Leave It Open

Today I want to tell you a story.  It has nothing to do with our trip, which by the way has gotten off to a great start, first in Honolulu and now in Arizona. But this story takes us back about twenty years, to when we were living in Sydney.

Of course our ‘job’ was to work with Japanese, but we did a lot of other things as well… including Tony serving as pastor of a Chinese church.

It’s a bit convoluted, but try to track with me

A man and his family showed up at Japanese church one afternoon and said that they were the Chans.

Well, that’s definitely a Chinese name, and one that took us back to our days in Sendai, Japan. One of our young people back in the early 80’s was a foreign student by the name of Bob Chan. When we mentioned that to these new folks at church, they brightened up and he said, “That’s my brother!”

Dany Chan went on, explaining that his brother Bob had finished university in Sendai and was still in town, now working as a medical doctor at the local hospital. Both Bob and Dany had been sent by their father to Japan from Hong Kong for their education. Bob stayed on in Japan while Dany married a girl from Taiwan and moved to Australia. Among the several languages spoken between them, Japanese was the most comfortable, so they had sought out our church in Sydney and jumped in with both feet.

Before long Dany came to Tony with a rather interesting proposal. “We’re starting a Mandarin Chinese-speaking church on Sunday mornings, and we’d like you to come be our pastor!”

“Uhm, Dany,” Tony began, “did you notice that I don’t speak a word of Mandarin?”

“No problem, I’ll translate!”  This is Dany, whose mother tongue is Cantonese, but he was nothing, if not confident, in what the Lord could do through them.

And so we started with a twice-a-month schedule. Dany glued himself to Tony’s side, translating everything that came out of his mouth (even if there were times when he didn’t intend for his casual observations to be made common knowledge). Soon people began getting saved and they would come with lots of food and fellowship for baptisms in our swimming pool. Now in case you’re drawing conclusions about missionaries with swimming pools, keep in mind that 75% of Sydney homes have pools while only about 20% have air conditioners!

Then the church started doing evangelism around the neighborhood and in the University campuses, asking Tony to come along.  One day they met a young girl, straight from Mainland China.  She didn’t speak much English but she and Tony talked a little and he gave her a Chinese Bible. The others chatted with her and later went and visited her a couple of times as she got settled into University life.

Then one weekend we got word that she had gone to the beach, got caught in a riptide and drowned.

What a shock.  The Chinese church members rushed around checking on things, asking questions like “did her family know” etc. Then the family arrived and the church members met the plane and took them to her dormitory room.  There were no others on hand as the poor girl hadn’t even had time to make friends.

Her parents went through everything in room, packing some, discarding some, weeping over everything. Imagine the surprise when they came to her bedside table and found a Bible, lying open. We’ll never know exactly what happened in this young girl’s life but the reaction of her parent was unmistakable. “When we go back home to China, we will live as Christians because of our daughter!”

And they did. The church kept in track of them for a number of years, and they were true to their word.  We won’t know if the girl actually became a follower of Jesus, but her family did.

What amazing ways God puts His fingerprints on our lives, to bring us to Him. Paul said to the jailer, if he would but believe in Jesus, he and his whole family would be saved. We know of course that this is no magic formula, but rather an observation of fact: families often lead families to the Truth. From an open Bible on the bedside table to a faith lived out each day, what we believe and live speaks volumes to those who know and love us.

Next time you read your Bible, leave it open.


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