“He’s passed away,” said the voice on the phone. Our pastor immediately went to the hospice where Mr. Kitaguchi had spent the last few months of his life.
Mr Kitaguchi, a former electrician, had retired early due to a terminal lung illness. He had spent a lot of time thinking about and planning his own funeral. He realized that a normal Buddhist funeral is quite expensive and learned that a Christian funeral is much cheaper. So, despite not being a Christian, he got in touch with our church, asking for a Christian funeral.
So, every Wednesday, our pastor started meeting with him in his small hospice room. Mr. Kitaguchi had one main question: “How much is the funeral?” Explaining the background of a Christian funeral and the hope we Christians have for eternal life, the discussion more and more turned into a Bible study. I will never forget the joy in Mr. Kitaguchi’s eyes when we delivered him his own Bible. No words were needed to understand that he had been longing to read it during the long hours of the day—and probably the night.
Some weeks later, Mr. Kitaguchi professed faith and asked to be baptized. We baptized him in a small room in the hospice, with his wife, some church members, and some nurses present—some of them hearing a Christian testimony for the first time. About two months later, our pastor got the phone call that Mr. Kitaguchi had passed away. Liberated from his frail body he was now enjoying heaven. What remained on this earth was the funeral which had been the starting point of it all.
However, upon arrival at the hospice, the pastor was met by the bereaved family, the wife and the son. When he mentioned that he came to talk about the funeral, he immediately met opposition: “No, my father deserves a proper funeral.” The son was already in the midst of organizing a Buddhist priest to chant over the body to contain the deceased’s spirit.
When I later asked the pastor about what happened, he explained to me that the son wanted to properly fulfil his filial duties. In Japanese culture, it is the duty of the family to venerate the ancestors and look after their spirits for years to come; performing special rites every now and then at specified intervals. To not do that was unthinkable for this son.
I long that Mr. Kitaguchi’s family would know the freedom we have in Christ and able to celebrate that their loved one was now with God. Will you pray with me that Japanese people will hear the good news and believe? Pray too for pastors and missionaries dealing with challenging and sensitive situations like this.
By an OMF missionary
Will you pray for Japan?
- That Mr Kitaguchi’s family would know freedom in Christ.
- For pastors and missionaries as they deal with sensitive situations as described above.