Reflections on a visit to Japan

Many years ago my attention was brought to a newspaper article about a group of Hasidic Jews living in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia who had never heard of the name of Jesus.

It seems impossible to us that anyone living on this planet could not have heard of Jesus in some way unless they were living in a remote, inaccessible jungle, let alone in the middle of what we call civilisation.

Later I was given the privilege of being sent by my employer, Dunlop, to our factory in Kobe, Japan. They called it training but I saw it as an opportunity to visit one of our then mission partners, Patrick and Sarah MacElligott.

The Japanese are very polite people.

Their society is based on respect; respect for your elders, respect for your work superior and so on. As a visitor I was quite high up on their scale of respect. So much so that the guy sent to Tokyo airport to meet me, on hearing that, at that time, I was on a strict non allergic diet, spent ages studying the menu in the first restaurant we ate at, lest he recommend something that would harm me.

Come the weekend I was given a chaperone, a Mr S, whose instructions were to take me to see the sights such as the Golden Pavilion of Kyoto and the Ninomaru Palace with its squeaky floor, designed to stop anyone with dishonourable intentions from creeping up behind the Shogun.

Eventually we found ourselves drinking coffee in a café on Mount Rokko. Somehow, I’m not sure how, the conversation arrived at religion and, I told him that I followed Jesus.

To my surprise Mr S had never heard of Jesus, and now here I was, 3,000ft up a mountain, overlooking the 7th largest city in Japan, some 6000 miles from home, sitting opposite a well-educated man, an engineer no less, who did not know the name familiar to some 2.5 billion people worldwide.

Following Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 3:15 to:

‘…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…’

I did not waste the opportunity to relate the testimony which I’ve recorded before, here in these vlogs.

The next day, being Sunday, I had arranged to go and spend the day with Patrick and Sarah. In the morning Mr S was again on hand to take me to Kyoto and drop me at their church leaving me to make my own way back by train.

Again to my surprise Mr S didn’t just drop me off but came in with me where he heard the Gospel spoken in his own language!

After my time being ‘trained’ I exchanged the customary gifts with my hosts and returned to the UK and never heard from Mr S again.

A year or so later an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit Kobe just before breakfast time.

Many people were killed.

The cluttered buildings surrounding the Dunlop factory, being residential and small commercial wood built structures, were burnt to the ground by the ensuing fires. A widely shown film clip of a bus hanging over the edge of a broken motorway bridge also showed the factory, untouched except for the old Technical building which had collapsed. But I know no-one from the company had been harmed.

Had the earthquake occurred an hour later this building would have been occupied and the third floor, where Mr S and his colleagues, my colleagues, worked was crushed to mere inches by the weight of the floors above.

If not for that chance encounter on Mount Rocco there would have been one less person prepared to make an informed choice for his future salvation. And who knows who else he would have told; his family, his friends?

We may think that we do not live in a land were earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones hit with predictable unpredictability, but hang on, what is happening now in our land?

Jesus said in Matt 24:44:

‘ … you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’