Hiroko-san attends my adult beginner English class every Wednesday morning. She’s probably in her 70s, but she would definitely never admit it. She has a married daughter with one grandchild and another due in September. And she’s a life-long Buddhist. In a recent conversation with Pastor Haga (the Japanese pastor that I work with at Megumi Lutheran Church), she shared that Buddhism just feels right for her. She even admitted that when her friend told her about these English classes, she would not have come if she knew that they took place in a Christian church. Yet, she’s been coming regularly for over a year now. She usually brings along some sort of food or treat to share- anything ranging from chocolates to bento boxes to homemade loaves of bread or even pizza. We laugh a lot in this class. Recently I’ve been teaching English idioms like walking on air and edge of my seat which I like to act out. My adult students love to share insight into Japanese culture and make restaurant recommendations, and somehow, we always end up discussing the K-pop group BTS.
After we spend about an hour or so on English conversation, we study a Bible story. We read a shortened easy English story and then discuss it. Pastor Haga attends this part and helps translate or describe anything above the students’ English levels. The following week, Pastor Haga and the students read the story in Japanese straight out of the Bible, and we follow that with discussion, usually in a mix of English and Japanese. This past Wednesday we started the story of the Passover. We read it in English, and started discussing some of the challenging vocabulary like “sacrifice.” The story includes the command God gave the Israelite families- “Sacrifice a sheep or goat.” I was so excited to make that connection to Jesus, our ultimate sacrifice. Pastor Haga shared the other characteristics that the sheep or goat must have: a one-year-old male, without blemish or broken bone.
And then that moment that every teacher loves: a student asks the perfect question. Hiroko-san asked, “Nase?” or “Why?”
Why did the sheep need to be like this? Pastor Haga and I shared a smile as he explained how this sacrifice pointed ahead to Jesus and the sacrifice He would make on the cross.
Moments like this remind me of how the Holy Spirit can work- slowly warming people’s hearts to Christ- especially in Japan. Past missionaries and current pastors have shared stories of people’s journey to faith taking ten to twenty years or more. Christianity is not ingrained in the culture here. Someone’s only idea of Christianity may come only from interactions with “Christian” groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many people may not personally know anyone who is a Christian. And yet every week, at Megumi Lutheran Church, nearly one hundred people, none of whom are Christian, learn more and more about Jesus through these English classes. I pray that the Holy Spirit works in their hearts. That their heart is warmed towards Christianity. And I ask that you pray for this as well.
Thank you all for your support, prayers, and encouragement!