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My strange encounter with spiritual darkness in Japan

My friend Nobuko lit several candles and then knelt down silently in front of the family altar (butsudan). Her movements were simple and graceful, beautiful even. She believed it would bring blessing and honor to her family to venerate her ancestors. She believed it was right and proper to do so.

I had shared Jesus with Nobuko several times over our two-year friendship, but today was the first time she had invited me to her family home. It was an honor to be invited to meet her parents and enjoy lunch together. If only I could share something of the wonderful hope we have in Jesus.

As soon as we entered her home, Nobuko invited me to watch her pray at the family altar. I accepted and stood behind her, watching her elegant movements and praying silently for the Lord to break through in this household.

Throughout the lunch, Nobuko and her parents chatted easily with me while their dog sat at my feet, talking about our different cultures, the weather, our favorite foods. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. But I kept silently praying for the Lord to open a door to speak about Him. Finally, when we were enjoying our after-lunch coffee, an opportunity arose.

“What are you learning lately at the language school?” Nobuko’s mother asked.

“Well, I’m still plugging away at basic grammar and vocabulary, but for one of my classes, I’m learning how to tell stories from the Bible. Actually, for part of my homework I have to share one story 10 times. Could I tell the story to you guys? It only takes about four minutes.”

With big smiles, they agreed. I gave a quick introduction to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, telling how the Bible says God created all things, created them well, and how He made us in His image. They nodded and listened attentively. But as soon as I started the actual story, it was as if someone had turned a switch on inside of them, and suddenly all three of them started differently. Nobuko picked up a roll of tape and started to remove the dog hair from her clothes; her mother turned around and picked up a letter from the desk behind her, then turned back towards me and started reading it; her father picked up a newspaper and started reading it.

The minute I finished the story, the atmosphere changed again. Nobuko put down the roll of tape; her mother put down the letter; and her father put down the newspaper.

“Wow, that’s amazing you could say all that from memory in Japanese! Do you like snakes? I don’t like them myself.” Nobuko’s mother quickly guided the conversation into a discussion about reptiles.

What had happened? I believe I had been given a small glimpse into the spiritual realities that we often ignore. In Nobuko’s family home, as I opened the Word of God through the story, it seemed as if spiritual powers threw up interference, and my friends showed in their indirect way how they actually did not want to listen to anything about the God of the Bible.

I left discouraged, but also strangely encouraged—the power of God’s Word is real. The opposition is real too, but praise be to God, His power is greater than any power of darkness. I continue to pray for Nobuko and her family, and am thankful that I have been able to return to her family home again. I pray that one day they will be able to hear God’s Word and will lift their hands in praise to the One True and Living God.

Name changed for privacy.

By an OMF missionary

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray that Nobuko’s family and others in Japan will be able to hear God’s word.
  • Pray that missionaries will not be discouraged.
  • Pray that God’s name will be praised in Japan by many more people.

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