A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
December 26, 2008
Happy Christmas season to all of you from Nagasaki, Japan.
Thank you so very much for your prayers and gifts for Christ’s work at this season. They help a lot in actually remembering why we are celebrating Christmas. Again, this year the holiday season has rushed upon us as the busiest time of year, even though (or because?) Japan has increasingly commercialized Christmas—to the extent that many people start to decorate with lights and Santa Claus climbing on roofs from mid-November. There is no calm in which to prepare for the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ—but, then, more than 2,000 years ago Mary must have felt that her life was rather fuller than she had expected as well. By the time the Wise Men had arrived, she also must have been ready for a period of contemplation. Japan is mostly finished with Christmas events on December 25th in order to prepare for New Year celebrations. The two dates coming so close together is always challenging, and yet some of our students do take time to reflect. One second-year student at Kwassui Women’s College wrote about the Christmas chapel hour. She felt very strongly that during the time Christmas activities she should think about the significance of what she is learning about Christianity.
Earlier, Mr. Yuichiro Shiina, the college organist, shared this testimony with our students in preparation for a lecture with special religious emphasis. He told us that he met Jesus Christ when he entered a Christian high school as a student. He had selected the school because he would be able to enter its related college without taking a separate entrance examination. (This has been a widespread practice in Japan and is also the case at Kwassui Gakuin when students have satisfactory course results in high school.) However, until the day of the entrance ceremony he had not realized even for a moment that the high school was a Christian institution.
The ceremony was in the form of a service of worship, beginning with an organ prelude followed by the singing of a hymn and reading from the Bible: “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those that enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Mr. Shiiina said, “Overwhelmed by the organ, I became conscious of Jesus in the words of Scripture heard for the first time.” Attending daily worship in chapel and weekly Bible instruction, he was naturally led to church, although he didn’t know why. There was no pipe organ in the church, so music was not the reason.
When he first heard the high school organ, he wanted to play it, so he began to take organ lessons. His professor opened the way for him, and Mr. Shiina was reminded of his first Bible verse, “Enter by the narrow gate,” and resolved to do so. Now he is teaching organ and playing for the regular Kwassui College chapel worship services. He said that this can only be because he was led by the Lord Jesus Christ whom he encountered in the words of Matthew 7.
Through his college days and study in Europe he had both pleasant and bad experiences, but always he was blessed by the church fellowship and friends. “Jesus always gave me all that was necessary. When I think about it now, I can only think that that was all part of God’s plan,” he concluded. “God prepares the best road for us. I want to spend my days always giving thanks to God.”
Mr. Shiina is a blessing to those who listen to him play the pipe organ at Kwassui Gakuin and many other places. Sometimes it is easy to feel caught in dark days, but the Light of God shines upon us wherever we are and can bring real joy to the hearts of all who take time to focus on God’s gifts to all people as revealed by the Holy Spirit.
With prayers for a brighter year ahead because we can share God’s love.
The 2008 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 104