Japan the Isle of the Spiritually Unenlightened
W. C. Hinton, Jr.
We were filled with varied emotions when through the haze we could make out the distant mountains that signified the end of our event-filled twenty-two day voyage and the beginning of four years of residence and labor in this new land, so distant and different from our own familiar USA. We had gradually become adjusted to some Japanese ways on the Japanese freighter that brought us to the land of the cherry blossom and pagan shrines. Our voyage was marked by the suicide of a Japanese passenger, our being struck by one typhoon and dodging another, and the eruption of a volcano on a small island between us and the port in Yokohama. But God being gracious to us, we were landed safely from any kind of danger and a minimum of sea-sickness. Our emotions were varied, knowing a little of the tremendous need of God's Word to be taught, the language barrier for the first few months, and the vastly different living conditions requiring an adjustment in almost every realm of our life. But, after settling down to life in Japan many adjustments came easy, while others are still very frustrating and time consuming--to say the least.
We are living in Nishinomiya-shi, a city of about 210,000 situated about half way between Osaka and Kobe, a distance of 20 miles. Kobe has about one million people and many protestant religious groups. Osaka has a city population of two and a half million and a metropolitan population of over five million, and is the industrial center of Japan. Twenty-seven miles inland is the fourth largest city of Japan, Kyoto, which served as Japan's capital from 794 A. D. to 1868 and remains today as the cultural center. Also, Kyoto is an important religious center to the Japanese, being filled with Buddist temples and Shinto shrines housing priceless works of art. Kyoto was the only major Japanese city, which escaped bombing during World War II. This, in a relatively small area, a diameter of 25 to 35 miles, we have upwards of seven and one-half million people that need desperately to be introduced to Christ and his Word that they might make the choice for good service here and a good life to come.
The small congregation in Osaka and a few Christians in Nagoya, about 100 miles away, are the only Japanese churches in this southern section of Japan. There are two "GI" congregations about 200 and 300 miles away from our area. Most of the work in Japan has centered in the Tokyo area and the Ibaraki area where exists a college run by brethren and support by churches in the States. This has been the main area to hear words from the Bible, which in my humble judgment, has hindered the Word from spreading throughout the four main islands of Japan. Brethren have tended to become clannish and exhibited an attitude of fear in going out into the new untouched areas to reach the people. Instead many choose to teach at the school and work in the areas near the school, thus developing in the minds of many the existing center of the churches of Christ--headquarters, if you please.
Some men have been sent by their sponsoring churches to Japan to teach secular and Bible related subjects in the college and preach a little, not desiring to learn the language or leave the security and pleasant associations of fellow Americans and enter the highways and hedges of pagan Japan. At least brother Nichols and I have determined to the best of our ability not to be a part or parcel of this type of evangelism in the Osaka area. We have based our attitudes and plans on what we feel is a Bible principle as revealed especially in the Book of Acts, learning from the inspired example of Paul who worked under the very direction of the Majesty on High. Can we improve on that? We think not!
It was Paul's work and success that prompted us not to be referred to as "the missionaries of Osaka." Our interest certainly is with these brethren but not to the exclusion of other possible areas for the reception of Truth. We want to ground these brethren here in Osaka so that they will continue to have the attitude that they have now, namely, that they can do their own work and are not dependent on an American missionary or churches in the States. They do not intend to beg Stateside churches for money to erect a building if and when they desire a permanent location of their own. As they are becoming stronger we can spend effort in other nearby cities and be a means of the Gospel spreading as God intended it should. We recall the events of the New Testament when brethren staved in the confines of Jerusalem instead of heeding the words of the risen Christ. "... in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth"
(Acts 1:8). Just seven chapters later we note the persecution and the spreading of the Word (Acts S: 1-4). This is what God wanted and it tool; a persecution to get men started at it!
As Paul and the company were sent forth by the Holy Spirit we observe that they taught the Lord in the places where people would listen and failed not to engage the religious teachers of the day to open and free discussion. W here the Word was well received, believers obeyed and constituted the body of believers or church in that area. And after strengthening them, Paul and the company would move into another area and repeat the pattern of acquainting the people with God and his Word. After the journey was completed a strong desire was present to go back and see how the newly planted churches fared and to encourage them more by the "word of exhortation."
It is evident that many hardships were endured; many conveniences back in Jerusalem had to be left as they pursued a more important cause-- teaching the Word. They did not move into an area and immediately build a meetinghouse, preacher's home, relief station and term all of this paraphernalia -- "the mission compound." Nor did they hire an interpreter and two or three natives as helpers. No, rather than this, they put FIRST things FIRST (Matt. 6:33) and taught the word with no hint of Paul supplying their physical needs for conducting services. These were provided by the members themselves! Paul and the others planted self-sufficient churches that could worship and carry on as a congregation of God's people, and the work accomplished in such a manner evidently had God's stamp of approval. No, Paul did not leave Lydia and her household and
the jailor and his household a $100,000 meeting house, but something far more important--the spiritual insight and completeness to worship God in spirit and truth. They probably still assembled on the riverside or in Lydia's home, but that they could and DID continue is the important fact.
Later we read of the church of Philippi as a strong unit of believers composed of elders, deacons and saints (Phil. 1:1). The fact that Paul did not erect a meeting house for them or remain there in their midst for 15 to 30 years as "their missionary" did not seem to hold them back from developing into a strong, mature group of believers. BRETHREN, God's way HAS worked and will continue to work for us, IF we will only apply the pattern laid before us.
Attendance at our services here in Osaka average about 35. We preach for the brethren in Nagoya, 100 miles away, and Fukuoka, 300 miles away, once a month. There is the possibility of starting Bible classes in at least two more cities in the near future. One was baptized last month in Osaka. I teach seven hours of Bible classes a week, am in language school fifteen hours a week, and preach as often as I have the opportunity. On Saturday evenings I have seven young people that come to the house for Bible classes. They usually stay two or two and half-hours, with many questions after the lesson discussion.
We are certainly grateful to the individuals and congregations that are enabling us to preach the Word here in Japan. God has been gracious to us and provided us with many potential Christians. We pray that we will have the proper wisdom and judgment to use every opportunity to the fullest extent, that our sojourn here will not have been to no avail, but that we will have raised high the blood stained banner of Christ in the hearts of many Japanese. Pray for us and the work here. Our prayers are for you that you may glorify God wherever you may be, knowing that as we submit ourselves to him we must not be slack in the work of spreading truth--with whatever ability we possess.
Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 6-7