Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Waiting, Abiding, Knowing

I've been offline for a little while, trying to be more responsible about spending too much time on the computer, etc. News: the Niigata earthquakes really shook the reigon, which is on the northeast coast of the Japan sea... roughly between Osaka and Tokyo on the north side. So we're totally okay, but many people up there aren't. Please pray for them.

In the last few days I somehow got busy again. When I say "busy" I don't mean I had a lot of things to do. It means that I somehow didn't spend time with God, and I've missed Him. When spending time with Him, my busyness is never too busy, because His peace floods me and I can smile and cry between moments of work.

Waiting on God... Lord, teach me to wait on You. It means being still, surrendering and letting You be Yourself, letting You reveal Yourself instead of me praying and talking to what I think You are.

Abiding in You... help me stay in You, remain in You, live in You. There really isn't life for me anywhere else, Lord, but in You. I can feel it start to wither when I get "busy" and miss You.

Knowing You... I want to know You more. You're in me, but You are so totally other than me; You are. I want to know You more. Only You can remind me... my efforts, my knowledge, my memory of verses and things about You isn't working, Lord. I need You alone, You Yourself. I want to know You.

Thank You for being such a good Teacher. I know I will learn because of who You are. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Two Brothers" and Adversity

Last night Yoko, Sachi and I went to see a movie called “Two Brothers” (official website) about two tiger cubs, Kumal and Sangha. Although we didn’t like a lot of the human vs. animal tension, as Yoko and I were heading to sleep she mentioned her favorite part of the movie, and then God stepped in with His smile…

**Spoiler Warning** If you haven’t see the movie and would not like to know major plot details yet, you might not want to read further.

Kumal and Sangha’s are happy jungle tiger cubs when they become separated from their parents and from each other by artifact looters raiding ancient temples. Separately they make bonds with two kind people (a boy and a hunter), but then are separated and sent to live among people who try to harden them for sport and for show. Kumal is cruelly beaten at the circus so that he will jump through rings of fire. Sangha is kept underground and taunted so that he will become a fighting tiger for the prince’s amusement.

A year later the tigers are larger and the prince wants to pit his tiger against another. Kumal is selected from the local circus and the brothers are set to fight against each other. However, after a little fighting, the brothers recognize each other and viciousness turns into hilarious playfulness. The prince’s aides are not amused and try to egg the tigers on to make them fight, but this results in the tigers escaping instead. Ironically, the panicking spectators take refuge from the tigers in the prison-like arena where they tigers had been fighting.

It’s here in the story that Yoko’s favorite moment comes. As Kumal and Sangha are leaving the arena, Kumal instinctively heads back to the circus cage that has become home to him and climbs in. Sangha starts to head away to freedom but stops and looks back. After a moment, Kumal gets out of the cage and follows his brother to freedom.

You know, that’s just like us, isn’t it? God uses us to set each other free the same way. We’re raised with different captivities… we believe lies of unworthiness, we think we are ugly or incompetent. We think no one will love us and we are not loveable. We meet God and experience deliverance, but when freedom comes we often don’t know what to do, so we head back to the cage we’ve grown up in. God stops and says, “Hey, you don’t have to stay in that cage… it’s not your home anymore. Come journey with Me and live the adventure of freedom.” And He faithfully sends us brothers and sisters who will remind us when we climb back into our old cages and wait for us to follow the smell of uncertain adventure.

We also loved a moment near the end when Sangha is helped by Kumal. After their escape, the brother tigers run all over town terrorizing residents and selling newspapers, but not harming anyone. The hunter is called to kill them before they start hurting people. He and his assistants trap the tigers in a field by setting the outer boundary of it aflame, save for one opening where the hunter lies in wait. The brothers are trapped but see the glint of the hunter’s binoculars at the one fire-less opening. It is then that Kumal remembers the circus and jumps fearlessly through the flames. His brother Sangha is naturally afraid of the fire and stays in the trapped area. Kumal jumps back through the fire to show him that he is all right. Then Kumal exits again by leaping through the flames, and this time Sangha gets up and follows Kumal through the flames to permanent freedom and reunion with their mother.

This is also just like us, isn’t it? Often we don’t know why trials and adversities come. We have hardships and we blame each other, ourselves, and we blame God. We can become bitter and spend the rest of our lives spiteful. I don’t know how to explain it, but often I think God allows bad things to happen to us because He loves us and knows that there is a ring of fire in our future that will try to kill us. Kumal endured cruel beatings from the circus trainers so that he would jump through fire. When he is older and in greater danger, though, his training saves his life and his brother’s.

Often we go through cruel beatings in life, usually very early on. But God has not left us alone, and if we will trust Him and give up our bitterness by repentance and forgiveness, He will show us His redemption of every single bad thing in our lives. And not only that, but as we surrender to His redemption of every pain in our lives, He will use us to help others jump through the flames to His adventurous freedom.

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:7 NIV)

If we will let Him, God will turns the tables on the enemy every time, and like Joseph said, what others meant for evil God turns into good. The cross seemed to be the Messiah’s greatest defeat, but was the greatest victory in all time. We can’t always see how it’s going to work out, and knowing that He does these things will not ease the tearing pains that happen when we experience loss. But He is always there, and He Himself wants to be our assurance. He has joy, good things and a reunion with Himself planned for us, even through the flames.

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

"Because I live, you also will live." (John 14:19)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Gift from North Korea

The other day I sent out a call for prayer for some North Korean refugees in China who were taken by police and would likely be repatriated back to North Korea -- meaning that they faced torture, imprisonment and sometimes death. I wanted to be more specific so I looked up the story, but details got quickly confusing because there are so many North Korean refugees hiding in China who are trying to escape to safety (they're not safe in China) by entering foreign schools and embassies. I found three stories. The first is about how 29 refugees cut a hole in the fence of a Japanese school in order to take refuge on the safe ground at the mercy of the Japanese government. Later, five of the refugees were allowed to leave for an unnamed Asian country, and from there they'll likely go to their new home in South Korea. The second story I found is very sad, about 8 asylum seekers who went to an American school in Shanghai. The American school apparently did not have the necessary 'status' to protect them, and turned them over to the Chinese police according to regulations. Recently I read another report about some refugees taking shelter at a Canadian institution -- either an embassy, consulate or school, and the Canadian government was able to protect them, I believe, but I haven't found that story yet.

On Wednesday nights I work at Woody Hut, one of Osaka's two English conversation cafes. My boss there, Mr. Goto, is part of an NGO (non-governmental organization) that exists to help North Korean refugees hiding northern China.

Brad Glosserman writes: "It is estimated that there are 150,000 to 300,000 North Koreans, or more than 1 percent of the country's population, in China. They have fled their country to escape desperation and extreme poverty. Flight is not without risk: The North Korean penal code lists defection or attempted defection as a capital crime. Article 47 of the 1987 North Korean Criminal Code states that a defector who is returned to North Korea "shall be committed to a reform institution for not less than seven years. In cases where the person commits an extremely grave concern, he or she shall be given the death penalty." (Forcible return to North Korea, where as many as 2 million people may have died of starvation, is punishment enough.) Their families also face retribution and possible imprisonment."

I first took heart about North Korea when I passed a book in a store here called "The Aquariums of Pyongyang" ... the strange title caught me and then I read that the author is a man who spent 9 years in a North Korean concentration camp. Finally I bought a copy of the book and cried. He was imprisoned at age 9 with his family because of something his grandfather possibly did (his grandfather disappeared so they'll never really know), and only his mother was not sent to prison, though she wanted to go. After being released and returning to normal life, the author eventually escaped to South Korea by way of China.

At Woody Hut, Mr. Goto sells these little knit cloths (zabuton covers) that some of the refugees make because they want to give something back instead of receiving help for nothing. That's the picture I posted above. The knit covers sell for five dollars (five hundred yen). The five dollars then are used to buy 22 pounds (10 kg) of rice.

I took one back with me when I visited California in August. I had casually hoped God would let me give it to someone who could receive His heart for His children there in North Korea and hiding in China. Though I did not directly ask Him, He gave me someone to give it to (Did you ever notice that we sometimes say we're asking Him but we really don't sit down to wait in His presence and ask Him?). I had forgotten about a Korean friend of mine until I visited his room and talked with him, and he shared with me that he has a heart for the North and that it's one of his dreams to maybe someday go there and share Jesus if he's still single then. I knew he was the one, and so I later gave him the knit cloth and told him about it. We were both moved by love and by God's heart, and we didn't know what to say. I'm never going to forget giving that to him.

If you'd like to know and pray more, please get together with two or three in His name and ask for His heart for North Koreans. His Spirit moves me as I write this, and I suddenly cannot stop weeping because His heart is so great for His children! There is more information at CSW - Christian Solidarity Worldwide's homepage on North Korea. They have resources and things to help you pray. I don't know what to do next or how to help, but I'm listening to His Spirit lead me through His heart.