Last night I went out to a prayer meeting in Higashi Kurume, as is normal about once a month. I'm kind of the oddball of the group...they are five Christian adults, four of whom are married, three of whom have white hair, and all of whom attend a (as they say) "Bible Church" of some kind. We are united by a love of stories about God moving and a strong vision for united prayer among Christians in Tokyo.
Prayer meetings in Higashi Kurume often seem more like story telling sessions than traditional prayer times. At least, we often manage to spend more time cheering each other on with stories of what we're hearing in our churches, our city, or on other sides of the globe than we do praying. But the prayer is powerful, exciting, joyful as well.
Last night we were talking about on the line pre-Christians we know. There are a lot of them in Japan. We talked about things we've heard them say for why they don't become Christian (everything from fearing that the persecutions of 400 years ago will repeat and they will be persecuted to the belief that they are too old). A pastor in the group shared a story about a girlfriend and boyfriend. The girlfriend was Christian. Someone told the boyfriend the gospel and that he needed to repent and ask Jesus for salvation. He turned to his girlfriend and said, "Why didn't you tell me?" Our response: ouch.
But I was still thinking about that line and about the way I talk to my students. I give them lots of information. I explain all sorts of things about their questions. As long as they are willing to ask, I am willing to be completely honest with them. But it's kind of like the girl in Beginner Bible last Thursday...after I have drawn diagrams, spilled my heart, shared every thought I have, they are still the ones left to make the important conclusion, "So...this means I should follow God?"
I have shared before about Takaaki--the young guy who prayed for 9 hours during 24/7, who attends every Christian event that we have when school isn't killing him, who sees Bible passages and always seems to come up with the conclusion, "If this is true...we really should be responding to God, shouldn't we?". Takaaki came to Bible Study this morning. He came to church too. And the whole service through, I was thinking..."No more talking in circles...I have got to ask Takaaki if he knows how a person becomes Christian and let him know if he doesn't." He was talking to Masujima sensei--a strong leader in the congregation for awhile at the end of the service. Finally, I got to him and rather awkwardly said, "Umm...Takaaki, I have something I need to talk to you about."
I asked him if he knew how to become a Christian and he said, "I was just talking with Masujima sensei about what I do if I want to get baptized." I tried not to dance all over the sanctuary right there. But then I told him how I'd been thinking I needed to talk to him the whole service through. He said, "That was good timing."
So, I explained to him how it seems like a lot of Japanese people think you have to understand everything about Christianity to become a Christian. To which he laughed and said, "Yeah...me too." And so I told him how I don't know everything about Christianity and Yasui sensei doesn't either and we're all on this path together. He was surprised. (Which kind of surprised me, for all the questions I answer "I don't know!" in class). Then I said that the first step of becoming a Christian is just telling Jesus that you are a sinner and that you need Him and asking Him to be in control of your life. He was shocked. Which confirmed for me that I am not being as open with my students as I think I am.
He asked me where he could get "lessons" to learn about Christianity to become baptized, and so I pointed him to Yasui sensei.
But then I was a little more bold and said, "You know...you can pray that prayer to Jesus anytime. We could pray it together right now if you wanted."
He wasn't ready yet. He said he would have to think about it and that he had to go. But he didn't make it all the way out the door but instead started a conversation with a church member with the question, "Do you like talking to God?" Hee.
Please keep him in your prayers!