Why in the world am I so set on going back to Japan? Let me tell my story once again.
Each time I have gone to Japan (two summers, plus my recent year and a half) I’ve had a time of incredible struggle and trial, but God has used each of those experiences to transform my life and give me greater joy and power than I imagined possible.
I first went to Japan in 2004 with Campus Crusade for Christ, to the city of Sapporo. I was totally unprepared for my experiences and suffered greatly primarily as a result of fear leading to passivity, because we were doing bold evangelism (something I had no experience with) in a foreign country (I’d never been out of America). It was totally contrary to my giftings and abilities. I’m an introvert, and God has not made me primarily for that kind of ministry. I became critical of my teammates and cowardly and a little paranoid.
Ah, but the morning after returning home changed my life. The Spirit of God moved so powerfully in my heart that I have never been the same, and from that time on, He has turned my thoughts to returning and serving Him in Japan. Until my project in Sapporo, I never understood my sin, so I never really understood grace.
In 2006, I went on another summer project with Campus Crusade, this time to Tokyo. And it was hard, and I dealt with fear again, plus the loneliness of falling through the cracks on a team of 26 people. But I’d begun to understand grace, so I felt God’s forgiveness after my failures. After returning to my 5th and final year at Poly, He continued to guide me to the mission field, to Japan.
My attempt at long-term service in 2008-2009 was the longest, darkest road, yet. I dealt with unbearable loneliness, temptation, and despair. But again, God delivered me through it all, and around August 2009, a couple months before leaving, the clouds of depression began to lift from my view. Since returning to America, I have experienced the most joyful season of my life, though it’s been complete with confusion about employment and when and how to return to Japan.
In February and March of this year, there were two or three times where God jumped out through the words of scripture to confirm my call to eventually go back to Japan. As a consumation of this, He gave me a dream specifically calling me back on the morning of April 22.
With so much guidance, God has made my road in Japan clear enough that to avoid it would be a downright act of rebellion. Every time I have suffered, He has been faithful to use it for the good. For every ounce of sadness comes two of joy. And so I am not afraid of what is to come in that place. Jesus has commanded me to pick up my cross and follow Him, and Japan is my cross. Staying in the comfort of America is not a cross. He has promised that those who give up brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, etc. shall receive a hundred times as much both in this life and the life to come. In Hebrews 12, we are told not to lose heart when God disciplines us. In Acts 14, we are told that through many hardships we shall enter the Kingdom of God. I could go on an on, but suffice it to say that to me, the things I have suffered in Japan confirm my call to return, rather than casting it into doubt.
What would have happened if Paul had fled when on the day of his Damascus vision he was told, “I will show him all he must suffer for my name?” Or if Jesus had shied from the cross or the apostles from taking theirs? What if William Carrey had gone back to England when his wife went mad or Adoniram Judson to America when all doors seemed shut upon his arrival in India? Or what if David Brainard had given up on his mission to the Indians because his tuberculosis was too painful or Livingstone had said, “Two months of malaria is enough!”
And I do not have time to go on and tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, and quenced the fury of the flames. There is no space to write of Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, John Paton, and the rest, who founded missions, opened new fields, changed our whole paradigms of thinking, and took the gospel where it had never gone before. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword, their wives and children died of tropical diseases, and many left this earth not seeing the smallest part of the fruits of the labors.
So, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, how can I do anything but follow the words of the apostle Peter that “Those who suffer according to God’s will should entrust themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good?” How can any other path remain open to me but to return to my field when God calls and to take up my cross and go?
Oh, that in the midst of trial I had such bravery and resolve. Oh, that I had such joy in each of my times of struggle. Oh, that I had the wherewithal to be bold in the midst of those experiences, rather timid. In those times, I have clung to hope in the future while in the moment doing a pretty lousy job. And so I find myself in a season of restoration here, praying to God to make me the man that He wants to make me for His service in His harvest fields.