Apologies for getting this last post out late. It was a strange double Sunday due to time change – full of reflection, goodbyes, traveling, Father’s Day celebrations (a first for Jon, one of the long-term missionaries at Mustard Seed!) and jetlag. So strange in fact, that upon waking up disoriented on the airplane back, I briefly questioned whether those last 11 surreal days had truly passed.
We started our day off by reading from Psalm 73, repenting of envy by remembering that the “privileged” in our world do have burdens, and do need Christ in their lives. We remembered that we too are extraordinarily privileged, and need to repent of self-reliance. We then had a time of sharing of moments from the week which testified to our reliance on God’s reliable sovereignty. Here are a few highlights:
- Alli, eagerly speedwalking to approach anyone on the Kobe University campus without prejudice, at times so much so that she would startle them. Many of the more fruitful interactions were in fact with people that we had judged would be unenthusiastic.
- That emotional battering ram of rejection after rejection while trying to get just one person to stop and talk to us at the train station or on campus. The heartbreak for the Japanese, the continual dependence on God for ministry, and the realization that most people in Japan (and truly our whole world) are too busy, too distracted to even consider the solution to their deepest need – Christ!
- Each one of us having the opportunity to share our testimonies at Tuesday night “English Connect.” For some, it was their first time! For all, we were surprised at the response – attentive listening, and asking questions about the details and impact of our stories. This was no longer about practicing English. It was a testament to the power of trust that had been built with the Christian community over months and years of investment.
- Prayer meetings take place at Mustard Seed every Thursday night. Yuji had been attending outreach events for quite while now, but we were privileged to witness the very first time that he prayed out loud with the group! It was very brave of him to take that step, considering his family takes issue with his involvement with Christians. He also put himself out there by praying in English, in front of visitors from California. Needless to say, a few of us got emotional.
Success is Faithfulness
Without overly indulging the measurement of quantitative “success,” we were able to witness some truly amazing things during our stay. 3 baptisms (which we were purely spectators of) – such a rare occurrence here! We had around 85 people come to the BBQ (which I had doubted, seeing the cramped spot, and rain the day before), and handed out over 5000 church flyers. A handful of first-timers to the outreach events took a step closer to Christ by attending a follow-up event. And the group photo at the bottom of this post even includes 3 people who attended a church service at Mustard Seed for the first time ever!
In the Kingdom of God, success is not measured in numbers. This is always true, but in Japan, it was blatantly apparent. Considering that <1% of Japan is Christian, statistically we could possibly be the only Christian that some of these people ever interact with in their lifetime. There was potentially a lot of pressure that we could place on ourselves. But it was humbling to realize that God does not need us.
The nearly 300 students we met on campus don’t have to remember my name, don’t have to accept my invitation to the next event, don’t even really have to know that I am a Christian, for them to experience Christ and for the Holy Spirit to begin stirring up readiness for the Gospel. Therefore success is simply faithfulness that God has and will achieve far more than we could ever plan for.
Time to Say, “Mata ne“
With the short stay, and the language barrier, and with some of our interactions cut short because he or she had to run off to class or work, we may never know the full impact of our time in Kobe. We have to take on more humility, since the vast majority of the watering and harvesting will not be done by us. In such a short amount of time, we developed a deep care for the souls of those we met by God’s grace and overflowing love, but we must entrust the work to others (for now…).
What we can do, is come back home inspired and changed, to not let this experience go to waste. To not let it be “that one time” I always point back to on my Missions resume. To not forget 126 million Japanese who do not know Christ, including those who have been on the fence for literal years and struggle to claim Christ for themselves in a collectivist society. To bring back this urgency to our local church, this understanding that true love is laying down your life and your comfort so that someone can know their Creator and their purpose in life, which is simply to enjoy Him.
Pray that we will bring these things back to the States, back to our own spheres of influence. Back to reality, back to our old routines. Back to the mission field.