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13 February 2018

Carrying the Local Shrine

“You live in our neighbourhood now, so you have to come with us to carry the local shrine though the neighbourhood to assure blessings and our protection—it’ll be fun!”

It was a bright, sunny day and the mountains were lit up in the brightest fall colours as our family joined the annual local neighbourhood hiking trip. It was good way to get to know our neighbours better, and we had a great time—except for one of our kids who wasn’t keen to walk and had to be carried all the way.

After the short hike we had an awesome Japanese BBQ for lunch. It was another good way to get to know each other and learn more about the families who live around us.

After a while, I was invited to sit with the men to chat some more. Of course for them it also meant the chance to drink some more—some of them had started before lunch. After finishing the BBQ and cleaning away everything the men moved to a different place and I found myself sitting, with eight other men, on the porch of a house belonging to an older man everyone called “Daddy”. Daddy seems to be the boss of this neighbourhood and everybody seems to listens carefully to what he has to say (although I’m not sure what they really think about him).

The conversation was fine to begin with. They were okay that I am a Christian, that I tell Bible stories, and help people to follow Jesus. But, when it came to allegiance to the local shrine—whether I would visit it to pray at New Year and help to carry it around the neighbourhood—things got tense.

I told them that praying for blessing and protection is good and that I do it every day by praying to the God who made everything and wants to bless us. I shared that I’m happy to go with them to be part of the group, but that I will only pray to the Creator God. I explained, “I won’t be able to join in carrying the shrine and worshipping the local god. I believe the Creator God is the source of all blessings and the place to search for safety.”

Nobody blinked an eye, but an awkward, dead silence seemed to continue forever and everybody stared at the floor. We waited for Daddy to speak. In a soft voice, he explained, “This is a problem. These Christians always disturb the harmony . . . their God is not as good as Japanese gods, who aren’t so envious and so stubborn.” He continued, “You live here now. You need to be willing to give your best to be part of the community. If you do that, it might work somehow.”

The earlier free-flowing conversation had gone. Now it was awkward and soon everybody left.

By JP

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Please pray for the men of this neighbourhood, that God will reveal himself in powerful ways, so that they may find life to the full.
  • Please also pray for JP and his family that we will get the chance to speak more about the source of all blessing and safety in one-to-one conversations.

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