A Letter from John McCall, serving in Taiwan
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I was on my way to attend a Mission Board meeting in Osaka, Japan. It is a quick two-and-a-half hour flight from Taipei to Japan. Two years ago at a meeting of Asian Christian hospitals, I met a young doctor who is serving at Yodogawa Christian hospital in Osaka, which was started by Presbyterian missionaries many years ago. This hospital seeks to reach out in Christ’s love to both the neighbors around the hospital and to folks all over the huge city of Osaka. The hospital was started in a neighborhood of folks who lived on the margins of Japanese society. It has grown into a huge, modern medical center.
Since meeting Dr. Michiru at the meeting two years ago, he has continued to write me, sharing prayer concerns about his family and his future service. When he heard that I was coming to Japan, he invited me to his home to meet his wife and young son. Because Japanese homes are small, it is very unusual for a Japanese to invite an international friend to his/her home. So, I counted it an honor that Dr. Michiru invited me to his home.
I took a bus from the Osaka international airport for over an hour to a train station in the city where Dr. Michiru and his two-year-old son met me. He wanted to first take me to his church before we took a train to their home. So we walked through a brilliant winter day to the Mennonite Church where Michiru and his family are active.
Less than one percent of Japanese are Christians in a land where one of the most important values is fitting into the larger society and not being too different. Christians are seen as rather odd by many Japanese, and it is not always easy to follow Christ in that land. Japanese worship at the local Shinto Shrine in their neighborhood and are expected to give offerings to the neighborhood shrine. They also participate in Buddhist rituals.
We arrived at a brand new church building with a white cross on top. I met the two pastors and several church members. The sanctuary was simple with a cedar ceiling that filled the room with a wonderful fragrance. I thought about the role of these Christians in Japan seeking to be the fragrance of Christ.
It was fun to see the natural way in which both Michiru and Maho interacted with their son. He is a happy boy who is growing up in a family that deeply loves him and shares God’s love with him. Michiru said that often Christians grow up with a sense of duty and pressure as they seek to live out their faith. “We want our children to grow up responding naturally to God’s amazing grace.” I could sense that I was in a home of grace.
We then shared a wonderful meal together, and I learned that they had both grown up in Hokkaido, the most northern large island in Japan. Their families still live there. Michiru’s father is a pastor. While we ate, their son enjoyed eating some sweet potato. After dinner, we sat on the floor and played with Kenshiro. He is full of energy and warmed up to this strange looking westerner sitting in his living room. Before leaving their home, I asked them how I could pray for them. They then asked how they could pray for me. We shared a time of prayer around their table.
I had a long train ride with four different trains to get to the place where I was staying in Kobe, a city across the bay from Osaka. Michiru offered to accompany me on the train ride so I wouldn’t get lost. Even though it was already after 8:00 PM, the trains were packed with folks returning home from work. As we rode, Michiru shared with me that he will be completing his residency at the Christian hospital, and they will be moving to a city south of Osaka where he will begin a fellowship. He really wants to work with developmentally disabled children, and the university hospital where he will be going in March has an excellent program in this area.
As we looked around the train at the exhausted Japanese commuters staring at their cell phone screens with blank expressions on their faces, Michiru said, “I wonder who defines what is truly developmentally disabled? The children I will be working with have joy and love life. The folks on this train seem to lack joy and are just going through life.” I was really moved by this young doctor and his perceptiveness and freedom in a culture that gives most folks great pressure. There is pressure to succeed, to fit in, to do things the appropriate way. And somehow God’s Spirit has given Dr. Michiru an open mind and heart. He sees with new eyes. He longs to join with these children on the margins of society. Just as Jesus found life on the margins, so does Michiru.
The family’s life will not be easy for the next four years. Michiru has to take a significant cut in pay in order to do this fellowship; yet they are clear that this is the road God is calling them to take.
Please pray for Michiru and his family and his future ministry of working with developmentally disabled children. Pray for the church in Japan as they seek to live out their faith in a culture that does not understand them. Pray that God will continue to lift up Christian leaders like Michiru who incarnate Christ’s love in all that they do.
Thank you for your prayers, interest, and support that allow me to see God’s Kingdom coming in this vast continent of Asia.
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