24 November 2014

Give 'Em Jesus! (Originally posted Nov, 2014)

It's late November, the autumn air is chilly and the leaves on the trees resemble red and golden hues of light as they dance on the mountainsides. An afternoon walk through the neighborhood encounters bowing bodies decorated with smiling faces and familiar voices calling "konichiwa" to my friend. Joyce, a 70 year old widow, living the great commission, in the little town of Minoh-shi, Japan, just gives Jesus to everyone she meets.

Unlike so many I have met across this nation, Joyce has little regard for the culture of silence and it's religious rulers who discourage openly talking to people about Jesus. Instead, she is the bright smile and twinkling eyes of love that spill out words of encouragement and affirmation to the lonely, aching hearts of Minoh.

I tagged along on several "English" lessons. Saturday was a time with three ladies, friends for a long time, who want to learn English, or so they say. Our two hour lesson lasted nearly three, but the conversation had my attention from beginning until now, and I became the student. I simply wanted to know how to say, "I love you." to my grandkids. The words brought a blush of embarrassment to our hostess, so much so, that she left the room. When she returned, she tried to explain to me that they do not say that. In my curiosity, I continued to ask questions, trying to verify if 'love' had a different meaning to them. Her reaction was so strong that I thought perhaps, somehow I had conveyed something X-rated.

Ultimately, what I Iearned was that in
Japanese culture, expressions of love and other
words of affection, are not typically spoken. Two of the three women said their husbands expressed his love and need for them while dating, but not after the wedding. The third, our hostess, said she and her husband never said such things to each other! 30 years of marriage, not one word of affection or desire, and yet, she says she would not want to live without him. She tells me he is good to her and all the things he does for her. But love him? She could not bring herself to say the words that were dancing in hers eyes as she spoke of the one who holds her heart.

All the time, and all the conversation, left me in wonder. Communication is difficult simply because of the language learning process, but when things that are so normal to speak of in one culture, are so abnormal in another, communication takes on a whole new level of gentle patience. The question in my mind of what do they think? What is the internal reaction, when I say that "My God loves you?" was answered when Joyce began to share with Hiromi, how much the Lord loved her and saw her as beautiful. Our embarrassed hostess suddenly straightened her back and squared her shoulders as she received the words, then gently bowed in appreciation, saying "Thank you. Thank you for telling me that."

Joyce is a 30 year missionary veteran, having served 27 years in Croatia before coming to Japan, three years ago. She has a deep love relationship with Jesus and it is revealed in every contact made with people. Our first contact was via email by a mutual friend in Ishniomaki. In her second email to me she invited me to come for a conference on the weekend, saying that I could come on Thursday and meet another missionary friend that was leaving on Friday, to go back to New Zealand - if I didn't mind three of us sleeping in the living room. I knew right then I had met someone with whom I could be fast frends. Few people in this world are so willing to make room for one more!

An early Sunday morning walk to the bus stop was filled with conversation as Joyce and I walked along. A lady heading in the opposite direction stopped us. She knew Joyce, but had not seen her for some months. They chatted briefly and Joyce asked her to come to church with us. Chikako turned around and joined us! No phone call to family or friends, just a decision and follow through that lasted most of the day.

Here, in Minoh-shi, there is a joyful presence of the Lord. People keep a watchful eye for Joyce - she has the joy they long for.  They will stop and change their plans to spend a few moments in the presence of this woman who loves them. They may not yet know that it is Christ in her that attracts them, but they know He is the hope of which she speaks. They never have a doubt that He is the joy behind her smile, her tender touch and her sweet words.

Joyce, and her son, Niko, have shown wonderful hospitality to this seemingy nomad traveler. We have spent many hours talking about the plans and purposes of the Lord, and this divine appointment between us. I watch in absolute awe as the Lord puts the pieces together. Their vision dove tails beautifully with mine - a God design - living stones building His kingdom.

This adventure of my life is such a joy. He speaks a thing and it is. Stepping out at the sound of His voice - moving on a moments notice - is the most amazing experience. All too often we want to wait until everything is in place before we step out in obedience. Now, it seems almost daily that He  is set to prove that it is when we move, that everything else can move, and fall into place. Until we unwedge ourselves from our fears and complacency,  everything else stays in gridlock. Whether it is moving to a new land or talking with a neighbor about a difficult subject, nothing changes until we move. You can't have a part in changing someones life until you reach out past yourself, where it might be uncomfortable and you might be misunderstood. The place where they will experience love.

Just give 'em Jesus!

With  His Heart,

No comments:

Post a Comment