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.
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.
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.