Burden transformed into blessing

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up  before all nations. —Isaiah 61:11

Many Japanese regard the position of kumi-cho as more of a burden than a delight. But for MBMS International missionary Laurence Hiebert, the role of community leader has enabled him to make connections and build friendships with neighbours in his cluster of houses in Toyota City, Japan.

In a country of more than 125 million people, less than one percent of the population professes faith in Christ. But God is using friendships to touch the hearts of the Japanese and plant seeds of truth.

Each community is divided into sections, and each kumi-cho acts as a representative for one section. Leadership is rotated, and duties include distributing announcements, collecting donations, and cleaning up the community.

Laurence feels that God appointed him to the position. It invites him to engage in conversation with people in his area, including those he’s never met or spoken to before.

But Laurence’s role of serving his community extends far beyond a duty. He, his wife Leona, and the MBMSI short-term TREK team have seized this opportunity to show Christlike love to their neighbours.

For Mother’s Day, they placed a carnation on the doorstep of every home to show their appreciation for the women.

For Father’s Day, Laurence distributed mango (a Japanese comic) giving the gospel’s account of Jesus. But first, he checked with Mr. Hori, the leader above him, to make sure it would be appropriate to distribute the material.

This interaction provided an opportunity to talk to Mr. Hori about spiritual things. Mr. Hori agreed to read the comic, but first he and Laurence had to go to the church to get the book.

They sat for 30 minutes, discussing religion and Christianity. Buddhism and Shinto are dominant religions in Japan, and Japanese culture is deeply steeped in rituals, customs, and traditions.

Mr. Hori and Laurence spoke freely about the notion of a personal God, and Mr. Hori took the book home with him. A seed was planted that day, and Mr. Hori granted permission to distribute the mango Bible.

When Father’s Day passed, Laurence and the TREK team prepared themselves for a negative reaction, but to their surprise and delight, they received calls and faxes saying thank you. Both this response, and the distribution itself are cause for celebration.

—Natalie Binder, MBMSI writer

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