience those present can never forget; and one which showed us all that even beyond our own plans, God is working behind the scenes to bring people together in amazing ways.
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