We often preach about the obligation of every believer to be involved in missions. It is not difficult to find a text to emphasize this truth. There is much in the Bible that demands that the Gospel be preached to every person in every generation. I preach much on both of these subjects. However, my favorite subject is the joy of missions.
In order for the Gospel to be preached to all men, three things are necessary as far as man’s part is concerned. Someone must go. Many must pray. Many must give. When someone commits himself to go and others promise to pray and give, it brings great joy.
In February of 1965, my wife Virginia, our daughter, Renee, our son, Tim, and I went to Japan. A few churches supported us financially and many people prayed. I studied the language for a year with the help of a young Japanese man, Keita Takagi, and started Senri Newtown Baptist Church with Brother Takagi as my interpreter. God blessed the church from the very first service, and several people were saved in the first few weeks.
Brother Takagi and I developed ten lessons for new believers. We would take a lesson to the new believers then check on what they had done with the lesson a week later.
One junior high school student who was saved was Michiko Yamashiro. Her father was a priest in the Tendikyo form of Shintoism—a militant sect of the religion with their own political party. The first meeting with Michiko’s father was very cold. He did not like Americans. He did not like Christians. And he particularly did not like me because his daughter had become an active Christian through our ministry.
On my fourth encounter with Mr. Yamashiro, I asked if we could bring a tape recorder to his house and play a Christian sermon. Reluctantly, he agreed to allow it. I well remember Brother Takagi and I taking my old reel-to-reel recorder up to the third floor of the large apartment complex. The taped message was by a Japanese evangelist who preached on “Jesus, the Light of the World.” I watched as Mr. and Mrs. Yamashiro for the first time listened to a Christian message. He tried to act as if he were not interested; however, God’s Word has great power, and I knew that both of them were being impacted by the message. After the sermon, we discussed it with them and invited them to attend church.
We did not hear from them for several weeks. Then one Sunday, I noticed that both Mr. and Mrs. Yamashiro were sitting with their daughter. I was so excited that they had come. They listened with great interest to the message. At the invitation, two young people came forward to trust the Lord, and some other decisions were made. For the next three weeks, this couple came every Sunday morning. On the fifth Sunday, they both came during the invitation, and Mr. Yamashiro said to me, “Teacher, we want to take Jesus as our Saviour.”
A few days after their conversion, Brother Yamashiro asked that Brother Takagi and I come to his home. After a time of Bible study, Brother Yamashiro began to talk about his idols. One room in his home was filled with idols, and Shinto services were a regular occurrence at the Yamashiro home. He informed us that he no longer needed the idols, and he gave them all to us to do with them what we wished. We left and returned to his home with a hammer and crowbar. After tearing all the idols down from the walls, we boxed them up and put them in my station wagon.
On Sunday evening after the services, all of the people in the church went to an open field near our meeting place. We placed Brother Yamashiro’s idols in a heap and dowsed them with kerosene. We had a song service, and Brother and Mrs. Yamashiro gave their testimonies. Both emphasized their faith in Jesus Christ and Him only for their salvation. We read from 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” After the testimonies, Brother Yamashiro struck a match and set the idols on fire.
I shall never forget one of the men who lived in the neighborhood saying to me, “What are you people doing now?” I did not have to answer. Brother Yamashiro said to him, “I have served these idols all my life. They have done nothing for me. I have trusted Jesus Christ, and I no longer need these.” A few days afterward, I baptized Brother and Mrs. Yamashiro along with several other new believers.
From the time of their glorious conversion, Brother and Mrs. Yamashiro became faithful Christians. They grew rapidly in the grace of God. Both became active in every phase of the church, and Brother Yamashiro eventually became a deacon. He was one of the most joyful believers I have ever met. Every time I saw him, he had something good to tell me—souls he had led to the Lord and prayers that had been answered. He had a simple but effective faith. I remember expressing my disappointment about not being able to find land for our church. He smiled and assured me that God had assured him that we would soon find a proper piece of land for the church building, and he was right.
Brother Yamashiro died a few years ago. He was faithful until the very end. When I was visiting Japan some months later, Dr. Ogawa asked Mrs. Yamashiro to show me her prayer list. It included more than 400 names which she prays for at least twice every day. What a joy it is to my heart every time I think of the conversion of Brother and Mrs. Yamashiro. It has also brought much joy for those who have supported and prayed for me and my family.