An Unwelcomed Surprise

    This is a small mission update / devotional talk I did at my home church in Feb 2004.

    So why am I here in Japan? It is a constant question for me here. Surely there is a job here at KIU for me to do but I know there is much more. If you will allow me to share it, there is an incident in the grocery store last year that comes to mind.

    It was the late evening, the store was closing soon, and I was hunger. As I walked by the deli counter I saw what I call “mini shish kabobs” on sale. They are six inch bamboo spears with some type of grilled meat on them. Normally, I would find teriyaki chicken but that night I found something different. When I saw the dark grilled meat I was so excited I almost shouted, “Hey, look! Steak-kabobs!”

    While I was standing at the deli counter with a package of my “steak-kabobs,” a middle age Japanese housewife walked over to the counter with a package in hand and surprisingly placed it back on the deli counter; it was an even larger package of my steak-kabobs! Because I was hungry and I didn’t wanting to pass up a good deal, I quickly switched her larger discarded package for mine.

    As she was walking away, I turned to her to make sure that she hadn’t changed her mind. And this gentle-looking lady did something that seemed to me unusual from what I’d grown to expect from the people I’ve met so far. She turned back to me and just looked at me straight in the eyes several times with a pensive look on her face. It was as if she was contemplating to tell me something. Since she finally walked away, I concluded that she was just a nice lady who wanted to help the confused-looking foreigner but finally decided I had it all under control.

    I bought the remainder of my groceries and went home. I was so proud of my bargain purchase and wanted to share some of my spoils with my roommate. But as I happily displayed the package of steak-kabobs to him and he read the Japanese label, his reaction was less that positive.

    “That’s great, Trey,” he said, “but, uh, I really don’t like fried liver.”

    … You know what? … Neither do I.

    As I thought back on that lady’s reaction at the store, I tried to imagine what she must have been thinking. I can only assume that she had made the same mistake I had and thought she was buying something other than liver. But later, because she could read the label, she returned the package … I assume she didn’t like fried liver either. And as she saw this foreigner with the same type of package in his hand, I can only imagine that she was thinking, “Maybe he doesn’t know what he is buying either. I wonder if I should tell him that it’s really liver.” But she didn’t … I sat that night staring at my unsavory dinner and wondered why.

    My conclusion was that what stopped her was probably a matter of comfort. It must have appeared to her to be very difficult to tell me in English that I had liver in my hand. And even if she could get the point across, how would this towering American react? Maybe I would be shocked and embarrassed that I was buying liver or I might even be rather smug as I told her, “I can read, thank you very much!” Either way she would probably be placed in an uncomfortable situation… Maybe I liked liver. Should she really allow herself to be that vulnerable to help such a stranger? As I forced down my dinner that night, I had the answer.

    I wonder how often have we as Christian have done a similar thing. There is a world around us trapped, dying in their sin. They need to hear about Jesus so much but at times we just stand and watch them like that timid housewife and wondering what we can do to tell them the good news. To be honestly, evangelism is often uncomfortable and there is a high possibility if negative results and rejection. Let’s not candy coat it, any person steeped in sin finds the Gospel offensive… I know I used to think so. But if we allow ourselves to be ruled by our own need for comfort and stay silent on the issue, isn’t that negligence on our part? And what horrible surprise waits for those around us… and we’re not talking about liver shish kabobs dinner here.

    Now, this is not something I, as a “missionary,” am saying to you that you need to get on the ball and do. But rather that we… each one of us (myself very much included), as we continue to grow in our walks with the Lord, should somberly look at how we are impacting the world around us for the Kingdom.

    Thank you for you time today. Lord bless you.