Go Ye into all the World: Called to Japan

My reason for writing is not to entertain, nor even to inform. Previous contributors to this section of the magazine have performed superlatively in the latter. Rather, my aim is to acknowledge that what was written to prospective missionaries was not only informative, but true. The veteran missionaries were right.

Three years ago, Mr. Jim Allen of Malaysia wrote, A Love to Christ, Obedience to Scripture, and Guidance by the Holy Spirit… when these three matters are realized in the life of any believer, then service is directed and effective. … When these are missing [in missionary service], nervous breakdowns and compulsory repatriation from the field are the inevitable result (T&T, October1999, p264). Later he wrote with regards to the dealings of the Holy Spirit, Conviction becomes so strong and the personal claim so pointed that there must be obedience. The alternative is disobedience which could invite divine discipline (November,p293).

We are thankful for the call of God. Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say (Ex 4:12). What a tremendous promise to receive when the task of learning Japanese is so daunting!

I came to Japan with the determination that I would become Japanese in every way possible. But I had forgotten something fundamental: no matter how well I might learn the language and culture, I will always be an outsider. In spite of my desire to draw alongside both saint and sinners in my adopted land, daily incidents remind me that I do not belong here.

Had I remembered the words of Mr. Denis OHare of France, this would not have come as such a surprise. He claimed that even after mastering the language, a worker will still be considered a foreigner and always live with the muted suspicion of others that you are introducing foreign ideas (T&T, August 1999, p210-11).

Mr. Jim Currie of Japan did not mince his words concerning the primary task of a new missionary. Language study is a full-time job… No longer does his public speaking ability give him a place of respect in the assembly and certainly not among unbelievers. These latter will probably look upon him in exactly the same way as recently arrived immigrants to his own land were viewed. Attempts to speak English, heavily accented, gave the impression that the speaker was less than intelligent. Now the boot is on the other foot (T&T, May 1999, p129).

Little did I know how true this would be. Consider for a moment what qualifies a man for missionary service. Is it not his past record of preaching the Word of God and being willing to evangelize his neighbors? Has not the Lord blessed these efforts, and indicated His willingness to use such a man? Right up to the moment he leaves the homeland, the candidate has expended his energy in communicating the Truth.

Now transport that same individual and put him in a place where he can no longer communicate. No preaching, teaching, public worship or prayer, or singing. Nothing, but silence. The new missionary faces an identity crisis, and the feeling of complete uselessness is mentally exhausting.

I was very discouraged by this state of mind until I read Hudson Taylors unabridged biography. To my surprise, the great Hudson Taylor of China went through similar experiences. What missionary does not know the temptation at such a time to let go higher ideals and sink to the level about one? Prayer becomes an effort and Bible reading distasteful, and the longing creeps in for stimulus of some kind… Then the way is open for a fault-finding, critical spirit, for dissatisfaction and irritability, and gradually for worse backsliding still. And all this, so often, has its first beginnings in the almost unendurable monotony from which the young missionary finds it difficult if not impossible to escape(The Growth of a Soul, p220).

We have not been immune to the same spiritual warfare, and Mr. David Jones of Chile warned that dealing with frustration without becoming angry is a major challenge. The flesh that was present in the homeland retains all its horrible characteristics on the mission field (T&T, April 1999, p102). Rather than move to a higher spiritual plane by heeding the Divine call, the young missionary increasingly finds that any earlier problems he had with the flesh are accentuated. This gives rise to much prayer and soul-searching, and a fresh appreciation of the Great High Priest who intervenes and sustains.

Mr. Bruce Cottrill of Finland elaborated: There are problems… no meetings for which to prepare, and the help of other brethrens prayers, exhortation, and teaching is missing. Through carelessness, one can dry up, and other things can take the place of time spent in the Word (T&T, July 1999, p186). The early hours alone with Gods Word, before the household and the sun rises, have proved to be essential in making it through each exhausting day. I can testify, in agreement with these veteran missionaries, that no other resource provides the strength so vital to the missionarys survival.

Japan has been called the graveyard of missions, and we are beginning to understand why. Mind-benumbing Buddhist and Shinto teachings have blinded the masses to their need. The same was the case in China when Hudson Taylor sought to travel inland with the gospel. But he did not go alone; there were saints, George Mueller among them, who laboured in prayer. Is it possible that you could engage in this same work? Will you live close to God and breathe into His ear a cry for His servants in Japan?

I am acutely aware that someone who is reading these words may have a burning desire to serve the Lord Jesus. We will not urge or persuade you to come to Japan, for we cannot sustain you. This is between God and you. But in viewing the millions of intelligent, educated, and rich Japanese, I close by echoing the cry of Amy Carmichael: Where are the men? Men with mental powers equal to those of the educated, men who will count as refuse the success and acclaim they might attain and lose themselves in some out-of-the-way corner of the earth? Are there none who will live their lives along the lines of John 12:24, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.? (A Chance toDie, p141)

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt 28:19-20).