RICHMOND, Va. – During a recent trip to Japan, I sat with IMB [International Mission Board] personnel as we listened intently to missionary Tak Oue translate the story of an 82-year-old Japanese pastor. Tak and his wife, Lana, were taking several of us to view the encouraging results of disaster response to the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the eastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.
Nearing the coastal area, we had stopped to meet the humble, self-effacing pastor. His story powerfully refreshed my thinking about our call to share the gospel to the very ends of the earth and the importance of unquestioning obedience.
Trained at the age of 15 to be a kamikaze pilot in World War II, then despondent because the war had ended before he could give his life in service to his country, the pastor had wandered the streets searching for food. There, the young man’s attention had been drawn to a street preacher loudly proclaiming the gospel.
Tom Elliff, right, prays with an 82-year-old Japanese pastor who survived World War II and the tsunami that devastated his village.
Using his food money, he purchased a Bible from which he read for the next two years before meeting a Southern Baptist missionary. Our missionary first led him to Christ then offered sustained guidance and help.
It was a simple statement by the old preacher that reminded me of every believer’s call to share the gospel.
“We were trained to listen to coded instructions as we flew the planes,” he said. “But we were never trained to respond.”
I thought of the sign on the wall of a lifeboat station urging rescuers to remember that while there is the command to “go out,” there is no command to “return.” Now, here I was sitting in the presence of a man who had been trained to “take off” in an airplane but not trained to land. He had been trained to listen but not to protest.
We are blessed to have a Lord who not only commands us to “go out” but eagerly listens to our hearts throughout the journey, then safely guides us home. Still, there is something so stirring about unquestioning obedience.
I desire an obedient heart like my pastor friend in Japan. It will be through an obedient heart that I become Christ’s heart, hands and voice in this world that so desperately needs Him.
For this world to be mightily changed by the grace of God, we will need a generation that is willing to “take off” and let God handle the landing and to “listen” to His commands without protest. Will you join me in giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering so the next generation of missionaries can fulfill their calling?
Just as the pastor prayed for me, I am praying for you. Join me in being His heart, His hands and His voice!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Elliff is president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo. This year’s theme of “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” comes from Matthew 16:24-25. This year’s offering goal is $175 million.)