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Missing the bus

8:49 . . . or so I thought. When I got to the bus stop, I thought the bus would surely come around the corner within the next 30 seconds or so. A couple of minutes went by and I decided to look at the posted schedule. 8:48! That’s what I get for cutting it so close.

Almost every Sunday, I take the bus to the Tokorozawa train station, and then ride three stops to Higashi Kurume, where the international church we attend meets. (Gary goes earlier for worship band rehearsal.) It was particularly annoying on this already hot summer day, as now I had a fifteen-minute wait in the sun for the next bus.

Little did I know . . . God had a plan.

I tried to find a little shade and resigned myself to wait for the next bus. After a couple of minutes an elderly lady came from across the street and joined me. (She had allowed plenty of time to catch the 9:03 bus.) I started to say “Ohayo gozaimasu,” and at almost the same time she said, “Good morning.” As we talked, I discovered that her English was quite good. When I told her I was going to church, she immediately volunteered that she was on her way to church too.

“I go to the Lutheran church every Sunday. I’m a Christian.”

“How did you become a Christian?”

“I went to an English Bible class, and after several years of studying the Bible I believed.”

When the bus arrived, we got on and I continued sharing how I had missed the bus I was trying to catch, but how blessed I was to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with her.

Then I happened to glance back, and there was Izumi, the wife of one of the “divine contacts” God gave us last fall in our community. She, her husband, and their two-year old daughter had come to our home for a meal and Gary had enjoyed an especially encouraging spiritual conversation with her husband.

We had tried to get together with Izumi’s family again, but various events kept getting in the way. We had been wondering if the door had closed on this relationship, until a couple of weeks ago when Gary “just happened” to meet Izumi’s husband out walking their dog. And now here I was entering into a God-arranged conversation with Izumi. Somehow, we feel God still wants to see us develop a relationship with this family.

All because I missed the bus . . .

Squid sushi

Squid Sushi

People around the world use various memory aids to remember important information. When I was a third grader taking piano lessons, I learned “Every Good Boy Does Fine” to remember the names of the five lines on the treble clef (E-G-B-D-F). The four spaces were even easier (F-A-C-E).

In the US, some children are taught to handle dangerous situations by remembering the short rhyme:

No!
Go!
Yell!
Tell!

(Say no, run away, yell as loud as you can, and tell an adult what happened as soon as possible.)

The other day on a bicycle ride I happened across a sign posted on a neighborhood fence with the Japanese version of this. The simple mnemonic is Squid Sushi, and the fun illustration makes it doubly memorable! The way to say the mnemonic is:

Ika no o sushi

Ika (ee kah – “squid”) no (“no” is a connecting word that functions somewhat like a possessive apostrophe in English) o sushi (a polite “oh” followed by “sushi”)

Here’s the translation of the phrases on the sign based on the mnemonic:

(If it’s someone I don’t know . . .)
Ikanai – I won’t go

(If it’s a strange car)
Noranai – I won’t get in

(If something happens)
Oki na koe o dasu – I will yell loudly

Sugu nigeru – I will immediately run away

(An adult . . .)
Shiraseru – I will tell

In Japan, peer pressure and the reduced availability of dangerous weapons (it is illegal for the average citizen to possess a handgun, for example) are undoubtedly two key reasons for the reduced incidence of crime that so impressed the world after last year’s tsunami.

But as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (NIV)

So even though crime is reduced, it definitely exists. Just like parents everywhere, parents in Japan are concerned about the safety of their children.

People Need the Lord

higashikurume-suicideThe line of cars stops. We’re about 200 meters from our destination, but still need to cross the tracks. This evening we’re running session four of The Marriage Course and carrying most of the food for the dinner, as well as the tape for the video lecture. We see the signals flashing, and suspiciously, a train is sitting at a standstill in middle of the crossing. Cars are turning around and coming back in our direction. We grab a cell phone and call someone coming to the course to tell them we’re stuck on the other side of the tracks. They give us the news. Someone just jumped in front of the train.

Railroad suicide is so frequent in Tokyo that rather than being a shock, for most people a jinshin jiko (“personal accident”) tends to be viewed as an inconsiderate irritation. With nearly 2000 train-related suicides in Japan a year (and over 30,000 suicides of all types), it’s easy to lump these individual tragedies into a collection of cold statistics. But this case strikes especially close to home. Just a few yards away is the campus of the Christian Academy in Japan. With hope and help so close at hand, yet another depressed soul chooses to give up on life.

Before long, traffic returns to normal. For most, this evening’s interruption will soon be a distant memory. But during the next twelve months, thousands more will seek the same drastic solution to their inner pain.

Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes.
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

People Need the Lord
By Greg Nelson, Phill McHugh
© 1983 River Oaks Music Company   (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), Shepherd’s Fold Music   (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)