Oct 24 4 Comments

A voice from the past

Today my good friend John called me. We had not talked for 15 years and that is too long. The talk took me right back to my years in Japan more than 20 years ago and I have stayed there all afternoon. John’s thing is church planting and leadership, and in those areas he has been very successful. The church we started in Japan all those years ago was a little bit like a miracle because you don’t start successful churches in Japan. Well, Japan did not know John, and they did not know what God can do through people like him and his disciples, one of them me—20 years old and very enthusiastic.

Main-stream or traditional was not how people described us. Naive, unskilled, culturally insensitive, immature, financially unstable, theologically unfit were adjectives more commonly used. It turned out that it was exactly what God needed to get his work done: The most unlikely missionaries to succeed in the history of missions in Japan. That was my team. And John was the leader. And I was committed to the cause. We succeeded.

But, actually, John has made a lasting imprint onto my life in other ways than church planting. He got me into running. Monday mornings at around ten, or week nights sometimes late, John would put on his sweats and a t-shirt and pretty much make it mandatory for me to put on my Nikes that were a hundred years old and my bohemian running outfit. Then we were off in the neighborhoods of Ichikawa. Some days in the sweltering tropical heat, other times in the cold rain and wind of the winter. And just like Forrest Gump, I just kept running for all those years after that.

Not exactly 20 years ago, but almost. Running for refugees in Burma. So much better than running for just myself.

I completely forgot to ask John if he still runs. I will have to ask him next time we talk, hopefully before 15 more years have passed.

John is the pastor of a cool-looking church in Stockholm called New Life church. You can read about them here.

John van Dinther, pastor of New Life Church and my running mentor and fellow church planter

I wish I had pictures to display of the Ichikawa church planters and runners. I will look for them when I move back to Thailand where my earthly possessions are stored.

As I am contemplating this, a thought enters my sleepy mind: All my main accomplishments appear to have been successful to certain degrees  in spite of me. What I mean is that a lot of the things I have succeeded at were bound to fail—often because of me and the people I surrounded myself with, but succeeded. I must be a living proof that God works miracles. And I don’t say this flippantly. I say it with awe.


  • john van dinther says:

    I am honored to be portrayed in your blog and want all your friends to know that you have been my unsung hero for decades. Every year I have spoken about Oddny about twice a year as I shared what God can do through girls (20 year old) like her and another god friend Maria. Not unsung anymore… But a little praise which moves up to heaven giving honor to Him who know s what He can do through people like Oddny!
    It was about time that people would hear this end of the story! 🙂

  • lynnie says:

    God really always sees the bigger picture. We see our failings, our stupid (at least for me) outbursts of faith spoken, trudging through the beginnings. Well let me see, not so stupid at all in rhetrospect. You are of course 100 % accurate about Steve, I am so glad that you made that particular decision, but I am bias!!!! You are a gem for my son and for my grandchildren and for allot of people all over the world, including me.
    I love that.

  • Rick Granger says:

    I so enjoy reading your blog.

    Yours is life lived truly in gratitude and an awareness of God’s hand.

    It’s inspirational.