Two Fingers

Today I’d like to tell you another interesting story about God’s faithfulness in Japan.  It’s an old story, but an important one, at least to me.

I was a very young missionary.  I think it was about 1979 or so and we were in the struggles of language school, beginning to wonder what the point was, especially if we could never manage to communicate with ‘these’ people.  So far we’d learned to say important things like; “I’d like to buy a blue ashtray”, and “Last night I ate spoiled shrimp in the Ginza”.
One Sunday, we went up to Tokyo to sit in on one of the many services of Tokyo Baptist Church, where we occasionally got to go for a treat (since it was in English).  A glance at the bulletin mentioned that a lady named “Yoneko” would be speaking.  I didn’t know anything about her and wondered what she’d have to say.
And then a very beautiful and stately woman ascended the stairs up to the platform and turned to address us.  It was only then that I noticed she was missing an arm.
Well…..did she ever had a story.
She had been a young woman just at the finish of WWII, about 73 years ago now.  She, along with many Japanese because of the war, had almost no education so had to find work where she could, happy to be a train attendant selling chips and tea on a little local train line on an island south of Tokyo.

The hours were long and the pay was insignificant. By now she had been doing this job for several years, and what meagre family she’d had had died or dissipated, and she had no real friends. The landscape of her daily life never changed.

Gradually she began to wonder at the meaning of her life.  There was no room for improvement that she could see, and with everyone being devastated by war, she couldn’t better her circumstances.  She supposed that she was glad to even have a job, but struggled with thinking of a future and wondered why she hadn’t died with everyone else.

One cold night, the doubts overtook her, and as she left after finishing her shift, in the early hours of the morning, she chose to end it all by stepping off the platform into the jaws of the oncoming train.


And then, some days later, from far away, she could hear voices and see shades of light.  She wondered if she was in the afterlife, but instinctively opened her eyes to observe the surroundings.

A scream of raw pain overtook her but she remained conscious. Then gradually she realized she was looking up at the ceiling in a hospital.

The nurses rushed over to her with happiness mixed with concern.

“Oh, we’re so glad you’ve survived, you had us scared there for awhile”, they greeted her.

She reached for them, but didn’t touch them.  Looking down she noticed that although she ‘felt’ her arm move, there was indeed no arm there.  Then she looked down at the sheets and saw that they were tucked in tight and there were no impressions of legs.

She had, at the crushing impact of the train, lost her two legs at the hips, her complete left arm and three fingers on the right one.

As you can imagine, she was not as happy about surviving as the nurses were.

For days she lay in pain and agony, both physically and mentally. Finally she came up with a plan.   It would be painful, but she would somehow take the pain pills in her one remaining palm, and surreptitiously tuck them under her pillow until she had enough to really ‘ease’ the pain and leave this world for good.

And then one day, in her un-medicated raw pain, her eyes focused on a handsome young man standing beside her bed.

“Hello” he said in disgustingly cheerful voice. “I’m here visiting someone else and I’ve been told that you’ve had an accident. Do you mind if I pray for you?”

“Go away!”  She screamed and tried to roll away from him.

“No, just hear me out,” he said kindly, leaning toward her and smiling.

Well, she was Japanese, and had been brought up to be polite, so she listened as he explained God’s love for her, and His concern that she get well.

She closed her eyes and let the sound of his voice ease her pain, even though she didn’t believe a word of it.  He wrapped up his short visit with a question,

“What would be the harm of just asking Jesus to love you?”  Then he said good bye and left.

That night, as the pain continued and she couldn’t sleep, she thought about the fact that she had just about enough pills to end it all.  But then she also thought about the guy’s question……….No one had ever loved her, so maybe that might be an interesting feeling, if only it could happen.

Finally in the wee hours of the morning, she prayed.

“Jesus, if you’re really there and you really care, please, if it’s not too much trouble, think of me.”  She wanted to say, “Please love me,” but she couldn’t even imagine that.

Unbelievably, she slept the best she had since the ‘accident’. When she woke, it was to the sound of birds chirping in the trees.

“Oh!” She thought, startled, “Look!  I have TWO FINGERS!!  I can grasp things!  How good is this God to let me have TWO fingers!”

And from that moment, she was a new creature.  She was the beautiful composed lady I was looking at on the platform.

She recovered, was fitted with prosthetic legs, MARRIED the handsome boy, who was a young pastor.  Together they had two beautiful girls.  She went on to tell how the first baby lay quietly as she changed diapers, and never struggled against her as she went on to do everything that was required to take care of her. Then soon after, the second one was born, and was as wiggly as any baby could be, perhaps, Yoneko thought, because she had a wonderful big sister who could help.

I think Yoneko and her husband are rejoicing with the Lord now.  I do know they had a long and fruitful ministry.

That morning long ago, after hearing her speak, I came away much inspired.  Somehow I could take my worthless sentences in Japanese, and trusting God, make them work for His Kingdom.  I understood again that He always takes what we have and makes it enough.

I’m reminded of that beautiful verse in the Bible (and then the accompanying hymn) that says in Malachi 3:10, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Have a great week, Marsha

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