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Be prepared

I had just visited the first school I taught at when I arrived in Japan 42 years ago. All I wanted was to sit down in the café and quietly process the complex emotions aroused by this visit and approaching retirement. So I was a bit put out when the waitress asked me to move to a smaller table.

Then, a plumpish lady sitting at a table close to me said, “Haroo” (hello). She followed up with, “Japanese?” Assuming she meant “Do you speak Japanese?” I responded in the affirmative and away she went for the next hour.

Inwardly, I began to lose patience as this garrulous lady charged from one topic to the other without allowing me to get a word in edgeways. However, when she discovered that I was a Christian missionary, she mentioned she had been to Sunday School as a child. Her Dad was a fully signed up member of a Zen Buddhist temple but told her she ought to know something about Christianity. As I prayed silently for wisdom, she suddenly said, “I am looking for answers. I would like to become a Christian but I am not free to choose my own religion. My husband’s older brother married a member of the Sōka Gakkai religion and so all the family became Sōka Gakkai. I could only become a Christian after my in-laws have passed on.”

She continued, “This brother refuses to take of care of the family grave and ancestor worship so my husband has to do that. My husband’s parents are in their 90s and his dad is in hospital with cancer. My Sōka Gakkai brother-in-law is also sick and has recently been given only a year to live.”

She confided, “I worry about my husband and the family responsibilities we will have to take on.”

She showed me the book she was reading—the stories of three people facing terminal cancer. “I want to know how to die well. I don’t remember much from Sunday School. What does Christianity say?”

I shared some Bible texts with her from my smart phone and to my amazement she copied them there and then into a notebook and made notes of what I said. I encouraged her to find a church. We exchanged names and took photos.

Only God knows if her questions about life and death are compelling enough to propel her into serious seeking. I pray so.

But, above all, it was a lesson to me. Just that morning I had written to several people that my last “ministry” opportunity in Japan was coming up the following Sunday, at a pastor friend’s church. I had asked the Lord to bring newcomers and that one person might take a clear step forward. I was thinking how wonderful it would be to have such a seal on my ministry in Japan. It never occurred to me that I would have a divine encounter that very day, and not in a church. And, I nearly let that chance slip through reluctance to forego my own comfort.

It was a salutary reminder that wherever I go, be it Japan or the UK in retirement, I should be prepared to share the gospel in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). Ministry is not ending just because I am leaving Japan—rather, a new stage is beginning.

By Miriam

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray that missionaries will be prepared to share the gospel whenever they have the opportunity.
  • Pray for missionaries who have retired recently, that they will find what it is that God’s leading them to do in the next stage of their lives.
  • Pray for Japanese like the lady mentioned in the story, people who feed trapped by their family obligations. Pray the Holy Spirit will compel them to seriously seek the truth about God.

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