Sacrifices Remembered

Last year we were sitting in the lobby of a Japanese inn, waiting to take a train that would go under the ocean and onto the island of Hokkaido.  We’d stopped over there the night before, and were to continue another 5 hours north to be able to see one of our ‘boys’ and his family who live in Sapporo.  He’s the one I mentioned before who does church music throughout the island.

Behind us a large family was gathering to wait for the shuttle bus with us.  The older gentleman was talking,

“You know,” he said to his family that included several young people,  ”this morning we will be crossing the Tsugaru Straits to Hokkaido.  It will take us only 20 minutes by Bullet Train, but until several years ago, the only way to cross was by 4 or 5 hours on a ferry.  About 60 years ago, a ferry sank in a storm and about 1200 people were drowned.”

The family murmured in dismay, possibly saying something like “Why would Grandpa want to choose this moment to share this with us?”  I’m good at eavesdropping but sometimes I miss the finer details when it’s in Japanese.

Then he sucked in his breath and continued.  “But it was the two Christian missionaries who were aboard that we’ll never forget. You see, they, in true Japanese ‘Bushido’ honor, took off their lifejackets and gave them to some younger students”.

What he didn’t mention was that several surviving witnesses reported that the men shouted, “Live for Jesus!” as they sunk into the waves, never to be found again.

As I researched this story, I heard from a missionary who has lived her whole life in Japan. She was only 4 at the time, but according to her memory, four missionaries sat in her living room one night. She remembered that two of the men were needing to get back to the mainland. One of them had just deemed it ‘safe enough’ to bring his family back to Japan after the war, and the other one had an important church meeting.  They swapped tickets with the other two, who decided that could wait another day.  The men who left on the first ferry were Alfred Stone and Dean Leeper.

We will never know why this happened, but God does. The ferry was not supposed to sail at all because of the storm…. but it did. God knows what happened there as well.

As we worked in the tsunami disaster the last few years of our career, from 2011 till 2015, we found ourselves at times discouraged with the ‘response’ of the Japanese to the Gospel. One would think that after such a major trauma people would rush to the Savior, and many of them did, but it also seemed that many others hardened up and returned to their immutable stoic ways before we knew it.

Then a wise Japanese pastor observed,  “Yes, the Japanese seem hard. But they NEVER forget either. Satan has a hold on them, but he can’t reach their hearts.”

An unprecedented number of people DID accept Christ in the time following the tsunami but a great number of them just watched and filed it all away in their hearts as the Christians rushed to help them.  But when they remember the kindness and hope of missionaries like those two men in Hokkaido, they’ll remember every ‘Christian’ act thru the centuries.  Their hearts are being changed toward God every day, and we would do well to remember to pray constantly for their revival.

There is an interesting video that we’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from.  If you have a few minutes, you might want to watch it! Be sure to watch both parts 1 and 2. Here’s a couple of links that will take you to them:

There is HOPE for Japan! I have to believe that.

Have a great week,


PS….. On a personal note, one of our better missionaries here in Australia, John Baynes, has just died after a very short bout with cancer.  He and his wife worked tirelessly with the Aboriginals in Northern Australia.  They were pure and simple people who hardly ever came out of the great Outback where they were at home with their ‘people group’. He will be missed.

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