Ode to a Pole

He is Risen!

Happy Easter,  As I write this, our hearts are full, we’ve had countless services, mourning and grieving thru Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then all the services this Easter day, beginning at 5:30 AM with a glorious sunrise, and finally ending with an amazing combined worship of the Japanese churches at our house, followed with a dream potluck of all the food I love.  We have old Missionary friends (who aren’t that old) visiting from Japan, so our cup has really run over.
To that end, I’m going to post a blog I’ve written years ago, because the Polish Priest said it best…….Enjoy and remember.

Ode to a Pole

When I was a girl, most of the jokes that were going around in my grade school classrooms involved “Polaks”.  You know the type, “How many Polaks does it take to change a light bulb”……those sorts of jokes. Somehow this was ridiculously funny to a 10 year old.  I’ve found later in life this genre of jokes also masquerade as Aggie jokes, Belgium jokes and even Blonde jokes (Now as a blond, that offends me!). Pretty much anyone who is not in your circle of experience…

Imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I met my first “Polak”…. who I have later learned are more correctly referred to as “Poles”. It was in 1981.

He came to class in the form of a handsome and composed young priest.  We were newly arrived in Tokyo and Tony and I were about his age but were neither handsome nor composed as we struggled along in a language school run by the Catholics; all of us together trying to learn Japanese.

I don’t remember his name; come to think of it, I probably never heard it, since everyone just referred to him as “Father”.  I don’t know where in Poland he came from but it was apparent that he, like us, had given his life to service and ministry to the Japanese.  We never really spoke, because he and the two nuns who arrived with him spoke almost no English. Believe me, in those early days, our communication in Japanese was relegated to bold sentences like “I like tulips” and “This is a pen!”.

But back to the Poles….

While I continually, from my childhood exposure, expected those three to do something completely zany and without reason (as per the jokes), I began to sense a real ‘presence’ in them. Even though most of us had no common language (the other students had come largely from Europe and South America), there was a level of communication as we sat in small classrooms day after day and struggled with what a Catholic priest back in the 1600s by the name of Francis Xavier had aptly called, “The Devil’s language!”

Anyway, during this daily struggle, you pretty well KNEW which of those priests and nuns had a personal relationship with OUR LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, and who were just there maybe for the status or possibly the dream of a better world thru the social gospel …….

Finally it was Easter, and the Poles came through.  When we arrived at school that Monday after Easter, the nuns ran to us and then after us, shaking a bottle of perfume on us and shouting gleefully “Ee’s ALIVE!!” with much shouting and ensuing hilarity!  They couldn’t really ‘explain’ what they were doing, but some of the teachers commented that the Poles did this every year to celebrate the fragrance of new life in Christ through His resurrection.

Later that day, after things had settled down and we were having our morning break, the quiet handsome priest spoke a simple one-line sentence. I don’t know what prompted him, but I have never forgotten it.

“All God wants from us is for us to come back to Him”.

Later I learned a Japanese word, “O- mukae”.  This is the verb which most closely means the “coming/going to collect someone”.  I didn’t understand it until I saw the relief and joy in my children’s faces when I came to “O-mukae” them from their day at Japanese preschool. It’s not to say they hadn’t had a great day at school but just being able to finally let go and rush into the arms of the one who loves them the most……..to be safe and secure and being going home to relax in the security of home……This is a look that says it all.

This Easter, Jesus comes down from the cross to “O-mukai” us.  He’s come for us……..all we have to do is raise our little puny arms, relax and like the priest suggested, “come back to Him”

Enjoy this most special of all days,


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