Last week I went down to the island of Shikoku. JR has a one-day rail pass where you can take the slow trains for around 23usd, so my 8-hour journey was quite inexpensive. I stayed in some building up on the top floor where there was nobody, and enjoyed the nice view from the open window. The concrete floor was a bit harder than the park bench a few weeks ago in a different city, but there were absolutely no mosquitoes.
The city is said to have 172,000 people, but, like most smaller cities outside of the Tokyo/Osaka/Northern Kyushu areas, it is bleeding young people, and dying. I asked someone where the busy part of town was, and they mentioned “Ginza Street”. When I arrived at the long shopping arcade around 6:30pm, it was ghostly silent except for the sounds of a few high school students going by on bicycle. Not a small number of buildings in the city looked abandoned, and some cats surprised me when jumping out of what I thot was the window of somebody’s house, but coming closer, saw that it was a hole into a really dilapidated “cat house”.
Anyway, my purpose was to go to the Seventh-day Adventist church there. I heard they have the 2nd largest SDA church on this island of over 4,000,000 people. Around 20 people attended on Sabbath, and I was refreshed to see the pastor basically agree with me about the sad pace of evangelism in Japan, and how our SDA church needs to be more active in winning souls, and less compromising with the world. Also, there was a young lady from Africa there, and we had a heartfelt talk about faith and Jesus and duty, and near the end of my time there she said that I must have been sent by God to help her faith.
But the comic book scene happened in the morning, just a few meters away from the church in the parking lot of a convenience store. My stomach wasn’t right, so I had sat down on a curb in front of the store. An elderly Japanese man came out, and sat on a block behind me, but soon came over and sat by me. We had a good talk, but with his old-folks’ accent/mumbling (probably caused by him not having many front teeth!) I couldn’t understand more than around 30% or so. Then one of his friends came down to sit by him. The 3 of us talked about things in that city, island etc. We talked about bicycles, as many people ride a special bicycle path there (I did too around 13 years ago), about the Hiroshima Carp baseball team who won their league pennant this year for the first time in 30 years, fishing, sightseeing etc.
Then they asked me what I was doing there. I pulled out my Japanese 1858 Great Controversy, and showed them. They didn’t say much, and I didn’t press it, just told them that I came to go to the church just across the way. But around a minute later, the second man who came to sit (who was drinking sake) started talking about religious things. He said Japan has many gods, and we respect them all. I mentioned something about how we should worship the one true Creator God. His voice got a little edge to it, and before I knew what was happening, I saw the first man riding away on a scooter. That’s when things got interesting.
He started talking about how we must have the sun to live. I said the one who created the sun is more important than the sun. Then he asked me if I knew about “Evolution” (all this was in Japanese). I said “yes”, and then took a light tone, (perhaps it seemed almost mocking to him?), asking him if it was possible that a rock could, over time, turn into a human? He said that it is like a child comes from its mother. I asked him if his mother’s mother’s mother was an ape or a rock. He seemed to soften a bit, and said “Well, all the gods are the same, they all lead to the same place”, to which I replied, “There is only one true God – Jesus Christ. He made everything, and we should worship him”. Suddenly his eyes changed, and he picked up his cane pointing to me like he was going to hit me, and said “You’d better not ever say things like that in Japan! Get out of here!” It was all so sudden, and comic-book-like, here’s an old man with a palsied arm starting to get tipsy, suddenly angry to the point of violence about being told that there is only one true God. I was smiling, and thinking he was half-joking at first, but when I saw his grip tighten on the cane, and his face turning a bright red (perhaps 1/2 from the sake?), I decided I’d better go, so picked up my backpack, and without turning around, walked away. I did notice that there was a young man at the smoking stand watching us, and could hear the old man talking excitedly to him as I walked away. Who knows, maybe a seed was planted in the young man’s heart?
Yes, the Great Controversy is alive and well, and being played out in big and small ways all over the world. Just as the title says, it’s between Christ and his angels, and Satan and his angels. We have a big role to play too. May we be ready to fulfill that role at any moment, even if it is like a comic-book scene. And yes, the thot did cross my mind, that doing this same thing in this same city around 80 years ago would have gotten me thrown in jail or worse. Let’s work to redeem the time, because that will happen again, but on a global scale in the end-times.