Japan experienced a time of rapid change called the Koudoseicho-ki (the period of Japan’s powerful economic growth) between the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. The Japanese economy was getting stronger and its GDP ranking in the world became number two. People worked hard to catch up and overtake the USA economically. But a luxurious life style was still the big dream for ordinary people. Very few Japanese could go overseas. There were no McDonald’s or Pizza Hut fast food restaurants in my small town when I was a child. No major American franchises were there. Of course, there was no internet back then, and international knowledge from around the world was exceedingly limited. The world was much bigger and farther apart than today. This was the period in the late 70s, when I grew up. Despite the lack of understanding about the outside world, I was always fascinated about different civilizations, especially Western culture. I always imagined what kind of world lay beyond my small hometown and even the shores of Japan, an island nation which had been isolated from the rest of the world for so long.
When I was seven years old, two male gaijin-san (foreigners) moved to our neighborhood. They were very tall and had big noses, blond hair with blue eyes, and were usually riding bicycles. Even the saddles of their bikes seemed much higher than my own height. They were Mormon missionaries from America. It was my first experience seeing foreigners. I wanted to know about them, but I was too shy to talk to them. One evening when my family was eating supper, these missionaries came to our house and introduced themselves.
“Konbanwa. America kara kimashita.” (Good evening, we came from America) “Sukoshi seisho no hanashi wo shite iidesuka?” (Can we talk a little bit about the Bible?)
I got very excited because here they were, and I could finally talk with them and hear about their culture. My dad could speak a few basic English words, so he told them, “I don’t think so. We are eating dinner, and we do not have any interest about Western religious stuff. Goodbye.” I wanted to hear from them about America and about their mysterious new unknown religion, but my dad told me after they left, “If you see them in our town, don’t get close to them. Western religion is not good for us.” There were only two churches in my small town back then; one was Catholic and the other was Protestant. The only religions that I knew were Buddhism and Shinto. I had never met any Christians, and never heard about the Gospel of Christ until I became twenty-two years old.
Only less than 1% of Japan is Christian, so most Japanese will never even meet a single Christian during their entire lives. For instance, if one hundred people are in a room, statistically only one person would go through and enter God’s “narrow gate.”
With such small numbers, how impossible it seems for Japanese to ever hear the Gospel message. With circumstances so dark and challenging, how will Japanese ever come to know about the One True Living God? It seems so difficult to believe that God could become widely known. But I am so grateful that He sent “beautiful feet” into my life, and look at what he did for me. God’s Hands were not too short to save my soul.
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” Romans 10:15 (ESV)