In my last year of seminary, I had no job prospects, but Japan was consistently on my radar. So, it should be no surprise that, even in the middle of my final exams, I somehow found myself sitting in the library next to a stack of unopened textbooks reading the novel, Silence, by Endo Shusaku. If you have read the novel or seen Scorsese’s movie of it, you will know that the story is set in the dark period of Japan’s history (17th century) when Christianity was prohibited and borders were closed.
A few decades before the story told in the book, the first Jesuit missionaries had landed in Japan and saw thousands of Japanese embrace Christianity. However, the shogun, in a mixture of fear and pride, then banned Christianity, with the threat of death for those who continued in the faith. Endo’s novel begins with two passionate missionaries smuggling themselves into Japan despite the reports of routine torture and execution for Christians. Endo’s simple and visceral writing style instantly pulled me into this story of suffering, betrayal, and martyrdom. It was not an easy read, but I could not put the book down.
Our children are waiting
I was curled up in a library chair when I came to the part where the missionaries meet hidden Christians from another village who encourage them to come and baptize their children. What the Christians said to the missionaries changed my life. I ripped a piece of paper from my nearby notebook that sat on top of the textbooks I was supposed to be reading, and I scribbled the words, “Our children are waiting for the day you will come.”
Tears blurred my vision as I stared at this piece of paper. I imagined how many in Japan had been waiting, and how many now are waiting to hear the life-giving words of the Savior who loves them. I walked around with that piece of paper tucked away in my wallet for years. It traveled with me to Japan for my nine-month short term mission experience, and was with me when I applied to OMF International, and then came back as a long term missionary. The paper has more or less disintegrated, but by now I know those words by heart, and I know God used that book in preparing me for missions in Japan.
By Keith, an OMF missionary