God’s Hand of blessing was so evident in our lives today. Our first goal was to reach Tama Center, about 2 hours from where we are staying. We left an hour earlier than needed since we still need the extra time in the train and subway stations to figure out the incredible maze of railways – especially since some of them have little or no English posted.
We were doing fairly well when a train we were on stopped at an underground station, a few people got off and the doors stayed open – for about ten minutes. There seemed to be a little scurrying about from official looking people on the train platform and the train announcer said something over the loud speaker… in Japanese of course. Suddenly people started waking up and started leaving the train. I asked the woman sitting next to me what was happening but she did not speak English. It became fairly obvious when we were the only ones left on the entire train that we should get off also. Everyone had lined up in neat little rows on the other side of the platform to wait for another train (we assumed). We were right, but the challenge now was that we were on an entirely different line. We had no idea where this subway would stop. Our entire train loaded on another train that was already standing room only. We were like little Japanese sardines stuffed into a can – but we were the pale fish in the can. Since we are to stay in Tama for a few days we had some luggage with us this time. We all squeezed on and underground we continued. The train stopped and started a lot after that. The first time we stopped under ground it was pitch black in the tunnel outside, and quite stuffed with people inside. I started to get a panic feeling of claustrophobia but talked to the Lord and He removed the fear.
Eventually we made it to a connecting station but by now were all turned around. We must have looked confused because a small Japanese woman walked up to us and said (in near perfect English) “Can I help you?” We told her where we wanted to go and she said she was going that same way so we could just follow her. It is always nice to have a leader who knows what they are doing! Walking down the escalator I said to her, “Your English is very good.” She smiled and said, “I actually live in America.” Can you guess where she was from…?...she had recently moved to South Carolina from Fishers, Indiana! Mrs. C. told us that she went to America as a university student, met her husband in an automotive store, married him, and kind of “stuck” in the U.S. We spent a delightful 30 minutes on the train visiting before she had to get off at her stop. She told us to wait six more stops before we got off and we would be at the right place. (No English signs on this line!) Thank God with us for Mrs. C. and pray for her spiritual needs. She said she thinks she is Buddhist.
Pastor Yuasa had just arrived at the station when we did and we did not even have to look for him. (Thank you Lord!) He insisted on taking us to lunch at McDonalds. The rest of the afternoon we traveled around the Tama region visiting universities. We met some very nice people who provided some answers for us regarding reaching the university students with the Gospel. Pastor Yuasa was a great catalyst for starting conversations with students. He would say something in Japanese and then gesture to us and the next thing we knew, we were conversing with those who knew a bit of English.
One university denied us entrance but there were about 25 students hanging out by the gate. Pastor asked if we wanted to talk to them, and of course the answer was yes. The three of us had a wonderful time visiting and taking pictures together. Pastor went back to his car and started handing out literature to them. Four took the book he offered and most of them were responsive to our questions and chit-chat. Two of them took our card with our name and website on it.
If you look at their pictures below you will probably see some crying hearts. It is written all over them. Our hearts were heavy as we visited with them, knowing that they are empty inside and are trying to fill it with anything that comes their way. This is the future of Japan – the young people who are sheep without a shepherd, heading for sure destruction unless they have the chance to hear the life-saving news of God’s redemption.
It is hard to capture the need on these campuses in just words and photos. We visited three more universities today. We are still trying to digest all we saw. One of universities had a junior high and high school on the same campus; another campus sent us into shock. Part of the campus looked like pictures we have seen of inner-city Bronx. While walking to meet a small group of Christians who meet weekly on one particular campus, our hearts were once again moved with the depth of spiritual need visible to the naked eye. For the second day in a row, I wept over the souls of the souls of these students. Whether in Miami, Florida or Tama Center, Japan, the hopelessness and despair of university students waves like a huge red flag beating madly in a March breeze. If we cannot hear their heart-cry with each flap of the flag, perhaps we have our fingers in our ears. If we cannot see the blazing red, compelling us to help them find the Giver of hope, we have clouded our