I needed to be back in time to remember how God works. And why our being missionaries is worth the sacrifice. This past week was a reminder. Let me rewind the clock to set this up.
Last Sunday as Mr. Ubukata entered church, I asked how his father's (Kenzo) surgery went. Cancer had forced the doctors to remove a portion of Kenzo's colon. Mr. U replied that things went very well, thanked me for my prayer, and added that there was just his recovery and "he'll be home soon." That Tuesday, however, things took a dramatic turn for the worse: Kenzo fell into a coma. On Wednesday afternoon he died peacefully in his sleep.
This might have been sad and tragic u-turn for the family, except for one very important lifechanging event: Kenzo had placed his faith in Christ as his Savior a few years earlier. He had the hope of eternity. He was home now. He was walking the streets of gold with his Savior. His 88 years of hurts and pains and sadness fell away in an instant as he discovered incomparable joy and life in heaven.
As we sang songs of rejoicing at the funeral, I was reminded of the chain of people God used to bring Kenzo home. We came to Japan. Mr. U and his wife were friends of our core family in the church plant. So they began attending our tiny Sunday gathering. They placed their faith in Christ. Then Mr. U brought his mother to church. The first Sunday tears flowed down her cheeks as she sang hymns. A few months later she placed her faith in Christ. Then she brought the good news back to her other son. He was saved. At his baptism, Kenzo (the father), decided that this is what he wanted for himself as well. He placed his faith in Christ and was baptized soon after. The eldest Christian in his family, his funeral was of great testimony to his relatives.
Now, a new current of faith in flowing in the Ubukata family. Six of them are believers. What if we had not come to Japan? Where would Kenzo and his family be? God is strong enough to save in some other way, I know. But I am thrilled that in his grace He allowed us to be a part of this family's new heritage, to serve as a link in the chain to bring Japanese to Jesus, just like Kenzo. Thank you, Lord, for bringing me back to Japan in time to see and be reminded of this.
In his baptism testimony three years ago Kenzo wrote: "Many things have happened in the 85 years I've lived, but nothing compares to the great joy of knowing Jesus and walking with him everyday."