Mrs. N- back row third from right
Mrs. T - listening to Mr. Senuma teach about reading to children
Dear Journal Friends,
Recently, we’ve heard in the news about the President giving awards to First -Responders. What a great service they and others give us when disaster strikes, even to the point of giving up their lives!
It dawned on me as I thought about my work during the past six weeks, that during the difficult preparation for several sermons and other speaking engagements, Jesus was right there as my First-Responder. I was tackling topics new to me, and as usual, my preparation time ran out for each assignment before I could get all the data and message together. This is a pattern that shows me that I’m not very good at this. Each time I left my house, saying, “Jesus, I did my best, but as you know, I don’t even have my conclusion thought out well…” or “I spent so much time researching and writing that my verbal practice time was cut short. What am I going to do?” “My eyes are so tired from lack of sleep and looking too long at my work on the computer making the reading of my script very slow. Can you just heal my head and eyes long enough to get me through this?” Beggar that I am!
Each time, it seemed that Jesus’ answer was “it’s about time! How can I respond if you don’t call me? You’re still meddling and straining to get it done? Just watch me.” And, the results were amazing, and nothing of me except for a smiling limp rag. Once I let Jesus know of the impending disaster, he was the first to respond, while other people would say, “oh, it’ll be alright.” He is like my on personal First-Responder.
Two Encounters: I spoke to the women (and some men) at a church in Yokohama this Sunday afternoon. They needed encouragement to look proactively toward the future and find more ways to serve their community. Their group is succumbing to bickering and resentment. I went with half-a- speech done! But my First-Responder completed my presentation and many of the women were challenged and blessed.
Afterwards, one woman in her early 50s I had never met came up to me and introduced herself. She is a former graduate of Shokei high school where I taught for 18 years. She graduated a few years before I began at Shokei. After reminiscing a bit she said, “I absolutely hated the morning worship every day. After graduating I was still rebellious and decided to become a dedicated Buddhist. It only satisfied my anger slightly.” She attended college and married a man who abused her terribly. A little more than a year ago she had a dream in which Jesus stretched out his hand to her. She was dumbstruck! Getting out her old Bible from high school days, she began reading it day and night. She didn’t eat or sleep for three days. This led to her to look up the pastor at this local church, and soon (one year ago) she received Christ and was baptized. She said it was the best thing she ever did. Please pray for Mrs. N as she seeks out how she can serve other women experiencing Domestic Violence.
Mrs. T lingered after the Wednesday morning mothers’ English Village class. She is devoted to this program and a great help to me. “I want to be a Christian” she boldly declared, “but I don’t know how.” She continued, “I’ve bought so many books about Christianity that I could open a bookstore. But I still can’t figure it out. My children who attend Sunday school EVERY Sunday also want to become Christians. A number of my friends are Christians and I want to be one of them.”
I sensed that Mrs. T. was more fascinated with Christian culture than feeling the need to take a life-changing step in her life. But I needed to probe deeper. Surely God will show me how to proceed, I silently prayed.
“How often do you attend church? I started”
“Not often but my kids attend about 46 out of 52 Sundays a year.”
“Do you have a Bible, and how often do you read it?”
“I have one and read occasionally.”
“Just so you’re aware, becoming a Christian is not like joining a club. You don’t have to sign up for anything. You could leave my house today as a Christian if you wanted to but let’s take this one step at a time. The first thing I want to find out is do you have any sin in your life? Do you think you’re a sinner?”
….Looks around with a condescending smile…
“NO, I’m not a sinner.”
Roberta smiles, “Wow, this is a first for me! I’ve never met a perfect person before.”
“Oh, I’m NOT perfect at all!”
Accordingly, a conversation ensued about the word “sin” in the Bible and missing the mark. In Japanese culture, the word is used to mean a person caught by the authorities for a crime committed. We had to start with this so that she could become aware of her need, to the point of not feeling that she even deserves God’s help. Enter, grace.Homework: Carry around a note pad and write down (for her use only) each time during the day that she misses the mark. Secondly, read the Gospel of John, one or two chapters a day. We’ll meet together again next week.
Please pray that the Holy Spirit will move in Mrs. T and break her heart. Especially pray for me as I prepare a tailor-made program for her under the tutelage of my First-Responder, Jesus. Thanks for your support, too, which enables me to introduce The Great First Responder to the people of Japan.
In Christ, Roberta