Keeping Your Cool in Tokyo

So after the last few weeks of rather heavy drama, I thought I should show you the more ‘human’ side of some of these great missionaries of the past.

The person relaying the following information to me suggested that I leave out names to protect the innocent and perhaps the not-so-innocent. I agree and I think you will too. It’s just possible that we’ve all been in these situations before, regardless of the culture surrounding us.

In the 1970’s, just 20 some years after the war, Tokyo had recovered economically to the extent that there were a lot of cars back on the roads.  Out of necessity, the streets in Tokyo had been rebuilt right over the rubble, so there understandably was no rhyme or reason to the layout, and traveling in a straight line was out of the question.  Of course, thru the metropolis of Tokyo, most of the moving traffic is captured quite literally by toll roads.  When I say ‘captured’ I mean that once you get on one of these arteries, you are several stories above or below the city, and there is no escape until several miles later when there may or not be an exit.

I’m reminded of a single missionary who was particularly absent minded.  She gave everything she had to evangelizing the lost and as a result, rarely thought about the reality of day-to-day living.

One day as she sailed above the traffic, from one life changing encounter to the next, she remembered that she had no money. When she reached the toll booth, she smiled her biggest southern belle smile and explained her situation to the toll taker.  He replied with equal amiability that she needed to fill out several forms in triplicate, basically outlining her sins against humanity for being so thoughtless. Of course these forms were all in Japanese as there were few foreigners with so little regard to their responsibility to society.   As she squeezed her car out of the traffic, the toll taker finally had compassion and offered to fill out the forms…… if she would just sit in the box and take everyone’s money.

I chuckle as I write this, thinking of this gangly blonde from Alabama leaning out the window and offering her bony hand to the surprised commuters.  It would have been just like her to somehow share the love of Christ in her greeting.

But ‘sharing the love of Christ’ wasn’t always on these saintly missionaries’ minds.  One of our rather noble and respected missionaries was cut off in traffic one day by a large truck.

Somehow at the next light, he jumped out and managed to get into the passenger’s side of the truck as his old nature had taken over and he was pulling back his fist to deck the driver.
“That’ll teach him to mess with ME!” his evil twin shouted in his ear, just as something snapped into his head and he thought,“Wait!  I thought I came to this country to love these people and share Jesus with them!”

He didn’t yet have the language to explain himself, but by now he had definitely got the guy’s attention, so he gave him a big smile as he extricated himself out of the truck, bowing over and over, all the while murmuring in his broken Japanese, “Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you”.

Another equally esteemed missionary had actually been a highway patrolman before coming to Japan. Nevertheless, one day he allowed his temper to get the best of him when another driver perceived that he had been cut off and starting honking his horn incessantly. Finally jumping out of this car, the former policeman-become-missionary strode back to the offending driver and yelled in his best Japanese, “I DID SIGNAL!!”  “I so DID SIGNAL” at an equally angry driver.  Then still in his former ‘cop mode’ he looked for his backup, another missionary who he carpooled with. Not seeing him, he realized that his wing man had not gotten out to join the fight but was cowering in the front seat well below the window and out of sight!  Taking a deep breath, he made a gracious bow and backed shamefaced back to his car, still saying, “Really, I promise you I signaled”.

But perhaps the most ‘godly’ response to an impossible situation was that of an older missionary, very fluent in the language and familiar with Japanese culture.  He found himself in one of those seemingly interminable gridlocks that only a city of 39 million people can create.

The irate dump truck driver behind him held his hand on the horn for several minutes when finally the missionary reached his boiling point.  There was no way he could move, but the guy kept honking. Finally the missionary got out of his vehicle and proceeded calmly back to the truck, wisely heading not for the driver but to the passenger side where and assistant driver sat.  Tapping on the window, he waited until the assistant driver looked down, then bowed deeply and said in his best polite Japanese,

“I understand how tiring this must be for you when you’re working so hard. Therefore, if it’s convenient for you, would you please humbly suggest to your driver that I would honored if he would like to come sit in my car.  If so, then I would count it an even great honor to take his place and continue honking the horn for him!”
After the initial shock of being addressed this way by a foreigner, there was a lot of laughter. The honking stopped, and everyone left the best of friends.

At the end of the day, your missionaries are still people, getting thru the daily toils of life, and hopefully sharing Jesus at every opportunity. We don’t always succeed, and for those times, we covet your prayers!  Let’s all remember this week to show the better, redeemed side of ourselves, no matter what happens. God bless you,

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