To God Be the Glory

Good Morning,

If you’ve been following me for the last several weeks, you know I’m telling a story about the conversion of a young girl named Yukiko.

She became a Christian, faced persecution but then her sister followed by giving her life to Christ, and now, many years later, we’re up to facing another encounter with Yukiko’s parents, something I wasn’t looking forward to.   I will end the story with this post, so you can relax! I promise that when you finish reading today, you’ll know everything that I know about these people, even though I’m sure God’s not finished with them!

So our last chapter ended with an unplanned late night visit by Yukiko’s mother and father.  The door to our house slid open and in walked Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka.  We had no idea what to expect, but judging from the large basket of beautiful grapes they brought (quite a delicacy in Japan), we hoped for the best.

Obviously we had set our sights low, because we certainly weren’t prepared for what came next.

As soon as we all sat down, Mr. Tanaka shifted on his zabuton (a cushion on the floor for use with our low kotatsu coffee table). Finally he said point blank, as if commenting on the weather, “We want to become Christians.”

We were stunned.

We looked at each other in shock and Tony began by asking a few pertinent questions to try and understand this sudden decision on their part. But Mr. Tanaka raised his hand to interrupt, “I don’t know anything at all, but I do know when I see my girls, that there must be a God and He must love us very much. Will you tell us about Him?”

Still in disbelief, we led them thru the sinner’s prayer, while they followed along in their own words. “Amen” was barely out of their mouths when Mr. Tanaka spoke up, once more with no preamble. “I have a small question.”

“Here it comes,” we thought. The real motive for coming to see us. Probably something like, “Why does God allow suffering?” or “What is the eschatological meaning of the Second Coming?” Again he surprised us.

“Will I have to sing?”

We both laughed and said he could do anything God led him to do!  And with that he visibly relaxed.  You can imagine my smile years later when I saw him singing away during worship, revealing his happy heart.

Like a stone rolling down hill, the pace picked up from there. Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka were baptized into our fledgling church plant.  I chuckled to myself when he chose to add his “Don’t make war with your daughter” speech into his “Shin ko kokku haiku” (the customarily required testimony and vote before being baptized in Japan).

On a humorous note, my chest swelled with pride as we would be showcasing our new baptism robes, finished according to my own design after years of watching the thin robes go all ’see through’ when they hit the water. I had taken this problem up several times with the ladies in charge, only to be reprimanded with a strict and, I felt, a bit chilly, “We don’t look!”  explanation.

Not this time, I determined, not on my watch. Finding some thick shower curtain material, I laboriously made robes in several sizes. This peep show was going to stop!

If you’re smarter than I am (which is quite probable), you may have already jumped ahead in your mind to see the challenge Tony would be facing in the baptistery, that is, trying to get the AIR out of the instant balloon that appeared as soon as the people stepped into the water. Talk about your “swelled chests”!  Poor Mrs. Tanaka took quite a beating before Tony managed to get all of her under. But eventually she, along with everyone else in attendance could consider that she was sufficiently ‘immersed’. For some reason, Mr. Tanaka had no problem. Maybe he was heavier and meaner, and went down with more ease.

I’m happy to say that I can now fast forward several years with the Tanaka family.  They became substitute grandparents for my children, and are undoubtedly continuing that role in the church as we speak. Mr. Tanaka is now a deacon and is a dramatically changed person, although he still possesses that “go for the throat dynamism” that has always been a part of who he is. But now that energy is devoted, thankfully, to the Kingdom of God.

Yukiko, meanwhile lived 25 or more years in a fairly unhappy marriage. They lived mostly overseas on assignments for Tak’s work, and when the job finally brought them back to Japan, it was to a city in the south, far away from our home in Sendai. We saw them only occasionally and Tak never became a Christian even though his FOUR children had grown up (with assorted difficulties) and by God’s grace, had all become involved in full time ministry of some sort. Tak continued to faithfully provide for the family, but he was not a happy man.

Then it happened.

It was in 2011. Tony and I had been transferred back to Japan from Thailand, where we would devote our last five years before retirement helping disaster relief teams up in the tsunami zone. Tak called Tony out of the blue, and asked if they could meet. His marriage was floundering and he needed help.

Tony rushed to meet Tak, and there in a coffee shop he poured out his hurt and anger.  He had lived his whole life living as a proud and haughty atheist, knowing it all, while his entire family lived and loved as Christians.  Finally Tak realized, just like his difficult father-in-law, that God was his only hope.

If you can open this link and continue the ‘drama’ for a few minutes, you’ll see the happy ending to this very touching story.  For those of you who are getting this on email, you should be able to just click your ‘right click’ button anywhere on the line below and it’ll play. Otherwise, copy and paste into your browser:

The last thing Jonathan says on the above video is, “To God Be the Glory” which was my daddy’s favorite song.  Without him and his influence on me, Tony and I would never have become ‘those’ missionaries’ whom Jonathan refers to, who made their way to Japan and allowed God to use them to reach the nations thru this family.

I continue to be amazed.

Hope you enjoyed this drama. Next week we’ll be back to a broader picture of “God’s faithfulness in Japan.”

Have a blessed day, remembering that there are so many people to whom you too can speak God into their lives.

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