Last December, I had the privilege to go with the English Presbytery Japan Missions (EPJM) team to Japan. In partnership with the 3.11 Iwate Church Network in Tohoku, the English Presbytery sends a team every month to Japan to minister to the survivors of the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan in March 2011, partnering and supporting the efforts of the local churches.
God can powerfully use a short term mission trip like that to reveal Himself to us and to the world through us. And through this trip, God reminded me of His sovereignty. God sovereignly used the tsunami and earthquake to break down many walls. The first wall was that between the church and the community. Before the tsunami and earthquake, the Japanese church was very inward looking. Christians were a small minority of the Japanese population and were not welcome in the society for being different. Thus the church was focused on protecting its own members from persecution and ostracism. However, after the disaster struck Japan, the Japanese church saw the need for evangelism, and is now actively evangelizing to the community, the efforts which I had the privilege to witness. Not only that, the walls between churches too were broken down. Because each church in the region is small, they saw the need to join together with other churches to support and encourage each other in their evangelism efforts. And that was how the Iwate 3.11 Church Network, which EPJM partners was formed! Additionally, the hearts of many non-Christians in the earthquake and tsunami region of Japan also became more open to the gospel. In the face of so much death and mourning, the gospel became more real and relevant to them, especially when seeing how the Christians stayed on in the disaster region even when other relief organizations have left. The walls of their heart strongly guarding against the gospel, was and is slowly crumbling. It was amazing how something seemingly bad by human standards was used powerfully by God to achieve His sovereign purposes. Indeed, God’s wisdom and sovereignty was ultimately revealed at the cross, where God used the evil schemes of men to bring to fruition His salvation plan. He used the cruelest punishment of that time to bring rebellious us back to Him. What a great reminder it was that God’s ways are immeasurably greater than ours and beyond human comprehension. Oh, the perfect wisdom of our God, a wisdom we can never fully comprehend.
In light of the incomparable God, what is man, that you care about us. What am I, that you so graciously chose to include me, to use me as your witness? And through this trip, God reminded me that indeed, I am nothing, but He is everything, and He is sufficient.
For this trip, God gave the team and I roles that we felt inadequate for, and a blessing it indeed was, lest we depended on our own strength. As we went to Japan during December, a huge bulk of our program was bringing the real meaning of Christmas and the gospel to the various temporary housings through carols sung in Japanese. However, we were a small team of 9 singers and 2 instrumentalists, with only about 3 musically inclined persons and 2 people with a conversational level of Japanese. Even at our last practice before leaving for Japan, we were doubtful if the carols really sounded like they were meant to. Additionally, God gave me the role of narrator, to narrate in between songs the true meaning of Christmas and the gospel in words I have never encountered. However, weak as we were, God powerfully and graciously used us as His witness, and showed us that He is powerful enough to work through broken instruments like us. Just like God winning the war through Gideon and the 300 men, it was precisely because we were weak that we could not depend on our own strength and could only depend on God, and God gets more of the glory that He rightfully deserves. The weaker the vessels we are, the more God’s glory shines through. To God alone be all the glory.
It was His way of driving home the lesson: Missions is really just us partnering in God’s mission of redemption in the world. God drives missions, and as it is His mission, He will sustain it and carry it through. Through this trip, I realized the importance of recognizing who God is, and who we are in light of that, as well as what God can do with who we are and what we can give. Having an appropriate view of ourselves is insufficient without a right view of God. Perhaps some of us are hesitant to go because we feel inadequate and weak. Instead of being caught up in our inadequacy and letting it hinder us, perhaps the questions we should ask ourselves are, do I trust that God is able to take whatever little I have and use it for His kingdom and glory? And consequently, am I then willing to offer him whatever meager portions he has given me?