Fulfilled in Jesus

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two Empires in Japan

Recently at a Christian bookstore here in Osaka I picked up a used copy of a book I had never heard of, The Two Empires in Japan by John M.L. Young. I am astounded at what I've learned in this book. A record of what had happened during the Second World War with the church in Japan was something I only knew scattered details about, but this fills in the gap for me more than I could have imagined, detailing not only the church's incredible apostasy during the war but the road that led there from the late 1800s and early 1900s through steadily increasing compromises with idolatry.

The lessons gained from this hauntingly apply not only to Christianity Japan, but have a haunting parallel to Seventh-day Adventism (which I grew up in), and also send a warning to Christianity in America as well to continually distinguish between what is God's and what is Caesar's.

I hope to write about this in the future as time permits and if God leads to do so!

Bless you in Jesus,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remind Me

In my moments of weakness,
remind me of who I am.

Show me what is truly me,
and what is not me,
but is my enemy.

Remind me of my true heart;
and when my heart fails,
remind me that Your heart does not.

It's Your heart --not mine--
that is my rock, my strength.

Tell me in my doubts
how You are powerful.

And that I only need to choose
to resist in Your name,

And faith overcomes feeling,
spirit quiets soul,
and all is made clear;
I see who I am,
and who You are.

- Ramone Romero, Aug.15 '08

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What Nagasaki Means to Me

I was raised near Washington D.C. in the white majority (pretty much unaware that I was half-Mexican until 2004). I grew up pretty enamoured with our military, with our many successful wars, and believing that all of our fighting was just because we didn't start it. I went to Army-Navy surplus stores, wore camoflague clothing, tromped through the woods, watched war movies and TV dramas, and thought of one-day joining the Army or being a pilot in a fighter plane. When the first Iraq War ended and the Armed Forces decided to display their firepower by putting planes, helicopters and other military equipment on the National Mall, of course I was there taking pictures, getting soldiers' and pilots' autographs. I loved going to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, gluing together and painting model fighter jets, and seeing the yearly air show at Andrews Air Force base.

Like many other children who are raised in awe of our military, I saw the atomic bombings with a sense of wonder, even pride, at our country having been able to develop such a powerful weapon and win the war with it. I knew it caused terrible destruction with its blast and with its radiation, but I only wanted to pay attention to those things as much as I wanted to go down to the local cancer ward and see terminally ill patients. Neither I nor my family wanted to deal with that. Like every other 'patriotic' American, I thought that "loving my country" meant never saying we did anything wrong. Thinking that we were at fault in anything felt like I was being traitorous, anti-American, or cheering for the other side.

As a child, though, my sense of American righteousness was severely damaged when I read the story of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing, but died of leukemia years later. Before she died she tried to fold 1,000 paper cranes in the hopes that the gods would grant her wish to live. I don't know if I cried when I read it, but I do now just thinking about it. Especially since I now have my own little boy, Timothy, who is almost a year and five months old.

I finally visited Hiroshima in May of 2003. I don't think I'd given much conscious thought to Hiroshima in the prior decade to that visit. Yet when a friend offered to pay for me to go, I went there with a sense of being on a pilgrimage (indeed my last name, "Romero", means "pilgrim" in Spanish). Somehow I had slowly begun to understand that there was terrible horror there, my country had caused it, and I needed to face it finally. At the museum I came face to face with the sheer fact that it was an experimental bomb, and that the city had been chosen not as a military target, but as a psychological one. A populated area was chosen instead of a strictly military target; one which also had terrain that would better "test" the effects of the experimental bomb.

My second shock came when I began to learn about Nagasaki. The footnote-like phrase I remember from my school textbooks ("A second more powerful bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later") did not tell me that Nagasaki was the historical center of Japanese Christianity, nor that Japan had a Christian history older than that of the United States. I didn't know about the thousands of martyrs that had died in Japan, and that Nagasaki became their reunion point when the country was re-opened to the world and to Christianity in the 1800s. While I knew the comical name of that second atomic bomb ("Fat Man"), I didn't know that it exploded over a church with 850 people inside. I didn't know that within one kilometer of the blast were eleven schools for children, and that they all died.

Watching this year's Nagasaki peace ceremony on TV, I heard a survivor tell of how her brother didn't want to go to school that day because he had a bad headache, but his father scolded him and made him go to school. When the bomb exploded, the family at home survived. They searched for their son for days but never found him. The city gave them a bone (as is the Buddhist custom) from a pile of the of remains of hundreds of unidentifiable schoolchildren who died in the schoolyard. How that father wished he had not sent his son to school that day... how would I feel if that were my son?

A night before the peace ceremony, I watched a new NHK documentary about the photographs of the late Joe O'Donnell, a Marine photographer who was sent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty years he did not speak of the horrors he saw. But he finally took his photos out of his trunk and began to speak, because the faces and voices were tormenting him too terribly. His son, Tyge, has started "The Phoenix Venture" to continue the testimony for peace that his father started.

Yesterday as I watched the Nagasaki peace ceremony, I began to see a picture of the destruction and a hill in the background where the 26 martyrs were crucified. To me it represents what "Nagasaki" means to me -- a lot of things I didn't know, a lot of people just like me, and the heart of God that is necessary to see how much He loves us all, even when we were His enemies.

I know that the only way we will have any "peace" in the world is by learning to see one another through different eyes, through eyes of love and value. God saw us with those eyes, didn't He?
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:6-8
He didn't count our sins against us, but rather His Son took our sins on Himself so that we might be reconciled to Him. The only way we will have any "peace" between people on earth is by sitting still at the feet of that love, learning that the One who had right to destroy us chose instead to love us while we were His enemies. If He loved us so much, shouldn't we love one another? He died for my enemies, just like He died from me.

Help us see one another, Lord, as You see us. Help us look past our immediate feelings and whatever we've been taught. Help us forgive, help us love. Give us grace to overcome and be reconciled, in Jesus' name, amen.


Two articles from years past:

"In Memoriam" - about the Christians of the Nagasaki bombing and Takashi Nagai (2005)
"Remembering Hiroshima" - an account of the Hiroshima bombing from Christians who were there

Some years later God explained the meaning of the picture to me: "Reaping Nagasaki"